By Jerome Tharaud/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
Rocky Boy Elementary School will implement a new health curriculum next fall for about 130 students in grades three through five after being named a recipient of a $10,000 grant from the General Mills Foundation.
Tracy Burns, a nutritionist at the Diabetes Wellness Center at Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation who also works in the Rocky Boy school district, said she found out earlier this week that the school had won a General Mills Champions Youth Nutrition and Fitness Grant. Nearly 1,000 nonprofit organizations from around the country applied, she said. Fifty were awarded.
"It is a very competitive process," said Marybeth Thorsgaard, spokeswoman for General Mills. She said programs that are awarded the grant must have a strong nutrition education component as well as a physical activity component, and a registered dietitian must be involved in developing the program.
Burns, who is a registered dietitian, said part of the money will go toward purchasing a curriculum that will supplement the school's physical education activities and introduce classroom education about healthy food choices and the importance of exercise. The money will also help fund family nights to teach students and their families the importance of good nutrition, she said.
"It will really push us to get into classrooms and get working with these kids at younger ages," said Burns, who added that instilling good habits at those ages can help prevent diabetes and obesity.
Sharon Patacsil, principal at Rocky Boy Elementary School, said students will learn about reading nutritional labels, reducing portion sizes and making better choices when they have to eat fast food. The school will use While that figure has proven sufficient to keep the airport open, it has been far short of paying for major renovations or equipment purchases. For instance, the terminal building - used by the region's only passenger air service, Big Sky Airlines - has a leaky roof and inefficient insulation. The airport's largest hangar, erected in 1939, has similar shortcomings.
some of the money to purchase additional physical education equipment like an indoor climbing wall and pedometers, she said.
Students will also learn from demonstrations, like one that shows how much sugar is in various foods and drinks, Burns said.
Teachers at all elementary grade levels will be asked to add an additional half-hour of physical activities into the school day, Patacsil said. Currently, she said, students have physical education class once a week and have another 35 minutes of physical activity once a week in their health class.
The classroom education will be integrated into the students' current health curriculum twice a week, she said.
The curriculum the district will introduce is called CATCH, Coordinated Approach to Child Health. It is marketed by FlagHouse, a New Jersey-based firm that sells education, recreation and therapy products. According to FlagHouse's Web site, CATCH is the result of a study done by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute in that showed a "direct link between school health and physical education in developing healthier behavior" in children in the third through fifth grades. FlagHouse acquired the distribution rights for the curriculum in 1998.
Through physical activities and classroom lessons spread out over several months, CATCH aims to increase physical activity, to teach students good nutrition habits in part by monitoring fat and salt intake, and to prevent smoking, the Web site said.
Schools that purchase CATCH are provided with a curriculum guide, physical education guidebooks, nutrition guides, and equipment including sports balls, frisbees, beanbags, jump ropes and aerobic steps.
The curriculum has been implemented in 600 schools, the Web site said.
General Mills lists CATCH as one of the programs that have been shown to achieve the goals of improving nutrition and physical activity among students.
On May 28 an education specialist from the state Department of Public Health and Human Services will come to Rocky Boy train the school's teachers in the curriculum, Burns said, adding that diabetes center staff will visit the school monthly and perhaps weekly to help the school staff implement the changes.
Then next fall, Burns said, she and other staff members at the diabetes center will go into the school and do some measurements like height, weight and possibly - with parental consent - blood pressure and glucose.
The new health measures are the latest in a series of steps the school district has taken over the last two years to reduce obesity and the risk of diabetes.
In the fall of 2002, lunch menu options were expanded and portion sizes were limited, white bread and canned fruit gave way to wheat bread and fresh fruit, and the lunch staff began cooking from scratch.
Proposals the district is currently considering include phasing out candy and pop from vending machines.
The grant will also help support changes that the district has already begun to make, like increasing menu choices in its lunchroom, Burns said.
The General Mills Champions Youth Nutrition and Fitness grants began in 2002. Administered cooperatively by the General Mills Foundation, the American Dietetic Association and the President's Challenge Physical Activity and Fitness Awards Program, they are given every year to community groups to promote better nutrition and exercise habits for children between the ages of 2 and 20, according to the General Mills Web site.