Hilton Head school wins regional award in national competition

Hilton Head Island School for the Creative Arts was named a regional winner today in a nationwide competition designed to identify and reward the country’s most creative, effective and scalable school-based programs and technologies to promote children’s physical activity. A cash award of $25,000 accompanies the recognition.

Two national winners for the Active Schools Acceleration Project will be selected in June as $100,000 recipients. ASAP, a ChildObesity180 initiative, launched the competition in February in a commitment with the Partnership for a Healthier America. First Lady Michelle Obama encouraged participation with a national call for applications from teachers, schools and school districts. A panel of experts representing various fields judged the entries.

Hilton Head Island School for the Creative Arts was one of nine regional winners. Others were in California, Colorado, Florida, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York and Texas.

“It’s wonderful to see one of our district’s schools recognized as a national model for fitness that can help address the serious problem of childhood obesity,” said Superintendent Valerie Truesdale.

The Strength Summed Up Team is a weight-lifting club offered for students at Hilton Head Island Elementary School for the Creative Arts. According to physical education teacher Jackie Wheeler, participating students in grades 1-5 meet five days a week from 8:00-8:30 a.m. to exercise and learn about the impact their choices have on their health. Their height and weight data are plotted on growth charts during the year so they can calculate their personal body mass indices. Strength Team members also sponsor the annual “Presents for Pets Program,” which donates items to the local Humane Association.

Principal Gretchen Keefner thanked the community partners that have supported the program for two years, including Powerhouse Gym, Island Physical Therapy, Odyssey Health Club and the SERG Group, with Chef Glenn Keller of Frankie Bones as the lead chef supporting the team. Students interact with these community sponsors and learn healthy eating habits, as well as proper stretching and lifting techniques.

“These innovators show how teachers, parents, and technology developers are creatively increasing physical activity in schools,” said Christina Economos, Vice-Chair and Director of ChildObesity180 and an associate professor at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. “They are leading the way toward a real shift in the nation’s approach to physical activity.”

Each of the regional “School Programs” category winners will receive $25,000 to further advance health and wellness programming. On June 13 in Washington, two of these nine winners will be chosen as national winners and their award will increase to $100,000 each.

Working closely with leading researchers and expert staff at Tufts University and ChildObesity180, recognized schools will participate in pilot studies to expand their programs and technologies to schools of different types, sizes, and geographies across the country.

ASAP is an initiative of ChildObesity180, comprising national leaders from the public, nonprofit, academic and private sectors who are using their reach and expertise to drive an integrated national strategy to prevent childhood obesity. The organization is chaired by Peter Dolan, former CEO of Bristol-Myers Squibb. Founded in 2009, ChildObesity180 is conducted in collaboration with Tufts University. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the JPB Foundation are strategic funders. The Innovation Competition is funded by a consortium of the nation’s leading health plans.