Appleton’s schools models for health

APPLETON (AP) – Lunch hour at two local schools became the subject for a film crew as part of a federal agency’s plan to show how the Appleton district is trying to promote healthy lifestyles and fight the epidemic of childhood obesity.
The media crew also filmed fitness programs at Edison Elementary School and West High School and interviewed staff members, including Superintendent Tom Scullen, for the footage due to be aired June 20 as part of a national talk show on child health and nutrition.

Chuck Heurkens’ gym class was filmed on Edison’s climbing wall and using new heart monitors and pedometers.
Heurkens, who will appear on the show with experts on fitness and nutrition, said the district has instituted many initiatives to improve the health of children.
In 2003, the district banned the sale of soda and junk food in schools during the school day. Other initiatives have included starting new educational programs on nutrition, offering physical education choices and adding climbing walls, ropes courses and fitness centers to school health fairs. A summer “Healthy Kids” institute was created for district staff.
“We’re working to create that climate districtwide and we have a lot of people moving in the same direction,” Heurkens said.
Todd May, producer with the U.S. Department of Education’s office of communications and outreach, said the agency wanted to share what Appleton has done with other districts that are just getting started.
“Appleton is considered one of the pre-eminent national models of a school district trying to grapple with the problem which is an epidemic nationally and even more so in Appleton,” May said.
He cited state statistics indicating more than 60 percent of Appleton adults and 40 percent of children are classified as overweight or obese.
The district’s efforts make it a strong example of how to “invest in teacher training, technology and hardware, revamp physical education courses and make changes in what’s available to eat so kids can make good nutritional choices,” May said.
The federal government is requiring that every school district submit a wellness plan by July 1, giving policies for nutrition and health and how they plan to involve parents and the rest of the school community.
Mikki Duran, leader of Appleton’s physical education and health program leader, said the efforts involve simply “recognizing that healthy vibrant kids make better learners and citizens.”
West sophomores filmed during lunch said they can tell efforts are being made to try to improve nutrition and fitness options, although the district has a ways to go.
Carly Schaefer, 16, said she has learned more about staying active and eating right. “Now that we’re older we care more about what we eat.”
From The Capital Times, June 5, 2006