Heating Up Classrooms with Exercise

February 11, 2010 10:11:40 AM PST
Some Chicago-area students are heating things up in this cold winter weather by adding more "active minutes" to their day right in the classroom. www.stretchngrownorth.com

The students put their books down, stand up and get sweaty for 40 minutes as they exercise to upbeat music, get warm and learn why making healthy choices is so important.

"It's a blast and it's great seeing the students exercising and movin' and groovin' to fun tunes! Students are beating the cold, having fun and exercising," says Michelle Glick, who directs Stretch-n-Grow, www.stretchngrownorth.com a fitness program used in four public schools in Chicago and 12 elementary schools in Evanston.

Childhood obesity has become a serious health problem ? a result of today's inactive children and poor eating habits, which has led to dire predictions about the present and future health of youngsters, Michelle explains. Research has shown that healthy children have the potential to learn more effectively, live longer and become more useful contributors to society. According to studies by the California Department of Education and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, kids' fitness levels also may affect their academic performance. The studies found that increased amounts of physical fitness translated into higher academic achievement at the grade levels measured.

Stretch-n-Grow is a comprehensive nationally-certified kid's fitness and health education program that makes it "exer-citing" and fun for youngsters to get fit and to make healthy eating choices, Michelle says. Designed to curb the growing health threat of childhood obesity and make fitness a lifelong habit, the program teaches young children the basics of exercise, nutrition and related health issues. The program is designed for children six months to 13 years old. (8th grade).

Chicago-area students currently are stretching and growing at Phillip Rogers, Daniel Boone, George Armstrong and Nettelhorst elementary schools (CPS) in Chicago; in Evanston at all Districts 65 elementary schools plus Childtime at St. Francis Hospital Child Development Center; Evanston North Shore Development Center (ENH), and The Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation (JRC). Stretch-n-Grow is also offered at the Wilmette Park District and Beth Hillel Congregation B'nai Emunah/BJE Early Childhood Center.

Michelle Glick has been teaching Stretch-n-Grow in schools in Chicago and the suburbs since 2003. Michelle and her staff of "coaches" are trained in the program's methodology to motive youngsters so that they like learning to exercise and feel good about healthy eating. With emphasis on exercise and healthy food choices, an extensive curriculum covers wellness issues including self-esteem, safety, hygiene, and environmental issues. Each class incorporates the basics of exercise: warm-up, endurance, floor exercise, stretching, and cool-down; all movements are done to motivating music while using simple aids such as bean bags and socks to help enhance movement.

All exercises and curriculum have been developed under supervision of pediatricians, nutritionists, educators and fitness professionals and comply with the youth fitness guidelines established by AFAA (Aerobics and Fitness Association of America) and ACE (American Council on Exercise) and AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics).

For more information, visit www.stretchngrownorth.com