Teaching healthy lifestyles in New Albany

By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal

NEW ALBANY – The New Albany School District has added new exercise equipment and implemented a new physical education curriculum this year thanks to a three-year grant that could total more than $750,000.
The goal of the Carol M. White Physical Education Grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Education is to make sure all students are healthy at home as well as in school.
“Our desire is that kids learn a healthy lifestyle at school, implement it in their lives and then pass it on to their parents and everyone around them,” said Lecia Stubblefield, New Albany Schools Director of Curriculum, Federal Programs and Transportation.
The district has used the $296,000 it received from the grant this year to purchase large equipment like weights, Elliptical machines and treadmills and smaller equipment like foam balls, plastic cones and hula hoops. It has bought heart rate monitors and pedometers and added a ping-pong table and a Dance Dance Revolution video game.
Robbins Rogers, PE Coordinator at New Albany Elementary, said the greatest benefit of the grant has been the additional equipment that has been available.
“There are no shortages of equipment no matter what activity we do,” Rogers said. “If every kid needed a basketball, we have a basketball for every single kid.”
Rogers said some of the most useful equipment has been the hula hoops, foam balls and mesh jerseys that make it easier to divide the younger children into teams.
Rolandus Cox, who teaches PE to sixth-grade students, and PE and weight lifting to high school students, said the addition of fitness equipment at the high school allows him to broaden his lessons.
“I’m teaching them some things they’re able to do for the rest of their life,” Cox said. “I’ve told them that the things I’m teaching them, they should be able to go into a fitness center and for the most part, not have to ask anyone how to operate the machinery.”
At the end of the year, the district will be evaluated on how much students increased their physical activity and how it used the grant money for new equipment. If approved by the Department of Education, the district can receive $246,237 next year and $223,917 in 2011-12, for a total of $766,268.
With the money from the grant, the district also purchased a new curriculum for its PE classes and has sent PE teachers and nurses to several training workshops, including one in Indianapolis over spring break.
“I was able to see that PE teachers in Washington and Ohio are doing the same things that I’m doing,” Cox said of the Indianapolis workshop. “It was a real assurance for me that I was doing the right things.”
The grant has also helped the district put in a behavior sensory lab to improve the learning environment of special needs students. It has paid the salary of two physical education teachers.
Jeff Hallam, associate professor of health promotion at Ole Miss, will serve as the grant’s evaluator and send the U.S. Department of Education data about how much the district’s level of physical activity has improved. That data is still being collected, Hallam said, but he has noticed some anecdotes of increases.
“Early on, there were a number of children at the elementary school who were just kind of hanging out during recess,” Hallam said. “Although we don’t have data yet, when we’ve come back it has appeared that there are fewer kids who are hanging out on the perimeters of the playground.”
Stubblefield said the goal is to increase student activity both at recess and in PE classes. Rogers said he has heard fewer students make excuses to avoid PE class.
Part of that is the result of the new curriculum, which makes PE more structured and includes games that appeal to a larger number of students.
“It teaches them that PE is not just standing and doing jumping jacks,” said Tammie Reeder, health services coordinator for the district. “It is having fun. It is a lifestyle change.”
Contact Chris Kieffer at (662) 678-1590 or chris.kieffer@djournal.com.