Barkstall kicks off fitness program

CHAMPAIGN — Students at Barkstall Elementary are about to learn a lot about fitness.

The school is starting a schoolwide initiative to encourage physical activity called "Fitness is Fun." It's registered with Michelle Obama's Let's Move! campaign, and students and teachers will log their physical activity every week.

Barkstall's teachers kicked off the initiative with a group trip this week to the Stephens Family YMCA in Champaign to exercise together.

Barkstall Principal Jaime Roundtree said the idea is to promote to students the idea that fitness is fun.

The teachers at his school want to serve as a model for students, hence their trip to YMCA.

When students and teachers meet the goal of exercising for 500,000 minutes — the hope is by May 10 — Roundtree will perform a rap on fitness at a school assembly.

Roundtree said those who work in his building value the idea of fitness and want to address students' physical needs. Part of it is to fight childhood obesity, he said, but fit kids also feel good, are more engaged in school and behave better.

"We want to keep kids active," Roundtree said.

The school will also show students ways they can exercise, even if they don't belong to a gym.

The initiative will also feature fitness-related raffle prizes for students and staff members who turn in their exercise logs. The logs will be tabulated on a weekly basis and displayed on a school bulletin board.

The school will also highlight fitness facts each day, which will be read over the intercom, which will highlight nutrition, good sleep and ideas for fun ways to exercise.

Barkstall third-grade teacher Teri Ellis said research shows physical activity and academic performance are linked, and the focus on fitness being fun is to help students understand it doesn't have to be a chore.

"We want to show kids how much fun they can have staying active," she said.

It's also important for the teachers to lead by example, she said.

"We hope to be positive role models to each other and our students," she said.

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