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SHAPE award-winning schools making changes to get kids healthier

POSTED: September 5, 2013 11:15 p.m.

A bowl of chocolates on the desk of North Hall Middle School Principal Shane Rayburn now has a few apples in it.

Ice cream and pizza party rewards at McEver Arts Academy have been replaced by extra time in the Xbox lab, which gets kids moving.

And dance club at White Sulphur Elementary School gets excited about exercise.

The changes are part of a move to fight childhood obesity and they represent a new mentality at those schools and six others in Hall County that earned gold medal spots on Gov. Nathan Deal’s SHAPE Honor Roll.

The Georgia Student Health and Physical Education initiative was introduced by Deal this past year to challenge schools to make improvements in nutrition, physical activity and wellness.

One of the pieces implemented was the use of Fitnessgram, a physical assessment that measures cardiovascular aptitude, muscular strength/endurance, flexibility and body composition.

McEver Principal Catherine Rosa said her school went above and beyond the state’s Fitnessgram requirements. The school also is providing more health instruction, monitoring what kind of food is provided to kids and is getting children moving, whether through running on a track or playing active video games.

“We’ve got six Xboxes, and we use that as rewards often,” she said. “The kids, if they’ve turned in their reading logs for the reading campaign and they did their summer reading or their holiday reading, their reward will be an extra 20 minutes or an extra 30 minutes a couple days during the week in the Xbox lab. And they love it.”

A pedometer can be used to track the kids’ steps on the game system so they can see how much they’ve worked out.

“I think we’ve made parents and children more aware of what it’s like to be physically fit,” Rosa added.

White Sulphur has similar initiatives in place, limiting outside food and not using sweets as rewards.

Principal Betsy Ainsworth said a couple of clubs also are getting kids focused on health, including wellness and dance clubs.

“Our dance club — last year it was the first year, and we had almost 100 that stayed after school to dance in the afternoons,” she said. “So that was fun, and our parents are very supportive, too, of the initiatives here.”

Fitness bands are on the way at North Hall Middle, which will go on a student’s wrist and help him or her to track caloric intake, calories burned and set goals.

It will allow them to download that data to iPads and graph their progress and also compare how different activities burn calories.

“(The students are) obviously very motivated simply by the enthusiasm of the whole staff and each other,” Rayburn said.

The schools also have teams that meet to talk about ways to get the students to make healthier choices.

“It’s really a mind shift probably more for the adults than for the kids,” he said, noting that staff must model good choices to the kids, referencing the apples on his desk.

Other schools that made the gold medal honor roll in Hall include Chestnut Mountain Creative School of Inquiry, Riverbend Elementary School, Sardis Enrichment School, Spout Springs School of Enrichment, Sugar Hill Elementary School and South Hall Middle School.

Statewide, 107 schools received either gold, silver or bronze medals; 51 earned gold, including all of the Hall schools.

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