And eat your veggies while you’re at it.
The 157th Infantry Brigade of Camp Atterbury visited Parkside Elementary School twice in February to teach more than 200 fourth- and sixth-graders about exercise and nutrition.
Students ran relay races, did pushups and situps and jumped rope in what loosely could be described as a boot camp, according to school and Camp Atterbury officials. They also learned to stand in formation and work as a team.
But there was more to the soldiers’ visit with sixth-graders Feb. 18 and fourth-graders Feb. 20, said Nora Coleman, the school’s physical education teacher. She said the soldiers and students developed a relationship that will continue.
“They’ve volunteered to run with my kids starting in mid-March, if the weather’s OK,” Coleman said. “It means a lot for the kids, and I know it means a lot for the soldiers, too.”
Coleman said she started bringing soldiers to the school two years ago when she became acquainted with a soldier from the Muscatatuck Urban Training Center in Butlerville. She said the program was a hit with her students.
Last year, she contacted Col. Brandt H. Deck, commander of the 157th Infantry Brigade, which had been looking for new ways to reach out to communities to make a difference.
The program that resulted fit perfectly with Coleman’s class emphasis on nutrition and fitness and the school’s ongoing participation in the Action for Healthy Kids contest.
Last year, Parkside took first place out of 113 schools in that contest. Action for Healthy Kids is a nationwide initiative dedicated to improving the health and education of children through better nutrition and physical activity in school.
“We’ve talked about portion distortion and getting the right kind of foods on the plate,” Coleman said. “By getting these soldiers here, the students really get into the message.”
Capt. Jessica Halladay, public affairs and media relations officer for Camp Atterbury, said the students learned basic movements and proper etiquette, such as how to salute. The soldiers also talked to them about the importance of exercise and nutrition to stay healthy, she said.
She said the students were divided into groups of between 12 and 15, and each group was headed by one of the roughly dozen participating soldiers. Each soldier would direct an exercise for about two minutes before the students were instructed to move to the next station for another exercise that targeted different muscle groups.
“They caught on pretty quickly,” said Master Sgt. Danny Conley, who led one of the groups. “Some of this stuff is hard to teach.”
Students said they enjoyed the experience.
“I think it was awesome,” said Emily Wessel, a fourth-grader.
Jarrett Embry, a sixth-grader, described his workout as “hard and long.” But he said he learned from the soldiers that fitness is for life.
Halladay said she thinks the soldiers were as tired as the students by the time the events ended. But she said it was good for them to work with children, especially for those soldiers who have children of their own and don’t see them often.
“It was a great experience all around,” Halladay said.
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