The annual Health and Safety Fair at Parkside Elementary saves lives.
Health screenings at the day-long event have identified students with high blood pressure and others with vision problems.
A female student was even alerted to kidney failure with enough time for her dad to step in with a transplant — which may not have happened if it weren’t for the Health Fair.
That may be one reason the school has been recognized as a Healthy Hoosier School for the 10th consecutive year, which is as long as the honor has been in existence.
The award was developed by the Indiana Action for Healthy Kids Team to recognize schools with programs to promote proper nutrition and increased physical activity among students and staff.
Physical education teacher Nora Coleman has been a champion for such programs since she arrived in Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. more than 35 years ago.
“I have just always been crazy about health and fitness,” she said. “I love kids and want to make sure they can have the best lives possible.”
She encourages her students to participate in the Kids Fun Run, which is part of the Mill Race Marathon, and she gets them excited with “Toe-Tokens.” Each day during recess, students can run laps around the soccer field and earn tokens to put around
The students ran more than 5,000 miles last year.
“Some kids do not like to exercise, so you make it fun,” she said. “Never yell at them or use exercise as a punishment, as that will really turn them off.”
She rewards students with trophies and other prizes, such as drawstring backpacks.
To continue winning the Healthy Hoosier School Award, schools are required to introduce new programs to the existing curriculum.
This year, Coleman is asking her students to keep logs of their physical activity and food intake.
And then there’s the Health and Safety Fair, a day packed with health screenings, fire drills, and presentations on topics ranging from bike safety to smoking prevention.
Fifth-grader Lillie Tickle said the most valuable information she learned was about smoking.
Health educators brought along two lung models — one a healthy and pink version, and another covered in black tar.
Students cringed with disgust as they learned what cigarette smoke does to the human body.
“You see a person smoking, but it’s not until you really go into it when you realize how bad it is,” Tickle said.
Evan Carr, also a fifth-grader at the school, said he was also shocked by the smoking presentation.
“We learned that the tobacco companies make toys and candies,” he said. “They’re raising an audience for the next generation of smokers. But smoking makes it hard to breathe, and it’s a little hard to live if you can’t breathe.”
Students also got a performance from Mark Yeaton, who sang and played original songs on his guitar and then gave tips on pedestrian and bike safety.
At the other side of the school, Nathan Frasier was teaching classes about concussions and spinal injuries.
“It really raised my awareness because these things can actually happen,” said fifth-grader Gabi Schuetz.
Frasier has been coming to the Health Fair for several years, and compared his lesson to the viral ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, where participants pour cold water over their head and donate to the ALS Association to raise money for the cure.
“They see these things, but they don’t understand it,” Frasier said. “Seeing X-rays of actual kids helps them. They understand what having a steel rod in your back actually does to you.”
The chiropractor and sports trainer made the presentation interactive by having the students try to balance as long as possible — but they dropped like flies on the gym floor.
While the school was filled with giggles, the students recognized the importance of the lessons.
“We need to learn how to be healthy for the rest of our lives,” Schuetz said. “Otherwise people will say, ‘I didn’t do this when I was little, why should I do this now?’”