Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

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August 25, 2013

Teachers inspiring students to get 'Fit for Life'

Fitness project helps pair of Boulevard teachers win contest.

Two Boulevard Elementary teachers have grand plans to transform the health of their school with vegetable gardens, cooking competitions, “Dance Dance Revolution” and walking clubs.

“We’re passionate about wellness and the health of our kids,” kindergarten teacher Hether Darnell said.

Their projects cost money, though.

So for years now, Darnell and physical education teacher Ann Ligocki have been applying for grants to set their plans in motion.

And in the past week, they’ve reaped the rewards.

On Tuesday, the teachers found out their project “Fit for Life: Inspiring Healthy Choices” won them the ING Unsung Heroes competition — an award that comes with a $2,000 prize and a chance to compete for even more money.

Their project and 99 others across the nation will be judged in the coming month. The top three in the country will receive cash prizes of $5,000, $10,000 or $25,000.

The idea behind “Fit for Life” is to transform the classroom and schoolyard into a hands-on learning environment, where developing healthy lifestyle habits are equally as important as academic achievement.

The teachers will use the $2,000 they just won to buy pedometers for every student in the school. They will be used as a tool to support and increase daily physical activity.

For some students, this tool will make all the difference in the world, Ligocki said.

“We have kids who won’t run, but with the pedometers, they just keep moving,” she said. “They see the numbers clicking.”

If the teachers win the $5,000 prize, they will expand the program beyond the classroom. They’ll create raised-bed vegetable gardens, with each grade level taking responsibility for one of six beds. They’ll bring nutritionists and high school culinary arts students in to teach their kids about healthy eating. That will culminate with school-wide cooking competitions, Darnell said.

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