School program strives for fitness


Physical education teacher Joel Trumper has found a new way to educate students at Deep Run Elementary about health and fitness: He plays soul singer James Brown wailing "I feel good!" over the school's public address system to introduce a program of fitness and nutrition tips.

Known as Wednesday Wellness, the program features three- to five-minute taped interviews between Mr. Trumper and students, faculty and staff on the topic of health and fitness.

"We try to address the whole wellness sphere of mind and body," said Mr. Trumper, who chairs the Elkridge school's 10-member wellness committee.

And today, the school holds its first wellness fair, featuring blood pressure testing, recipe ideas and aerobic exercise, among other activities.

"It's an important goal of ours to address [wellness] from the perspective of feeling good," Mr. Trumper said of the fair.

During the past two years, Mr. Trumper's committee has created programs intended to encourage physical and emotional health among faculty, staff and students.

In addition to Wednesday Wellness, which began in September, students participate in Fitness Together, a program for students and their families. Students are given a calendar to keep track of physical activities they do with their families, such as bicycling, swimming and karate.

If the students regularly exercise every week, they qualify for rewards, including "Fitness Together" buttons they can attach to their clothes and certificates of merit signed by Mr. Trumper and Principal James Pope.

Although Deep Run Elementary is not the only school to include health and fitness in its curriculum, it is one of the few to involve families on a regular basis, said Mamie Perkins, supervisor of health education programs for Howard County schools.

"They're doing a wonderful job with the whole wellness concept," jTC Ms. Perkins said. "They've really made it a part of their culture at school and in the community."

Guest speakers at Deep Run's Wednesday Wellness program have included the school music teacher, who discussed the benefits of listening to music; the school counselor, who talked about conflict resolution; and students, who chatted about their diets and physical exercise.

When cafeteria manager Joan Harding was interviewed, she stressed the basics of good nutrition.

Ms. Harding said the program has made a difference in students' dietary habits since last fall. Some students have asked about the fat content of milk offered in the cafeteria, and one third-grade girl requested nonfat salad dressing, she said.

Mr. Trumper said he hopes students will continue to value exercise and good nutrition throughout their lives.

"By having and exposing them to [physical] activities, it's likely to carry into their lifestyles" as adults, he said.

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