By Staff Sgt. Timothy Hughes, 75th Fires Brigade PAOOctober 10, 2013
FORT SILL, Okla. --Students at Jackson Elementary School in Lawton started their day, Oct. 4, like any other by reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, the Oklahoma Salute and the Jackson Elementary Creed.
Little did they know, there was a big surprise for them as Soldiers assigned to 1st Battalion, 17th Field Artillery, were waiting around the corner in the corridors of the school to greet them.
After being introduced by Jacquetta Haygood, principal, Jackson Elementary, Capt. Garrison Haning, 1st Lt. Antwan Glenn-Tracy, Sgt. Kimberley Bales and Cpl. Michael Bender entered the gymnasium with smiles on their faces and a simple message about living a healthy lifestyle.
"We're talking with the students about health and fitness," said Haning.
The Soldiers encouraged the students to eat nutrient rich food items, such as fruits, instead of junk food.
"We want them to know that the 75th Fires Brigade cares about them," said Haning. "As a kid, this is an opportunity for them to decide if they will create healthy eating habits or not."
He added that healthy kids grow up to be strong and healthy leaders not only in the military, but in their communities.
The Soldiers handed out prizes, including a jump rope, to the students during a question-and-answer session. The students were asked several questions about the benefits of eating right as well as the value of exercising.
One student suggested people should "just go to the gym and work out" regularly to increase their overall level of health and physical fitness.
Since signing up for a membership at a local gym may not be ideal for the school-age children, Haygood and her staff implemented a healthy living program that incorporates nontraditional exercises into many of the learning and recreational activities the students participate in.
"We have a 'Whole Brain Teaching' program," said Haygood.
She said in addition to giving answers to questions or providing general feedback to teachers, the students exercise by doing jumping jacks or dance routines such as the "Macarena," which was an internationally-renowned dance in the 1990s.
The learning doesn't stop when the students leave the classroom. During a 20-minute recess period, kindergarten and first grade students walk around the perimeter of the playground for five minutes; second through fifth grade students walk for 10 minutes.
This year, Jackson is slated to host fewer parties than it did during previous school cycles as it tries to further encourage its students to continually maintain a healthy lifestyle.
"When we do have a party," said Haygood, "we encourage parents to bring healthy food instead of junk food."
Healthy living and the prevention of childhood obesity has been one of the staples of First Lady Michelle Obama's service to the youth of America.
In 2010, she launched the "Let's Move!" campaign, which according the White House's official website, is a campaign to bring together community leaders, teachers, doctors, nurses, moms and dads in a nationwide effort to tackle the challenge of childhood obesity.
Haygood said she is glad the "Copperhead" Battalion is partnering with Jackson Elementary.
"Students see there are others besides school and their parents who care about what they are doing," said Haygood. "I am excited that the military and our leaders are taking time to be a part of this community."