WICOMICO CO., Md. - As schools across the country cut funding for Physical Education programs, one school in Wicomico County is making an effort to keep students active and healthy.
This is the first year Westside Intermediate School has been a part of "Fuel Up To Play 60". A collaboration between the National Dairy Council and the NFL, the program works to get kids active and eating right, which is critical for Wicomico County, where, according to the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, in 2008, 26.5 percent of school-age children reportedly suffered from obesity, higher than the national average of 18 percent.
Nicholas Thompson, physical education teacher at Westside Intermediate and manager of the school's Play 60 program says "daily [the students] can log their physical activity and healthy eating and they get virtual prizes and different levels."
As they build up points, students can also earn tangible prizes, like the NFL jersey Kaitlyn won.
"I picked the redskins," says the fourth grader.
Thompson believes the six year old national program not only helps kids stay physically fit, it keeps their minds sharp, saying "we all know if you're exercising, you're eating healthy, you'll be more successful in the classroom." A claim supported by the Center for Disease Control.
In addition, "Play 60" empowers students to become leaders in their school. Fifth grader Alexis Mildren is a "National Ambassador," and helps bring other kids into the program, "when you get the other kids their like "aw I want be like that!" 3:08 and then they get all excited and they actually do it."
With only 20 participating schools in Maryland, Nicholas Thompson says he hopes to see "Play 60" expand throughout the county.
"One person at the school. That's all it takes," he says.
After only one month of participating in the program, Westside Elementary just received a $2,500 grant from "Fuel Up To Play 60," based on points the students earned. The school plans to use the money to start a walking program, enroll all of the students in "Play 60," and enroll the entire school in the program.
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