Healthy bodies; healthy minds

Published 10:20 am Thursday, May 21, 2009

AHOSKIE – Students at Bearfield Primary School (BPS) are coming early and staying late to become physically fit.

Thanks to a program introduced by BPS physical education teacher J.J. Beale, students at Bearfield are able to come to school at 7 a.m. for physical fitness and stay in the afternoon.

The PHIT Kids (Physically Health Intellectual Thinker) allows students to arrive at 7 a.m. each morning. There is also an after-school program for students who have to wait for buses or to be picked up.

“Youth obesity stats are so high,” Beale said. “Hertford County is the fifth highest in the state. When I was doing Body Mass Index, 40 to 60 percent of each class was either overweight or at the obese level.”

Beale said since she had time in the mornings, she approached Bearfield Principal Julie Shields about adding the program three days a week. Shields reviewed the proposal and enthusiastically endorsed the idea.

Beale sent out surveys asking how many students would be interested and said about 55 indicated they would. Thus far as many as 25 students per day participate in the program.

“I love PHIT Kids because of the exercise,” second grader Trent Simmons said.

Delores Watford, a third grader, said she likes the program as a whole.

“What I like about PHIT Kids is the teacher and the activities,” she said. “I want the program to continue.”

“I like PHIT Kids because it helps us lose a lot of weight and helps us get healthy,” added third grader Dreshon Holloman.

Emily Futrell, another third grader, said she enjoyed coming to PHIT Kids every day.

“I like to come to PHIT Kids because I like the exercise and activities and I like my teacher,” Futrell said.

“I like PHIT Kids because it helps me in school,” said Alanna Morris. “I like doing all the activities.”

Three of the students who come each morning are in Kindergarten. One of those, Mason Kilshimer, said he was happy about being a part.

“I like being with the big kids and doing the different activities,” Kilshimer said. “It helps me in school.”

The program has been expanded from the original three-morning concept to five days a week at the request of the students.

“They asked for all five days,” Beale said. “I went back to Mrs. Shields and she and (Superintendent) Dr. (Michael) Basham approved it.”

The PHIT Kids program provides for fitness as well as aerobics and exercise. Beale said she offers students the opportunity to do exercises and things they can take home and do on their own.

“We’ve used Denise Austin and the Biggest Loser as well,” she said. “Sometimes kids do well when they see something on television. They can tell their parents about it and will do it.”

The teachers have also been supporters of the program.

“This is the best program ever,” said Kindergarten teachers Carol Paul and Renee Lassiter. “We have seen a tremendous difference in our class. Coach Beale is awesome and the program is absolutely outstanding.”

“Our students come to class energized and excited,” said teachers Michelle Springer and Shelia Futrell. “PHIT Kids gives them a safe and healthy place before and after school.”

Another big fan of the program is Dr. Basham, who said he believes it is making a real difference for the children.

“J.J. is a tremendous physical education teacher,” Dr. Basham said. “BMI (Body Mass Index) is a problem today. This is a partial answer. I wish I knew the whole answer.”

As part of the PHIT Kids program, Beale also uses a Hop Sports program which puts video on the wall of the school gym to lead the exercise.

“We do kickboxing, aerobics, yoga, fencing, stunt men type things, some music and dance,” Beale said. “We use a little of all of it.

“The children don’t always want to listen to my voice all the time,” she added. “With the video, I can help students while they’re doing the exercises.”

On Monday, Beale appeared before the Hertford County Board of Education to request the program continue next year.