Elementary students in Martinsville always look forward to time on the playground and they are enjoying the addition of new fitness equipment designed to increase their fitness and health.
The school celebrated the launch of its Project Fit America fitness program during a special assembly Tuesday, October 18. Martinsville is the fifth school in the area to be awarded a grant for the national public fitness program, which is funded by Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Foundation.
The fitness equipment was installed over the summer and has been in use at the school since September. “It’s been fun watching our students who are working so diligently at bettering their physical fitness skills each day on the new equipment,” Victoria Norton, Martinsville Elementary School principal said. “The first month, you wouldn’t know we had any other playground equipment at the school.”
Norton recognized teachers, administrators, parents, and community members who all had a hand in bringing the national public fitness program to Martinsville. “This was seven years in the making and our perseverance paid off,” Norton said. Recognizing a need to enhance the school’s physical education curriculum, Norton was instrumental in applying for the grant each year. “I’m always looking for ways to make fitness fun and this program is helping us do just that,” she said.
Students cheered as they ran through a tunnel formed by Martinsville band members and cheerleaders at the start of the assembly. Eastern Illinois University’s Billy the Panther mascot, along with Martinsville firefighters and policemen, Clark County sheriff deputies, Sarah Bush Lincoln representatives, parents and community members were also on hand to help students’ celebrate.
Students demonstrated how to use seven fitness stations; including a pole climb, parallel bars, step-ups, a vault, a horizontal ladder, pull-up bars, and a push-up and sit-up area. The school also received specialized hula-hoops and “fitness cups” for team-building exercises that could be conducted indoors.
While Kansas, Illinois was the charter Project Fit America school in this region, other schools receiving the equipment include Neoga Middle School, Casey-Westfield Jr. High and Lake Crest Elementary School in Oakland.
Included in the Project Fit America program are activities to address student’s self-esteem, smoking intervention, fitness as fun and exercise among others. The goal for students is to take personal responsibility for their health. In addition, the program helps teachers diffuse restless behavior in children. Physical activity provided during the school day helps children to be more inclined to sit, listen and learn in the classroom. Schools receive support from Project Fit for two-years with training sessions offered on site.
“We know that by promoting healthy habits with our youth, we can make a lifelong difference in the health of our communities,” Laura Bollan, SBL Healthy Communities Director said. She added SBL is invested in changing the statistics that include approximately 9,000 children in its service area who are classified as overweight or obese.
For more information on Project Fit America, contact the SBL Healthy Communities office at (217) 345-6827.