FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas -- Children at Fort Sam Houston are learning lifelong lessons about fitness, nutrition and health at the Child Development Center here.

The Start Smart Sports Development Program, for children ages 3 to 5, is a physical and nutritional education class that involves the CDC, School Age Services and Child and Youth Services.

"We took an Armywide program and tailored it to meet the needs of our local youth," said Jane Crow, CDC director. "We expanded the program using our local resources to help make it an even greater success."

Jill Marcott initiated the program at Fort Sam Houston and developed a lesson plan and curriculum. With CYS' full support, Marcott started up the program and became the CDC's Start Smart teacher and coach.

"Jill is being recognized by Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command staff, and she will do a presentation for all of the regions on how she made this work. We're the only region, according to FMWRC, that has really taken the program and made it a huge success," said Brenda Berry, chief, CYS.

Marcott leads the preschool classes in an hour of fitness, health and sports education each day during the week. She has the children perform traditional Start Smart activities, such as dribbling modified soccer balls and hitting soft baseballs off child-friendly tees, as well as cardiovascual exercises.

"She's teaching them life skills," Berry said. "It's the complete package."

One program Marcott started for Start Smart is "Walk to Read," during which children take a half-mile educational walk to the Keith A. Campbell Memorial Library here. During these walks, Marcott discusses physical fitness, as well as the plant and animal life they encounter along the way. Upon arrival, children are read sports-related literature and are encouraged to check out books.

The children also walk to a local pizza parlor to make their own healthy whole-wheat pies.

"We walk them, emphasizing cardiovascular," Marcott said. "We walk about a mile round trip and then the children make their own pizza that emphasizes health with the whole-wheat dough."

Marcott has also partnered with the Fort Sam Houston Bowling Center to take the children bowling once a month, as well as the Equestrian Center where the children learn about the different muscle groups and the various tasks involved in the care and riding of horses.

"Not only are they learning everything about taking care of horses, they're processing information about themselves," Crow said. "They learn about a horse's muscles and compare them to their own. It makes the lessons come to life."

In conjunction with the Olympics, the children in the Start Smart program are designing Olympic T-shirts and participating in role-playing games modeled after various Olympic events. And this fall, the children will be introduced to golfing.

Berry said she hopes the program will instill a lifelong desire for proper nutrition and a healthy lifestyle in the children.