Students in the Riverhead School District‘s elementary schools aren’t getting through their physical education classes these days with just a few lazy jumping jacks or an easy stroll around a track. (more…)
Students from all five of Riverhead Central School District’s elementary schools jumped and twirled on Thursday as the district started its participation in Project Fit America, an athletic – and educational – opportunity aimed at battling childhood obesity made possible through a combination of private donations and public grant funding.
Riverhead will be the first school district in the state to run the program.
Aimed at fighting childhood obesity, the program is a new addition to Pulaski Street Elementary School, Roanoke Avenue Elementary School, Riley Avenue Elementary School, Philips Avenue Elementary School and Aquebogue Elementary School – thanks to donations by PBMC Health, the Suffolk County Lions Diabetes Education Foundation, and Brickman Group landscaping and turf maintenance.
The program is used by more than 870 schools nation wide, according to the program website.
The Project Fit physical education program curriculum utilizes state-of-the-art outdoor fitness equipment, which is set up as a playground and designed for exercises that address the areas children commonly fail when doing a physical fitness test, according to the program website.
It also includes equipment that can be used indoors, such as three-pound hula hoops and jump ropes.
The children will learn through games, activities and challenges, “fresh ideas that will get kids excited about staying healthy,” said Bill Hedges, physical education teacher at Riley Avenue Elementary School.
Superintendent Nancy Carney said “pre- and post-test outcomes from other participating schools show a 41 percent increase in upper body strength, 19 percent increase in abdominal strength and 14 percent increase in cardiovascular endurance.
“Riverhead is absolutely thrilled to be the first school in New York State to receive this grant and to work with Project Fit America,” she said.
PBMC Health raised $60,000 in grant funding, which was matched by the Lions. Brinkman covered the cost of installing equipment at each of the five schools.
At the ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday morning, PBMC Health president and CEO Andy Mitchell said the event was “a day that defines a community.”
“The results from other areas of the country were what influenced PBMC’s interest in this project,” he said. “This program represents our commitment to schools, children and their families along with a focus on preventative measures that we can invest in to keep our community healthy.”
While helping students show off their new equipment, Philips Avenue Elementary School principle Debra Rodgers said the financial help was what made the project possible.
“There [was] no way our building or our district would have been able to afford it without their help,” she said. “It’s going to promote teamwork, physical fitness along with nutrition and we’re hoping overall well-being.”
Fourth grade Philips Avenue student Azharia Allen, 9, said she was most excited about a climbing exercise on the new outdoor playground.
“You’ve got to jump up onto this pole, and you pull yourself up — you climb it,” she said.
The Riverhead School District will hold its Project Fit America opening day celebration Oct. 10 at Pulaski Street Elementary School.
Officials said Riverhead is the state’s first school district to launch the Project Fit America program, a nonprofit a national charity dedicated to promoting children’s fitness, health and wellness in schools.
The program will be implemented in each of the five elementary schools, officials said, and physical education teachers will learn the program’s lesson plans.
The district is also expected to receive exercise equipment under the plan.
In addition, the district is collaborating with Peconic Bay Medical Center and Suffolk County Lions Club Diabetes Education Foundation to create the new fitness initiative.
The event is scheduled to take place between 10:30 to 11:30 a.m.
Flower lovers take note — the 18th Annual Garden Festival hosted by Peconic Bay Medical Center kicked off Thursday and will continue all weekend in Riverhead.
Forty East End growers will be selling everything from trees and bushes to flowers and bedding plants, which will be available at three different locations. Plant experts from the Cornell Cooperative Extension and Garden Center will be on hand to provide festival goers with green-thumb advice. Briermere Farm pies and Holey Moses cheesecakes will also be on sale.
Proceeds from the festival will benefit Project Fit America, a non-profit organization promoting cardiovascular health and fitness programs at elementary schools nation wide.
PBMC Health has partnered with Project Fit America to launch the program at Riverhead School District elementary schools, the first Project Fit America program in New York. Its health and fitness program has been used at schools in 42 other states.
All five elementary schools in the Riverhead district will benefit from the program.
To start promoting health and fitness, a weighted hula hoop contest for kids will take place every 15 minutes from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Staples Shopping Center on Route 58 in Riverhead Saturday. Winners from each round will take home a free potted plant for Mother’s Day.
The Garden Festival will take place May 9-12 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Staples Shopping Center in Riverhead and Green Lawn in Westhampton Beach.
It will also take place May 10-11 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at PBMC Health Manorville Campus located at 496 Route 111S in Manorville.
For more information call (631) 548-6080 or visit pbmchealth.org.