Healthy students, healthy schools

Published 10:11 pm Friday, September 28, 2012

With obesity and related conditions like diabetes and heart disease growing at an alarming rate in America — and even more so in Suffolk, which has the ignominious position of one of the highest rates of diabetes in the state — teaching children early about good health habits like exercise and healthy eating is critical to overcoming the problem.

Oakland Elementary School has taken a proactive approach to encouraging kids to be healthy by participating in American Heart Association programs like Jump Rope for Heart and Hoops for Heart. Kids have fun doing familiar physical activities and competing against their teachers in a basketball tournament without even realizing they’re learning about the importance of being healthy and getting healthy in the process.

The effort has been spearheaded by physical education teacher Anne McCoy with the encouragement of former principal Suzanne Rice and current principal Christopher Phillips. But the entire school, including the librarian, music and art teachers, as well as the community, like the King’s Fork High School basketball players, have gotten involved.

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The activity has paid off when the school was recently awarded the American Heart Association’s 2011-2012 National Heart Healthy School award.

But the real payoff is many years’ worth of students who have an enhanced knowledge of the importance of being healthy and a sense of enjoyment about exercise, which is one of the best ways to stay healthy. We hope they carry this knowledge with them into adulthood and are able to model it for the next generation.