All in for health

Published 9:31 pm Thursday, September 27, 2012

In the gymnasium at Oakland Elementary, physical education teacher Anne McCoy referees a “noodle hockey” game between Alexis Griffith, Timothy Williams, Chase Knight, Jordan Cumbo and Mary LeBlanc. The school’s efforts to promote healthy lifestyles have been recognized with an award from the National American Heart Association.

One thing physical education teacher Anne McCoy has learned in 14 years at Oakland Elementary School is that sometimes you have to switch things up.

In the school’s first two years working with the American Heart Association to encourage healthy living, she had students involved in the Jump Rope for Heart program.

“The kids did it, but they weren’t stoked about it,” McCoy said. “So we moved on to Hoops for Heart … and the kids just ate it up.”

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Then-principal Suzanne Rice — now principal at King’s Fork High School, for which Oakland is a feeder school — subsequently decided the elementary school needed a basketball tournament, McCoy said.

Rice “wanted to motivate our fifth graders to boost their grades. So we did the March Madness Tournament … and the kids ate it up.”

The tournament evolved into a two-day event when current principal Christopher Phillips decided to include the school’s resource team — librarian Michele Waggoner, music teacher Rena Long and art teacher Jodi Linkous — McCoy said.

Long, for example, does a “heart obstacle course with the valves of the heart,” McCoy said.

“It’s grown into a two-day event. We have staff members create a staff team to play against the winning fifth-grade team.”

King’s Fork High basketball players even drop by to work with the Oakland students, McCoy said.

“There isn’t a person in the school that isn’t involved” in Oakland’s basketball tournament, McCoy said.

All of this healthy, wholesome activity paid off recently when Oakland Elementary won the association’s 2011-2012 National Heart Healthy School award.

Nationwide, 40,000 schools work with the association to fight childhood obesity, raise awareness of heart disease and stroke and to raise funds, and the award is given to those that set examples for others.

Association representative Dana Else nominated Oakland Elementary for the award, “because she had seen all the things that we do together.”

“We are a family, we are Oakland, and together we have put together a family for wellness,” McCoy said.

“Everybody in this building is affected by it, and we are all a part of it. This whole world just stops for two days, and we do nothing but these activities.”