Program focuses on healthy choices

Clarissa Kell | Daily Press North Central Area Elementary third grade students use a new standing desk in Jennifer Eichmeier’s classroom recently. The standing desk was purchased through the mini-grant North Central received to fund the new “Fueling Our Jets for the Future” project. Pictured, from left, are Myles Nehring, Carter Farley, Ella Mick and Athena Malone.

HERMANSVILLE — North Central Area Elementary School recently received grants to fund its new “Fueling Our Jets for the Future” project.

The project aims to educate, promote, raise awareness and encourage healthy choices in all facets of life for students, staff and the community.

According to Jennifer Eichmeier, a third grade teacher at NCAS, applying for the grants and initiating the project was a team effort. She said the team consisted of herself, Elementary Principal Tony Adams, third grade teacher Jessica Veeser and second grade teacher Brittany DuBord.

“A big piece of it was improving movement in the classroom and physical activity period for students, making healthier choices, (and) educating them on better nutrition options,” Eichmeier said.

The school received a $5,000 U.P. Health Project Competitive Grant and a $2,500 mini-grant from the Community Foundation of the Upper Peninsula.

Adams said creating the project and applying for the grants was an opportunity to improve programing and increase resources for the students in an area the school feels is very important in a complete child learning experience.

During the application process for the grants, the school had to create a health action plan, which included a health assessment for the school.

Eichmeier said the process showed where there were needs in the school and what they asked for in the grant was based off of those needs.

The competitive grant enabled the school to purchase a new recess cart, water bottle filling station, water bottles for all students, blenders, smoothie supplies, and rewards for the mileage club in the new walking club.

Standing desks were purchased to give students additional movement and choice in the classroom with the mini-grant.

Eichmeier said the new walking club has been a great success so far.

The rewards purchased through the grant are “toe tokens,” which students receive at each five mile milestone mark.

“Several of our students made it to the 20 mile mark of walks and about four made it to 40 miles so far. Just walking during their recess time — if they choose not to do a different activity, at least they’re walking rather than just sitting,” Eichmeier said.

GoNoodle, which are movement and mindfulness videos to provide “brain breaks” for students, has also been incorporated into classes at the elementary school.

Teachers at North Central Elementary will be trained this summer in Playworks as another aspect to the project.

“We are also being trained this summer in Playworks. So we are going to try to continue to keep this at the forefront of what we are doing for health and wellness in our district. (Playworks) is a recess program and it is structured, research based and has been proven to reduce behavior issues in all facets of the day really, not just recess,” Eichmeier said.

She added they track behavior at the elementary school and since the project took effect there has been a decline in overall behavior referrals.

“Which further supports that additional movement opportunities can help to decrease (behavioral issues),” she said.

The hope for the project is for it to continue for years to come.

Adams said when it came to this project and what they asked for in the grants, they looked into ways to have these opportunities continue for future students.

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