Nicholson Elementary makes use of Project Fit grant funds

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, September 13, 2017

During the summer, Nicholson Elementary School received news that the school was awarded a Project Fit America program grant by the Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation.

The Project Fit America program incorporates indoor and outdoor physical education equipment for the young students, training for teachers, curricula and lesson planning support and supplies in an effort to support the importance of health education in America, according to a Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi release.

For Kasey Penton, physical education teacher at Nicholson Elementary, she said there is more to this grant than providing an opportunity for students to stay fit.

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“From the outdoor playground equipment to the jump ropes, I’ve felt that this grant is mainly geared to keep these kids active, without knowing they are active. It’s a perfect recipe to keep the kids engaged and I am happy to see them already enjoying what the grant has provided for them,” Penton said.

Construction of the new playground equipment was completed last week, and though the majority of students have not had the opportunity to use the outdoor equipment yet, she said they are anxious to get out and play.

“We play games that reap rewards for their participation. Usually it is things they accomplish in the classroom, but with this grant, it allows P.E. teachers to reward their students for utilizing the exercise equipment properly and for a predetermined duration,” Penton said.

With the new equipment, Penton said she can establish objectives for each student to collect what she calls stacking cups, which can be used by students to create their own houses or gates. It’s all part of a competition to see who can build the biggest structure, a method that has proven to work time and again.

“They have to do certain exercises to earn those cups to build big buildings. By the end of the lesson, they are all out of breath. They are exercising and sweating, but they have this massive set of cups that they can build anything they want. They don’t even realize that they spent a whole 30 minutes doing cardio,” she said.

Penton added that just because the kids are playing during recess or being active during a P.E. class that the learning is over. For Penton, there are many character-building opportunities on the playground that she feels most teachers don’t utilize.

“Whenever we go outside to play, it serves a perfect opportunity to build on those leadership skills. I’ve always treated outside time as such, but the material the grant provided takes that to another level,” Penton said.

With the Project Fit America grant, Penton said the biggest change she has seen so far is helping the students understand that P.E. class is more than just an extra recess; it’s a time to learn about anatomy, physical and health education and allows them to experience what they learned.

On Sept. 21, at 9 a.m. a ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held at Nicholson Elementary to introduce the new equipment to the public.

“What is great about this grant is that the park is open to the public. People have had the privilege to walk around the already existing track and play on the basketball court. But now, adults can bring their children after school hours to the new Project Fit America equipment and exercise with their kids in a fun environment,” Penton said. “In a way, this is great step forward for the entire community.”