On Tuesday, Oct. 24, HSHS St. John’s Hospital officials and Springfield Public School District 186 administrators, teachers and students gathered at Dubois Elementary School to celebrate the launch of Project Fit America.
St. John’s Hospital has sponsored the Project Fit America Wellness Grant Initiative in area schools since 2013, when the program was introduced at Matheny-Withrow Elementary School. Dubois Elementary is the third Springfield-area school to join the program, following Feitshans Elementary School in 2016. The program is billed as “not your average gym class” and is fun and challenging for children. Teachers at both Matheny-Withrow and Feitshans schools have reported noticeable increases in students’ eagerness to participate.
The PFA initiative teaches kids how physical activity benefits their bodies beyond traditional fitness. The program features state-of-the-art indoor and outdoor fitness equipment paired with a dynamic educational curriculum that utilizes games and activities that teach and emphasize the importance of character development, sportsmanship, teamwork and leadership skills. The PFA grant makes support available to each school for two years, as well as on-site training for physical education instructors.
According to Dubois Elementary physical education teacher Stacey Lochbaum, “All Dubois Elementary school students and staff will be taught to use the outdoor equipment and how the activity benefits their bodies. … The PFA curriculum, including indoor and outdoor activity, address fitness areas such as upper body strength, coordination, flexibility and more.”
The confidence gained through the Project Fit America program will give kids more confidence in the academic setting, according to Stacey Cook, PFA’s executive director. “Research shows that not only is physical education important to a child’s physical development, it actually helps kids read and learn math. Physically active kids are better learners. Quality fitness in education has a direct impact, not only on a child’s health, but their academic success.”