Grant focuses on improving the health of students

Elementary school students throughout Northeast Mississippi are getting new tools for physical education.
And P.E. teachers are seeing an increased motivation in many of those students.
A new partnership between Project Fit America and Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi has provided $26,000 grants to over 100 schools across the state to buy new fitness equipment and implement a new curriculum in physical education classes.
“The best part is seeing kids physically fit and wanting to do things they never wanted to do before,” said Pam Stroupe, a certified physical education teacher at Hill’s Chapel School in Booneville, one of the schools to receive the grant.
The outdoor equipment purchased by Project Fit includes parallel bars, horizontal ladders, pole climbs, vault bars and pull-up stations. The indoor equipment includes weighted Hula-Hoops, as well as ribbons and certificates as student rewards.
Students use the new equipment for a variety of activities and strive for certain benchmarks that can earn them gold, silver or bronze certificates. Students who exceed the gold benchmarks can earn “kong” certificates.
“The love to see their names up and their picture up,” Stroupe said.
Stroupe said the program motivates all students. She told the story of one student who had never been motivated in P.E. class before but was inspired by her friends to work hard in a sprinting activity and earned a “kong” certificate.
“Project Fit has done a great job of getting kids interested in PE and making them want to do more,” said Lisa Mitchell, principal of New Albany Middle School, which was among the recipients.
At the beginning of the program, teachers measured the Body Mass Index of all of their students. They will measure it again at the end of the year and twice next year to chart the students’ progress.
“It helps kids with their self esteem,” Stroupe said. “The child doesn’t need to be a pure athlete in a certain sport in order to achieve their goal.”
Vicki Cooper, the media specialist at West Clay Elementary, helped write her school’s Project Fit grant. She said that before receiving the grant, West Clay Elementary had a a new multipurpose room it was using as a gymnasium but did not have any outdoor equipment.
“It just gives us a new dimension because we didn’t have anything,” Cooper said. “The kids are excited to get out and try new things.”
Tim Norris, a certified P.E. teacher at North Pontotoc Elementary, said his school had swings and some playground equipment, but the new fitness equipment from Project Fit expands the school’s offering during recess and P.E. class.
“They learn what exercises are going to keep them healthy and help them stay in shape,” Norris said.
In response to the grant, North Pontotoc even added a 30-minute period for physical education at the end of the day to train the students in using the new equipment. Norris said each student will go to that extra period about once a month.
“Mississippi has been widely known as a state that is not one of the healthiest states, and we are trying to combat that sedentary lifestyle,” Norris said.
The equipment is also available for faculty and community groups. Cooper said she encourages groups like 4-H, Scouts and church groups to use the equipment.
Stroupe said that at Hill’s Chapel, she developed a faculty weight watcher program, and the seven participating faculty members together have already lost 100 pounds since Sept. 1.

Contact Chris Kieffer at (662) 678-1590 or at chris.kieffer@djournal.com.

Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal