Fifth-grade teacher Pattie Joe Butler leads children in The Macarena dance before school starts.
BOWLING GREEN - How about 10 minutes of jumping, clapping, and wiggling to the tunes of "Y-M-C-A" and the "Macarena" to get your day started?
Kids at Crim Elementary are learning that moving their bodies and eating healthy foods will help them get in shape for their upcoming proficiency and achievement tests.
For the next two months, they're being asked to dance, drink milk, take their dogs for a walk, and trade in potato chips for fresh fruit.
"Yesterday we were supposed to eat popcorn for a snack, but people with braces can't have popcorn," said sixth-grader Samantha King, who has braces. "I chose a pear and a banana."
School nurse Bonnie Bennion and physical education teacher Pam Varty have come up with a calendar of daily healthy suggestions for students in grades three to six to encourage them to eat healthier and exercise more.
"More and more studies show that being in good physical shape and eating healthy can affect how kids perform in school," Ms. Bennion said. "We thought we would give this a try."
She said they're not expecting "fantastic results." And, if proficiency test scores are up tremendously, they don't know that they can attribute it to the exercise.
"But certainly, we're trying to get kids to think about what they eat and the activity they do," Ms. Bennion said.
The daily suggestions - students are being asked to do at least two a week - are as simple as doing 25 sit-ups or taking a walk with a pet or family members after school. Parents are asked to initial each day the child does the activity, and the kids will turn in their calendar at the end of each month.
Some of the activities are scheduled in the school gymnasium before classes begin at 9 a.m. One day last week, students got to dance to music before they got down to their books. The "Hokey-Pokey" didn't prove as popular as "Y-M-C-A" by the Village People, which prompted the kids to form the letters with their arms - and scream them out, too.
"Is your blood flowing? Is your heart pumping?" the teacher in charge called out.
Ms. Varty said she's seen kids become increasingly sedentary in her 20-plus years of teaching physical education. Computers and television are contributing factors, and she's seen a change in attitude about physical activity, too. "If you're not on a sports team or it's not an organized practice," she said, youngsters are less likely to get exercise.
Ms. Varty has tried to encourage exercise at recess by starting a walking program three years ago that rewards students who log miles walking or jogging around the walking track at the school.
The "healthy calendar" program, which started last week and continues until Spring Break, is another way to encourage unorganized activity.
"Some of them are very excited about it," Ms. Varty said. "Today the whole student body went skipping around the gym. The older kids grabbed younger kids' hands and they had a great time."
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