Healthier Hoosiers

Noblesville Schools is the only district in state with Project Fit America equipment

Elementary students always look forward to time on the playground and because of a community effort the options to increase their fitness and enjoyment have increased at three Noblesville elementary schools.

As part of Healthy Schools Week, Hazel Dell, Hinkle Creek and North elementaries unveiled their new Project Fit America outdoor equipment. The three were the only elementaries that did not have such a program in the district.

“It brings equipment to our kids that they can not only use in class but during recess every day. In addition to that, as a community school it is open to our community 24-7, which is awesome,” said North Elementary Principal Joe Brown.  “It peaks their interest just by looking at it. ‘What could I do with that?”

To encourage health and activity among students, the schools have received outdoor and indoor equipment, curriculum materials and teacher training.

“Not only can you work on your brains, but work on your bodies,” Noblesville Schools Supt. Beth Niedermeyer said.

Impact in the classroom

White River Elementary School became the first Indiana school to install a Project Fit America course in 2009. Since it’s unveiling, physical education teacher Beth Hewitt and her students have seen an improvement in their fitness levels.

“Students set goals and see how they are improving,” she said.

Hewitt said Project Fit provides the building blocks of physical fitness.

“I appreciate the social and critical thinking aspects the most,” she said. “We talk about how it’s not just being strong, but getting along on a team, getting enough sleep at night and ways outside the classroom to keep your body healthy … They think about their brain and what it needs.”

PFA course includes a horizontal ladder, parallel bars, pull-up bars, pole climb, sit-up station, step test station and a vault bar. Hewitt said the curriculum increases students’ flexibility, muscular strength, cardiovascular and coordination and now all seven elementary schools can offer the enhancement.

“To P.E. teachers, it’s kind of like Christmas to have it,” said Hewitt. “I’m really happy this happened. P.E. teachers spent two days working to put Project Fit America into our (elementary) curriculum map. As a district we are all on the same page with our curriculum. It’s really nice to have all the schools have the same things inside and out.”

Community support

Fox

Fox

“It’s a fantastic partnership between Noblesville Schools, Riverview Health and generous donors in the city,” Riverview Health CEO Pat Fox said. “We are the only school district in the state that has brought Project Fit to their children and every week there are thousands of kids that are getting stronger, staying healthier.”

The idea for installing a PFA course came when Hewitt was on vacation and visited a friend’s school, which had a similar course, in Olive Branch, Mo. She discovered the equipment at a school and wanted to bring the idea back to Noblesville.

“Pat met with Beth Hewitt and said, ‘Absolutely, we’re on board with this.’ We’re dedicated to the health and wellbeing of our children,” Riverview Health Foundation Executive Director Trish Oman said. “A year later she came to the foundation and said we’d like this to be funded through community support. Through the generosity of our donors, it’s continued and it’s been fulfilled.”

Oman said the PFA costs approximately $20,000 per school.

“Our responsibility was to go out and meet with individuals and companies to seek the funding for each school,” she said. “It’s building the future generation. It’s building a healthy, fit generation. It’s our future.”

Physical impact

Oman

Oman

An indoor chart challenges students to keep growing.

“It’s not about who can do it and who can’t, it’s about achieving your own goals,” Oman said. “They measure kids every year and the change in the strength of the students is phenomenal. Year after year their strength, agility, cardiovascular – the stats are off the charts.”

“You don’t have to be an athlete. Any kid can do this and we all start at the same place,” Fox said. “It’s challenging but it’s great because now they are excited, it’s a positive thing.”

Brandon Bennett strongly supports the project as the Noblesville Parks director and Noblesville Schools parent.

“I think it makes a fantastic statement from the schools’ standpoint to understand the value of health and wellness and how that translates into the classroom,” he said. “The schools have stepped up and said, ‘It’s important for us to have healthy, active kids.’ And they went out into the community and found a way to make it happen because, as I understand, this was not in the budget. It was all donor dollars which is awesome.”

Bennett

Bennett

Now that it available at the schools, others can come out and use the equipment, including the parks department.

“I could come out and do a new fitness boot camp on the equipment they have here,” Bennett said. “I’d like to see other communities jump on board, but I love the fact we are leading.”

Those involved said the biggest effect is building a healthy foundation at a young age.

“We’re getting kids outside, we’re getting them active, getting them playing,” Bennett said. “I don’t care if that at the schools, at the parks or in the neighborhoods, ultimately we want healthy, active kids and this is another step in the direction.”

“When I grew up you always played outside. Whether it was throwing snowballs in the winter or running around splashing in the puddles in the rain. Too many kids are staying indoors too much but this is an opportunity after hours or on the weekend to get out, enjoy the outdoors and exercise,” Fox said. “It’s great to bring that to a community.”

Robert Herrington

Managing editor of Current in Noblesville. A 1999 graduate of Noblesville High School, Herrington has been covering Noblesville and Hamilton County as a journalist since 2004. The military brat lived all over the east coast before calling Noblesville home since 1994. He and his wife, Maggie, live in the community with their baby daughter (and youngest Boston Red Sox fan), Caroline. From school board to common council meetings, First Friday events and summer concerts in the city parks, Herrington loves to attend and cover all that Noblesville has to offer.

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