When Cutchogue East Elementary School students go back to school in September, they’ll have new fitness equipment thanks to donations from North Fork businesses and charity groups.
JABS Fitness, Kait’s Angels, Mattituck Lions Club and Peconic Bay Medical Center made a joint donation of nearly $35,000 to allow the school to participate in a physical education curriculum created by Project Fit America, a nonprofit dedicated to getting kids in shape by fostering a love of fitness at an early age.
“I’m very excited to move forward with it,” said Gregg Wormuth, Mattituck-Cutchogue School District’s athletic director. “I do like the philosophy. A fitness-based physical education program right now is very important to teach at the elementary level so it becomes a lifestyle.”
Mattituck is now the third local school to join Project Fit America’s program. Greenport received a $60,000 donation from JABS Fitness, Mattituck Lions Club and Peconic Bay Medical Center to implement the program earlier this summer.
And in 2013, all five elementary schools in the Riverhead School District added the program, making them the first district in New York State to do so.
Project Fit America classes consist of sit-ups, pull-ups, fitness games and using weighted hula-hoops, as well as solving math problems and piecing together the human skeleton. This allows students to get a full understanding of math, nutrition, anatomy and physiology in addition to the benefits of an exercise program.
“It provides a way to take fitness and make it a multifaceted unit,” said Bill Groth, Riverhead’s athletic director.
Roanoke Avenue Elementary School physical education teacher Samantha Heidtmann received Project Fit America’s National All Star Teacher of the Year Award in 2014. The award recognizes educators who go above and beyond to institute the program, which is aimed at fighting childhood obesity, by keeping kids active.
Mr. Wormuth said Project Fit America teaches students in grades K-8 the five components of physical fitness: cardiovascular exercise, strength, endurance, flexibility and body composition.
To meet these components, Greenport school district superintendent David Gamberg explained, the program includes a trainer who works with the district’s physical education teachers to create tailored lesson plans. The program entails adding indoor and outdoor fitness equipment and curriculum books.
Cutchogue East Elementary School principal Kathy Devine said she’s excited to work with Project Fit America because she believes the program meets the needs of children.
The child obesity rate in the United States has more than doubled since 1980, with a third of all children and adolescents now considered overweight, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website.
“Some children are more athletic and their families have them more involved in physical activity programs, while other students may be at different abilities,” Ms. Devine said. “This program is also meeting the needs of the students at all different ranges and all different skills and abilities.”
Photo: C.J. Dorr, then a fifth-grader at Pulaski Street School, uses a weighted hula hoop. Project Fit America was introduced to the Riverhead School District in 2013. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)