Healthy youths

Published 10:13 pm Friday, January 20, 2012

Oakland Elementary School students line up to choose a healthy snack from school nurse Mary Hammond as part of the school’s Healthy Youth Day Thursday. In addition to trying healthy snacks, students participated in dance breaks during the day, learned about keeping their lungs healthy and took part in other activities.

Oakland students get up and get down for healthy day events

Students at Oakland Elementary School were on the edges of their seats all day Thursday, ready to hop up and break out in dance as soon as they heard their principal utter two simple words over the PA system.

“Flash dance!”

Principal Christopher Phillips could shout it over the loud speaker at any moment during the day, and classes would drop whatever they were doing for a few moments and enter into a choreographed routine to the song “Kung Fu Fighting.”

It might seem like something out of a musical, but it actually was part of the school’s first Healthy Youth Day.

Oakland physical education teacher Anne McCoy spearheaded the event after she received a grant from the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth.

“I want to show that Oakland Elementary can provide healthy habits and movement along with normal academic curriculum,” she said. “We can, as a school, come together and complete healthy initiatives.”

The grant helped plan for Healthy Youth Day and also provided funds for McCoy to buy a set of pedometers to be used in her classes.

Although the “Kung Fu Fighting” dance breaks might have been the most spontaneous event, there were several activities planned throughout the day.

McCoy said several staff members worked to provide several health-focused activities.

“The entire school was a part of the planning process,” she said.

Guidance counselor Angela King put together a taste test for the students to enjoy some healthy foods.

After lunch, she bought around carrots, apples and grapes for students to nibble on as examples of healthy snacks.

At the same time, school nurse Mary Hammond talked about making healthy eating decisions, such as limiting candy and drinking plenty of water.

To add a math component, students were asked to contribute to a class graph of their favorite healthy snacks.

“You’ll be able to see which classes enjoy which food products,” McCoy said.

Also during Healthy Youth Day, Hammond provided each class with a video about how to keep your lungs healthy.

She also gave them an experiment in which the students try breathing through a straw while standing still and then try it while exercising to show how activity affects breathing.

The resource teachers also got into the healthy spirit.

Music teacher Rena Long, art teacher Jodie Linkous and media specialist Michele Waggoner gave the students activities that related to each resource subject and to living a healthy lifestyle.

For example, students designed and colored their own My Plate nutrition guide and learned another dance routine to a song called, “You Are What You Eat.”

However, the biggest event of Healthy Youth Day came near the end of the school day when students competed with teachers to see who could better perform in seven movement challenges.

With the whole school watching, students from the class that won a pedometer challenge set by McCoy earlier this week squared off with a group of teachers in activities, such as jump rope and agility.

By the end of it all, everyone was moving as the school did one last “Kung Fu Fighting” before the day ended.

McCoy said she thinks it’s critical the students learn how to stay healthy while they are young.

“They last a lifetime,” she said. “You have to take care of the whole person.”