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Elementary school students kick off physical activity challenge

Robert Moton Elementary School kicks off Project Aces, a program that promotes physical activity.

Hundreds of excited students filled the Robert Moton Elementary School gymnasium and cafeteria Friday afternoon for a special assembly held to kick off a two-week physical activity program called Project ACES, or Active Children Excel in School, that begins in Carroll County Public Schools on Monday.

The assembly began with a photo slideshow of students doing physical activities at the school, culminating with students doing the Nae Nae dance, the Chicken Dance and the Hokey Pokey with their teachers.

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"We want them to see examples of what being physically active looks like," said Robert Moton health teacher Pat Tarlow, who has been involved in Project ACES for 14 years. "We want it to look fun so they will go out and do things that are physically active; we want to give them opportunities to see things maybe they don't do in their neighborhoods or in their families and just try to get them excited about exercising."

The 17th annual Project ACES challenge was developed in Carroll County by the Heart Healthy Action Team and CCPS, according to Tarlow. Each student gets a purple journal with a calendar to keep track of 60 minutes of physical activity each day during the challenge, which meets the national physical activity guidelines for youth.

All 23 county public elementary schools and some private schools will take part in the challenge, which runs from Sept. 28 through Oct. 11.

Parents are asked to encourage their children to mark their journal each day with the type of physical activity they partake in and the amount of time they are active. Activities such as brisk walking, skating, bike riding, dancing, sports, playing in the yard, physical education class and active recess all count toward the 60 minutes, according to school information.

At the end of the challenge, students are asked to turn in their journals, Tarlow said. Those who complete the challenge will be rewarded with the possibility of earning prizes, including Baltimore Ravens tickets.

Fourth-grader Tyler Tarroll, 9, who participated in the program last year, said he is excited for the challenge because he gets to play outside more.

"I'll play with my friends across the street," Tyler said of his plans. "We play tackle football."

Carmen Rutters, 11, a fifth-grader at Robert Moton who plays field hockey, said she's excited to participate in Project ACES this year because she is planning to be involved in a lot of activities.

"It's important to stay active because you can live a longer life," Carmen said.

Although Robert Moton hasn't historically had the highest participation numbers in the county, Tarlow said she wants to change that.

"I'm just trying to be a role model; I'm trying to get them to do it," said Tarlow, adding that she has fun activities planned in an effort to encourage students to be active.

The school will have morning announcements about the program and Tarlow said she will send tips to teachers every day.

"I do believe it makes endorphins and it feels good, and when you feel good, you look good and you're smiling," Tarlow said. "Active kids do better in school. When they get oxygen to their brains they're better students; they're better prepared for us."

Robin Strine, a vocal music teacher at Robert Moton who runs marathons, has been involved in the program for 14 years.

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"It gets their creativity flowing, their blood pumping — it gets them keeping thinking about getting ready for the day and experiencing life outside of video games," Strine said, adding that she has observed that students are able to concentrate better during class time when they are more active as a result of the program.

"The earlier you instill it in them, the more embedded they become in what they do every single day in their lives," Strine said. "It's just not here when they're in elementary school; we want them to continue throughout life to be active, to be energetic and to use their whole bodies, not just their thumbs."

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