DOTHAN, Ala. (AP) — A gym and fitness center with a rock-climbing wall, Nintendo Wiis, Xbox Kinects, circuit fitness equipment and an active learning lab might not seem like it would exist in a public elementary school.
But a variety of the equipment and centers are throughout Dale County Schools' physical education departments after the system received a Carol M. White Physical Education Program grant totaling $450,210 over three years. The federal grant, which is in its final year for the schools, was one of two awarded in the state to enhance P.E. instruction by incorporating assessment, instruction, and new programs that could lead to lifelong physical strengthening and conditioning.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 17 percent of children and teenagers between the ages of 2 and 19 in America are obese - or have a body mass index of more than 30 percent. More than 10 percent of children between ages 2 and 4 were obese in Alabama in 2010, and more than 32 percent of the state's adults are obese, according to data.
South Dale Middle School P.E. teacher Kenna Head said equipment like a rock-climbing wall and a fitness center purchased for the school get kids more motivated to exercise and become involved in organized sports.
"It's interesting to watch them get excited about exercising and movement. Even some of those students that weren't interested before are getting involved with exercise at our fitness center on the treadmills and other equipment," she said.
Dale County High School also has a fitness center with multiple types of weights and other equipment, while televisions that broadcast healthy meal choices are on display at Ariton Schools and are being installed at G.W. Long Schools.
In addition to Wiis and Kinects, the schools also have some new outside resources. Newton Elementary School has more playground equipment. Midland City Elementary School has an entirely new playground and is expected to launch an active learning lab soon.
Ariton Schools P.E. teacher Starla Cherry said school officials have traveled throughout the country to learn about P.E. models that incorporate movement with learning. Cherry said the schools also have been able to provide maximum participation for school activities, which means that enough balls, scooters and other equipment have been purchased for each child to be able to use at the same time.
"We have different games like relay races and spelling games that link learning to physical activity. A study shows that 85 percent of the kids are kinesthetic learners, and I've heard from our math and science teachers that grades are actually improving as a result of all that's being done to keep the students moving while they're learning," Cherry said.
Midland City Elementary P.E. teacher Celeste Johnston said the schools have incorporated a 10 to 15-minute recess time for the students, which involves some form of physical activity in addition to P.E., and the schools offer healthy snacks during students' break period.
Dale County Schools Superintendent Donny Bynum said funds were also shared with Vivian B. Adams School, which officials there said would purchase additional P.E. equipment.