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Grant to help Chestnut Mountain 4th-graders get fit
Georgia Shape to fund devices to measure physical activity
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Physical education teacher Betsy Elrod watches as fourth-grader Ashley Nguyen jumps rope during PE class in the gymnasium

Many adults are using technology in the form of smartphone applications and websites to improve their health. But children’s health can benefit from technology as well.

This spring, fourth-grade students at Chestnut Mountain Creative School of Inquiry will use special devices to increase their physical activity each day.

The school was awarded a $5,000 implementation grant by the Georgia Shape program on Thursday.

The program, under the leadership of Gov. Nathan Deal, aims to improve the health of Georgia students by measuring student fitness levels and providing feedback that schools and individuals can use to improve student health.

The school will use the grant to purchase 100 Zamzee activity meters for fourth-grade students. The meters measure when, how long and how strenuously students exercise during the day. The information then is stored on the company’s website, where students, teachers and parents can keep track of daily activity levels.

The devices will belong to the students but they’ll be stored in the classrooms for the remainder of the school year.

Students will take the devices home at the end of the year to continue monitoring their physical activity over the summer months and bring them back to school again the next fall.

“We’ll have two years with them to try and instill in them the importance of physical activity and monitoring how physical you are,” principal Sabrina May said.

The school has a focus on technology and May said she believes the devices will help motivate students to live healthier lives in the long run.

“We are really kind of focused on (technology) because that is where the students are coming from,” May said.

“They’re used to that. They’ve grown up with it. So it’s really neat to show them how, not only with what they’re learning in school with their studies, but in life and how they can use technology to help them.”

While the program will help improve physical education lessons and increase student activity, it will extend into other classrooms as well.

Students will be able to use the devices to help them learn about technology in computer lab. In math class, they’ll see exactly how their physical activity information is transferred into charts, rates and percentages.

Betsy Elrod, physical education teacher, said she’s excited about the program’s potential to change lives.

She said once students hit the fourth-grade level, they naturally start to decrease their physical activity. Girls, especially, often use recess time to slowly walk around or stop moving altogether and sit with friends to chat.

She said she believes the devices will motivate students to increase physical activity because they’ll be able to see what they’ve done and will be rewarded when they reach goals. She hopes the program will create lifelong healthy habits.

She said the school has taken big steps over the last two years toward improving the health of its students.

“We just want our students, our parents, our whole community to just be aware of the increasing childhood obesity rate that is going on all over the country,” Elrod said. “It’s causing all kinds of problems in children with early diabetes, heart disease and obesity problems. We are obviously aware of that problem and we’re just trying to do everything we can to stop it.

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