Partnership receives $48,000 grant to expand obesity prevention into schools

 

 

A $48,000 grant award from The Timken Foundation of Canton Ohio will allow the Randolph County Partnership for Children to reach school-aged children and provide support for healthy development. After six years of successfully reducing obesity rates in young children, the challenge now is to continue to sustain the gains that were made in the early years, as this is the population now entering the school system.

The grant is designed to fight obesity and improve childhood wellness through community and school-based programming. One elementary school will build their capacity to use an outdoor learning environment to increase the physical activity of students as well as support instructional goals.

Jonathan Waller, manager of The Timken Company Asheboro Plant, presented the check during the Partnership’s recent Annual Meeting & Volunteer Appreciation Breakfast.

"Today’s children are our future workforce,” said Waller. “We are pleased with the significant efforts of the Partnership to date and want to help them take this to the next level by providing funding to create outdoor environments  and support activities where students can practice and sustain healthy habits.  

The grant’s purpose is to enhance the outdoor learning environment at Charles W. McCrary Elementary School by focusing on opportunities to improve overall health, increase physical activity, increase school performance and engage the community in improving outcomes for the students. Specifically, the grant will target three areas: an outdoor learning environment for kindergarten-second grade, improvements to the outdoor play space for grades three-five, and equipment for the newly created girls’ volleyball team.  

“The project is two-pronged,” said Pauline McKee, executive director of the Partnership. “It focuses on immediate activities to generate interest and capitalize on the newly-created fitness and volleyball clubs as well as the newly-renovated walking track at McCrary Elementary.”

The Partnership has played a leadership role in raising public awareness, and implementing initiatives to address the issue of childhood obesity in Randolph County for almost a decade. The Partnership is one of four regional hubs for Shape NC across the state and provides specific interventions which include specialized training, on-site technical assistance, and community action plans.

Researchers are continually finding that students who are healthy and physically active are more likely to be motivated, attentive, and successful academically.  Research also shows that children who become overweight by age 8 are more severely obese as adults. With the amount of time children spend at school, there is an opportunity to significantly impact a student's health.

One of the first steps with this grant is to add six fitness stations in the third- through fifth-grade playground at McCrary Elementary to encourage outdoor exercise, physical activity and fitness. 

Improvements to the outdoor learning area will also benefit the surrounding community. Currently, there are no immediate playgrounds or walking paths within walking distance for families and other residents of the neighborhood. This space will provide these families a safe place to be active together.

The second phase of this project involves creating an outdoor learning environment for the Kindergarten-second grade children at McCrary Elementary. Karen Young, a kindergarten teacher, and April Ausband, the school’s PTO vice president, recently attended a design meeting with representatives from the Natural Learning Initiative at North Carolina State University. They worked with designers to develop a plan for their outdoor learning environment. The plan involves naturalizing a large space between two wings of the school to create an outdoor learning environment which will attach to the current playground.  The plan also includes a walking path, a garden, a boulder forest discovery zone, stage, earth play area, sand play area, vine teepee and other natural learning features. When complete this portion of the project will create a natural area in which the children can learn and explore. 

"We are excited about this opportunity," said Julie Brady, Principal at McCrary Elementary. "This grant will enable us to provide resources for our children to increase their physical activity, a key component in creating productive students.”

The grant also includes the Level Cross Elementary pre-kindergarten outdoor space with plans to build a fence, create a bike trail using some existing sidewalk and pave the rest to create a figure-eight design. There will be a raised garden bed, sand, and a trough for water play. The plan includes the construction of a sandbox, stage, outdoor musical fence, and a small set of stairs to allow the special needs children the opportunity to improve their coordination and climbing skills.  

Once completed, McCrary Elementary and Level Cross Pre-Kindergarten will be utilized as model sites for other public schools interested in improving their outdoor learning environments. 

The Randolph County Partnership for Children, a non-profit organization and our community’s lead organization for young children and their families. The Partnership for Children is a United Way agency. For more information, visit: www.randolphkids.org.

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