After a half an hour of crawling, rolling and running in the Bell Elementary gym, third grader Zia Knapp took a moment to catch her breath.
“Good workout, huh?” someone asked.
“Yeah,” said Knapp, between inhales.
Knapp had plenty of company as she and her classmates made their way through an obstacle course in Physical Education class. The course was specially designed to deliver a workout and a message on Bell Elementary’s Heart Healthy Day.
“Exercise isn’t just for P.E. class,” said Physical Education teacher Aimee Cook.
The course was divided into a blue section and a red one. The red represented oxygenated blood. The blue represented blood that had gone through the body but comes back to the heart for more oxygen. As the students learned about how the heart works, they also learned about what they can do to make it work well.
“You need to exercise every day,” Cook told students after the class. “When you work out a muscle it does what? It gets stronger.”
“It’s important for kids to hear this now so they’re not struggling later. They should know they have strong minds when they have strong bodies,” said Bell teaching assistant Kelly Emmons, who helped organize many of the activities for Heart Healthy Day.
Students in kindergarten through fifth grade went through the obstacle course. 3rd, 4th and 5th graders also had a lesson with Kelly White from Cornell Cooperative Extension about how to read nutrition labels.
“If they’re aware of what they’re eating they’ll develop habits of making healthy choices. They can see how diseases can correlate with our diet,” said White.
Even with the myriad of numbers, percentages and measurements on a nutrition label, young children can still use them to make good choices.
“I want kids to be able to leave here taking away just one thing by looking at the label. Many can pick out how much sugar is in food by reading the label, and they know what that means,” said White.
White’s lessons aren’t exclusive to Heart Healthy Day. She has already taught classes at Bell on decreasing sugar-sweetened beverage consumption and the amount of fat in fast food. In May she will return for a garden club series.
In addition to going through the obstacle course and learning about nutrition labels, students also received American Heart Association bracelets and information about how to exercise with family at home.
“It’s good when kids can go home and share what they’ve learned,” said Cook. “I think the kids will realize that you don’t have to exercise just at school.”