Evidence-based research has convinced Lydia Trinidad, principal at Hawaii's Kualapu'u Elementary School, that in addition to concentrating on meeting the mandates of No Child Left Behind, she has to promote health awareness in her students and teach them that physical activity and proper nutrition are as important as academics. Current statistics reveal that by 2010, almost 50 percent of America's children will be obese. Research also shows that almost two-thirds of American children do little or no physical activity.
Kualapu'u is located in the town of the same name on Molokai, Hawaii's fifth-largest island, and because of the island's small population -- about 7,000 people -- many Hawaiians perceive it as isolated and as one of the few remaining hubs of native culture. About 370 children, 91 percent of them either Hawaiian or part Hawaiian, attend the school, and 75 percent of them receive free or reduced-cost lunches.
The school was in Adequate Yearly Progress restructuring status under NCLB, which means it was an underperforming school. However, the school's administrators, teachers, and students worked together to reverse this standing, and after two years, their hard work paid off. Recently, Kualapu'u received the status of unconditional good standing, the highest level a school can achieve. In addition to maintaining this hard-earned new academic excellence, the school's educators are now focused on improving the quality of their students' daily lives, and part of that focus is on fitness.
Last year, based on ten students, Kualapu'u established a baseline of an eight-minute mile for fifth and sixth graders. At the end of the 2007-08 school year, those ten students were able to complete a one-mile run/walk with no time limit. Kualapu'u wants to replicate that success this year with the other ninety fifth- and sixth-grade students; the goal of the project, called No Child Left with a Behind, is for all of them to be able to complete a no-time-limit one-mile run/walk. The physical education teacher will work with the other educators to encourage students to run or walk each day to help reach that goal.
Nike recently donated a hundred pairs of running shoes to the school in support of the fitness program. Because most students wear flip-flop sandals, known in Hawaii as slippers, the students will keep their running shoes at school, and they are responsible for caring for them.
How has your school addressed the rising rates of child obesity? What are some ways to use project learning to encourage exercise and healthy living for students? Please share your thoughts.