Pumping them up: Wellness summit encourages educators

By Michaela Gibson Morris/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – More than a hundred educators got exercised and energized Thursday at the SHAPE Wellness Summit at HealthWorks!
The children’s health education center in Tupelo hosted 150 classroom teachers, physical education teachers, school nurses and school nutrition directors from around the state who got a jump start on grant opportunities, school health councils and lessons on bringing more activity into the classroom.
“I really love the energy,” said Kathy Tucker, coordinator for the SHAPE Center, a regional health and physical education resource designed to link schools and community with the best practices in preventing childhood obesity. “They’re going to share this excitement” at their schools.
Alcorn Central physical education teacher Rhoda Cannon said she found the resources on school health councils very helpful.
“It’s brought together more things to motivate us,” Cannon said.
Former Ole Miss and New Orleans Saints running back Deuce McAllister was a highlight for Columbus Middle School physical education teacher Thomas Adams Jr. McAllister, speaking on behalf of the Southeast Dairy Association, made a presentation about the Fuel Up to Play 60 initiative.
“I was impressed by how passionate he is about the kids in Mississippi,” Adams said, and the grant opportunities available through the initiative, which is a partnership between the NFL, National Dairy Council and USDA.
Physical education really is academic, and Delta State University Associate Professor John Alvarez.
“The more active we are, the better off we are,” Alvarez told a room filled to capacity with educators at the summit. “Cutting PE is not one of the things you want to do.”
Since 2008, researchers at Delta State, University of Southern Mississippi, Ball State University and the Mississippi Department of Health have been tracking students at 25 schools that implemented a high quality physical education program . They measured the students in six fitness areas twice a year and tracked their state test scores, absentees and incident reports.
There were statistically significant trends that the students who scored well in more fitness zones were also likely to score well in the state tests and have missed fewer days of school. The researchers also saw a trend that the students who scored well on the fitness zones were also less likely to have an incident reported to the state education department.
“We have very strong findings,” Alaverez said.

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