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Bit of fit during the day

Birchview Elementary School grant allows kids to exercise between lessons

September 28, 2010
By JOHANNA BOYLE Journal Ishpeming Bureau

ISHPEMING - School-aged kids are used to getting exercise at recess or gym class, but this fall, kids at the Birchview Elementary School in Ishpeming will be able to get a bit of exercise during their regular classes as well.

The city of Ishpeming and the Birchview Elementary School have received a joint grant from the Blue Cross Blue Shield Building Healthy Communities program, designed to help schools and communities reduce the prevalence of childhood obesity.

"I'm hoping we do better with physical activity and hope the kids will be more physically fit," said Birchview Principal Brian Veale. Physical fitness can also carry over to the classroom, helping students to get better grades, he added.

Article Photos

Kids at Birchview Elementary will be getting a little extra exercise in class this year thanks to a Blue Cross Blue Shield grant that, among other pieces of curriculum, trains teachers to lead short, fun exercise activities between lessons. Here kids practice some of the movements in gym class with teacher Anne Asplund. (Journal photo by Johanna Boyle)

Birchview's portion of the grant - $16,561 - will be used to provide a special curriculum called PE-Nut (Physical Education and Nutrition), which includes short physical activities for kids to participate in during classroom transitions.

"It's a little wake up, a little exercise," Veale said.

The curriculum also includes 10 classroom lessons on nutrition and healthy lifestyles. Teachers have already been trained in using the lessons and activities in the classroom, along with a special curriculum for physical education teachers. Parents and students will also receive a quarterly newsletter with tips for healthier lifestyles and healthy family activities.

Fact Box

It's a little wake up, a little exercise.

- Brian Veale, principal

Birchview Elementary School

The grant program has four requirements - completion of an assessment tool to measure the overall health of the school, physical activity and nutrition education for students, a walking club for students and faculty and a celebratory 5K run or walk.

The assessment tool includes a survey before and after the program for fourth grade students, as well as an assessment of the school's health program, which will be put together by a team of school officials.

"They want to see what the kids are doing now," Veale said of the student survey. The survey asks kids if they recently ate fried foods, fruits, vegetables, dairy products, pop and other items, as well as what types of exercise they participated in.

As Marquette County is has the highest percentage of overweight residents in the state, helping kids learn to be healthy will result in healthier generations later.

Birchview implemented a walking club last year, giving each student a pedometer to let them track how far they had walked during the week.

Several days each week, students were also encouraged to walk with Veale through the Al Quaal Recreation Area down to the shore of Teal Lake, about a 20 minute walk to and from the school. October 6, Birchview will also hold its annual Walk To School Day. This spring, Birchview will also organize a 5K walk to celebrate the completion of the program.

With its part of the grant, $20,000, the city of Ishpeming will also contribute to the health of the elementary school students.

If Birchview is selected to receive a larger Safe Routes to School Grant, the city's portion of the BCBS grant will be used to finance the engineering services needed to install a multi-use path between the Ishpeming football field and Birchview, making it safer for kids and other area residents to cross U.S. 41.

If Birchview does not receive that funding, however, the BCBS grant will be used to extend sidewalks along the tennis court near the school.

Since 2004, BCBS has distributed $3.4 million through its Building Healthy Communities program, all in an effort to reduce the statistic that 32 percent of children and adolescents are considered obese or overweight, a number that has doubled over the past 20 years.

Twenty-two other schools in Michigan received similar grants through BCBS, including the William G. Mather Elementary School in Munising and the Emerald Elementary School in Manistique.

Johanna Boyle can be reached at 906-486-4401. Her e-mail address is



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