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Curriculum Update

Georgia district partners with university to tackle childhood obesity

Students learn about to eat healthy and stay active
Superintendent Samuel DePaul exercises with third graders at Colquitt Elementary Schools in Georgia.
Superintendent Samuel DePaul exercises with third graders at Colquitt Elementary Schools in Georgia.

Third-grade students from five Colquitt Elementary Schools are doing something different with their PE class.

Thanks to the “Action Packed Family” program made possible by a grant, these kids are learning how to fight obesity by eating healthy and being active at home. The $2.5 million, five-year grant was given by the University of Georgia to its School of Public Health, to study childhood obesity.

Twice a month for about 50 minutes, a representative from the SPH comes into the classroom. Each lesson starts with a ‘healthy lifestyle’ cheer, which leads to a discussion about a healthy topic, such as why water is the best drink.

Next, an activity gets the kids up and moving. Sometimes, the teacher makes a fun recipe, like spinach pinwheels, while the students watch. Afterward, they get to taste it and take the recipe home.

“There’s very little sitting and be lectured to during these times,” says Emily Watson, Archway health professional at the University of Georgia, who oversees the Colquitt program.

At the end of each class, students receive a paper handout to take home called an “Action Tracker,” and for two weeks, they write down the amount of time spent in front of a screen vs. how much spent on physical activity. The document requires their parents’ signature, and is designed to foster a family dialogue.

Students also receive tools to help them succeed in changing their behavior, such as pedometers for the whole family, that keep track of everyone’s daily steps.

Family fun nights are organized twice a year for the third-graders and their families that include healthy cooking classes at school and, at the YMCA, they can try their hand at zip lining and Zumba.

Last fall, third graders’ height, weight and waist were measured, and will be retaken this month. Also, each student received a family behavioral survey to study their at-home physical activity and eating habits, which will also be repeated at year-end.

The students will continue to be monitored into the fourth and fifth grade, while this September, the program will be rolled out to third graders in all 10 schools.