By Sara E. Martin, Army Flier Staff WriterFebruary 13, 2014
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (February 13, 2014) -- Often in this growing age of technology and fast food, children as young as 3 are becoming obese.
To combat this growing epidemic in America's children, the Fort Rucker Primary School is fighting back with dancing, lunch talks and play-hard attitudes, said Debbie Doggett, school nurse.
This month the school is focusing on hearts in honor of American Heart Month, which includes learning about the heart and how it works along with ways to keep it healthy, Doggett said.
"We are teaching the kids all about keeping our hearts healthy," she said. 'I try to show the children that the heart is a muscle. I have a balloon filled with red water to show the children how the heart contracts, and when it contracts it pushes the blood through our (veins) which helps us stay healthy and to grow."
Teachers are finding fun and interactive ways to teach the children the importance of staying healthy.
"I like to go into the cafeteria during lunch time and ask the kids to hold up something from their lunch boxes that they think is good for their hearts, and they get excited and hold up carrots and things like that and we talk about it," said the nurse.
"All of the classrooms have time between subjects when the children begin to get a little antsy and they are tired of sitting," she continued. "The teachers will have some type of activity to get them moving, such as dancing to music or watching an interactive video that requires the children to duplicate what they are seeing, and then teachers might talk about how that helped their hearts or their body in some way."
Teachers are also helping the students learn the importance of playing hard.
"We talk about playing hard -- that exercising isn't just doing jumping jacks or dancing. We try to teach them that riding a bike, playing a sport, roller skating or playing tag is a way to exercise," said Doggett. "We tell them that when they are playing they have to be sure to play hard and that they can feel their heart beating and feel a little bit out of breath."
Landyn Marta, a first grader, said he knows all about playing hard, and that he and some of his friends do it in the best ways.
"I know I play hard. I play with my three dogs every day. We play fetch and I chase after them," he said. "But my favorite thing is to play with my friend every day after my homework is done. We run around and we fight imaginary bad guys -- they are usually evil robots that have taken over the world. I like to play hard because I can say I am exercising."
Doggett said she uses herself as a role model for her students. She tells them that if they want to be in good physical shape to do the things they want, like dancing or riding horses, by the time they are her age they have to learn now how to take care of their bodies.
"I feel like if we wait too long to begin teaching children about obesity and its side effects they have already developed eating habits that are not healthy. And if they can learn when they are young the things that will keep their body healthy then hopefully they will carry that out throughout their lives and keep that lifestyle."
She also reinforces the idea that the children are in charge of their own bodies.
"They have to make the smart choices, it is up to them, not their moms and dads, to be healthy," she said.
Children aren't the only ones making sure their hearts and bodies stay in top notch shape at the school. The staff has an exercise class held after school every day that is open to the entire team.
Several volunteers from the dental clinic and the Red Cross also contributed to help the children understand the importance of keeping other parts of the body healthy last week.
Ann Bagley, a dentist at Fort Rucker Dental Clinic, along with some of her staff and Red Cross volunteers, gave oral screenings to the whole school Feb. 6.
"We are looking for obvious decay of the mouth and we try to encourage them to keep brushing every day," she said. "We emphasize that even though they are baby teeth, decay and oral neglect can affect the underlying tissue and permanent tooth growth. Plus, maintaining good dental health at this age will make them have better habits later."
The school had a toothbrush turn-in where students bring in their old toothbrush and get a new one from the dental clinic Feb. 12.