Healthy priorities

Krystle Wagner • Jul 21, 2015 at 1:08 PM

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's recently released 2012 School Health Policies and Practices Study shows that more of the nation's schools are requiring physical education and nutrition classes.

Key report findings include an increase in districts requiring elementary school physical education from 82.6 percent in 2000 to 93.6 percent in 2012. The percent of schools that made nutritional and caloric content of foods available for families increased from 35.3 in 2000 to 52.7 last year.

Grand Haven Area Public Schools Superintendent Keith Konarska said the district’s curriculum was updated in recent years to promote life-long fitness activities — which includes elementary-level mileage clubs, the Girls on the Run and Total Trek Quest programs, intramural sports, and walking and riding bikes to school.

Options at the secondary level include expanding outdoor education courses, fitness classes and a triathlon class, Konarska said.

“Research clearly supports this effort that will ultimately result in happier and healthier lives for all involved,” he said.

The Grand Haven district uses the curriculum and benchmark set by the Michigan Department of Education — but they also use Michigan Model for Health lessons, which helps students learn about nutrition, healthy foods and the need for physical activity. Konarska said the lessons are taught in elementary schools and include communication to parents about supporting the efforts.

Scott Ely, curriculum director for Spring Lake Public Schools, said that district has maintained requirements for physical education and health courses, but a few enhancements have been made in recent years. Additions to physical education courses in grades 5-8 include a monitor that allows students to gauge their heart rate during exercise and how that impacts their cardiovascular system.

Spring Lake students in grades K-6 are required to take a physical education elective — that equates to once every four days for elementary students. Middle school education is focused on nutrition, healthy choices and healthy lifestyles. Students in grades 7-8 are required to take a physical education course for two-thirds of the year, while ninth-graders must take a course for two trimesters.

Spring Lake students in grades 10-12 can take an elective course that focuses on men’s health or women’s health.

To read more of this story, see Saturday’s print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.

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