Gihon Elementary School to kick off physical fitness program

Gihon School to kick off physical fitness program

Photo by Michael Erb Gihon Elementary School physical education teacher Mischa Johnson distributes bowling pins Wednesday to be set up in the school gymnasium for an activity. Officials are using a grant from Fuel Up to Play 60 to give students additional opportunities for physical activity and to encourage healthy eating habits.

PARKERSBURG — Gihon Elementary School is preparing to kick off its Fuel Up to Play 60 program which encourages students to engage in physical activity and make healthy food choices.

The program is funded through an alliance of the American Dairy Council and the NFL, and this marks the third year Gihon has received the Fuel Up to Play 60 grant.

School nurse Sherry Braid said over the years the grant amount has increased from $2,000 to $4,000, the maximum amount, which has allowed the school to provide more activities and events for students.

“The idea is to exercise for 60 minutes a day, and they encourage healthy eating: Fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and of course milk,” she said. “They give us T-shirts every year. They sponsor programs at the school, different activities, and the grant pays to support those activities.”

Braid said students have the opportunity to experience different kinds of foods and the school holds a “Smoothie Day” where students get to vote on their favorite smoothie and take information and recipes home to parents.

Photo by Michael Erb Gihon Elementary School fifth-grader Izzy Deguzman throws a football during gym class Wednesday at the school.

The grant also allowed the school this past summer to hire Steve Simonton to paint a mural in the school cafeteria depicting different healthy foods.

Physical education teacher Mischa Johnson said she emphasizes the need for students to eat healthy to give them the energy to play, and how play makes them stronger and healthier.

“We tell them every day to ‘eat the rainbow,’ and that includes fruits and vegetables,” she said. The Fuel Up to Play 60 program, “especially during the winter months, it helps the kids to exercise and be active.”

The school uses fifth-grade “ambassadors” who work with students throughout the school and lead different activities. This year’s ambassadors will be chosen in the next few weeks, Braid said.

“They do a good job with that, and they encourage other students to try new things,” she said.

Photo by Michael Erb A mural painted by Steve Simonton graces the Gihon Elementary School cafeteria, encouraging students to make healthy food choices. The mural was made possible through the Fuel Up to Play 60 grant.

Braid said the first assembly for the Fuel Up to Play 60 program will be held in early October, and the school will provide students with physical activities before, during and after school throughout the winter months when getting outside to play can be more of a challenge.

Johnson said Gihon plans to hold a family activity day in November which will bring in local businesses and groups to provide fun and family-friendly activities for the community.

Braid said she feels Fuel Up to Play 60 has had a beneficial effect for Gihon students.

The program “has made them more active and more conscious of the food they’re putting in their mouths,” she said.

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