At Rogers Middle School, students play Wii in class, dance in the hallways and even take time to tend a garden. “Normal” learning takes place as well, but these efforts are part of the school’s plan to encourage its students to eat healthy and lead active lives. At a school assembly on Tuesday, the students heard from two guests who make a living on eating right and staying active.
To honor a big win and to encourage the kids on their healthy lifestyle efforts, Rogers Middle School called upon the St. Louis Rams and the Midwest Dairy Council.
“The kids look up to these guys so much,” Rogers Middle School nurse Kathy Beezley said. “So knowing (Greg and Steven) were coming to our school, it just energized the kids. And I’m just so happy and so grateful to them that they would do something like this for us.”
Zuerlein and Jackson were not only on hand to offer words of encouragement. They were also there to take part in a school celebration. Fuel Up to PLAY 60 is a program developed by the National Dairy Council and the NFL to engage and empower youth to take action for their own health by making long-term and positive changes for themselves and their schools. Earlier this year, Fuel Up to PLAY 60 held a Touchdown Dance Challenge, a competition that was open to any school across the country. Rogers was named one of the five finalists for the challenge nation-wide and garnered the most online votes to win the competition overall. The school can thank Reja Franklin and Maria Stoencheva for their victory.
“Before she left for the summer, I told Reja that I wanted her to think about doing this dance,” Beezley said. “Well she called me and said, ‘I’m ready, and Maria is going to help me.’ So we came in over the summer, picked a classroom, I videotaped it and then gave it to my daughter to put together and post on the challenge website.”
Evidently, the video was a hit with all who saw it.
“The students really captured the theme of the Touchdown Dance, and the video on the website really caught the attention of other web users,” Courtney Corbett, Midwest Dairy Council health and wellness program manager said.
Beezley, who is also the school’s Fuel Up to PLAY 60 advisor, has led the way in transforming Rogers Middle School into a PLAY 60 school. Her efforts began when she mapped out the body mass indexes of her students and realized many struggled with weight issues. When Principal Jeff Remelius brought a Wii into school one day, Beezley recognized an opportunity. What she lacked were the funds to make that opportunity a reality. She received a grant from Fuel Up to PLAY 60 and bought four Wiis for Rogers Middle School. Now, the Wiis are a staple in the school – at lunchtime, after school and even during class. It is a part of the school’s efforts to change the mindset of its students.
“It’s ingrained in their heads now,” Beezley said. “We are a Fuel Up to PLAY 60 school. So that part of it means, I’m not going to stand by and watch you eat chips without saying something. And it’s not just me. Everybody is buying in.”
The school now takes part in many of the Fuel Up to PLAY 60 programs and challenges. It is a commitment that has had a positive impact on the students individually and the school as a whole.
“They just repeatedly do great things with any kind of challenge presented to them,” Corbett said. “And ‘challenges’ encompass anything related to getting the students involved in the program.”
One of the efforts of which Beezley is most proud is the Breakfast-to-Go program she started. Due to their early arrival at school – usually around 6:50 a.m. – many of the students at Rogers Middle School skip breakfast at home. When morning stomachaches became a frequent malady seen by Beezley, she realized many students were just hungry. Thus, Breakfast-to-Go was born. Now at 8:30 a.m., students can purchase breakfast bars, fresh fruit, milk or juice just as they would lunch in the afternoon. And a program that started out with around 50 kids has grown to 200 students today.
In addition to the previous programs, Rogers Middle School has also implemented activities such as taste testing, Trivia Tuesdays and Fitness Fridays, just to name a few. As Beezley said, it is all part of getting the kids excited about being active. But even with their current success, it was not a seamless transition for the school.
“Getting the teachers to buy in was hard at first,” Beezley said. “There was a lot of ‘Oh, we have to do this,’ or ‘We have to do that.’ And they do. Education is important. But at the same time, they can incorporate that into some of their learning plans.”
One way in which the school’s Fuel Up to PLAY 60 and education efforts are co-existing is through the school garden. After struggling initially, the garden was taken over by the science department. It has since become a favorite of the kids.
Through their various programs and efforts, Rogers Middle School has positively impacted the lives of its students. On Tuesday, they were able to share that excitement with Jackson and Zuerlein.
“Since we started Fuel Up to PLAY 60, so many of the kids have gotten more interested in being healthy,” Beezley said. “They know they’re supposed to exercise 60 minutes a day. And even if they don’t, it’s something they’ll realize as they get older. It’s something that will stick with them even when they leave here.”
To learn more about Fuel Up to PLAY 60 and how you or your school can become involved, visit www.fueluptoplay60.com.