LYND - Government statistics reveal that about 32 percent of children and adolescents are obese or overweight, a rate that has more than tripled in the past 30 years. With that knowledge, a group of educators in the area put their heads together in an attempt to make a difference.
Through their efforts and dedication, children in the Lynd, Russell-Tyler-Ruthton and Hendricks school districts will see a newly revamped physical education program after the integrated schools were awarded the Carol M. White Physical Education Program grant this past week.
"The staff usually comes up with different ideas, and we put them all together," said Bruce Houck, superintendent for Lynd/RTR/Hendricks. "As a group, we talked about the need for kids to have more exercise than say, sitting in front of their Playstations, that kind of thing. So we're trying to find ways for kids to have activity, and not just athletics. Everybody had their fingers in this one."
The grant is for $622,487 and will be spread out over a three-year period. The Lynd/RTR/Hendricks schools are in their sixth year of integration and were the only one in Minnesota to receive the award from the United States Department of Education this year.
"You have to go and seek out these grant opportunities," said Jason Swenson, Lynd Principal. "Bruce has gotten about $4.1 million coming into the districts with his grant writing."
Across the nation, 77 similar grants were given out.
"There is a lot of competition because everyone is looking for help, dollar-wise," Houck said. "So this was kind of nice. The money is shared based on what objectives we had written for each school."
The money will run through RTR, the fiscal host, Houck said, and they will receive more funding since they are the only K-12 system.
"RTR will get things like tread- mills, elliptical machines and free weights," Houck said. "There's no room for things like that at Lynd or Hendricks, but that's kind of the emphasis there."
The overall focus is on cardiac, but will also cover nutrition.
"In Lynd, we're hoping to get some technology tools to monitor heart rates, like pedometers, and even expand that out to our community members," Swenson said.
The biggest issue is just trying to get kids to be more active and finding more ways to do that.
"Hot Shot is like a piece of carpet that lights up and the kids are supposed to be able to get some cardiac exercise," Houck said. "It also helps with foot-eye coordination."
The plan is to rotate some of the equipment between the districts and the P.E. teachers. Mark Greenwood, Lynd P.E. teacher, and Hope Doom, Hendricks P.E. teacher, will be working together with the RTR staff of Jason Borman, Kent Mikkelsen and Jim Burns.
"We'll bring everyone together and sit down so we don't duplicate buying," Houck said. "There are things we all need, like mats, but we're going to move a lot of things around so we can get more equipment with those dollars."
In addition, both the staff and the students will be trained in how to increase endurance.
"With this grant, we'll have what they call'Wellness Institute,' and it will be available for all the staff if they wish to attend the 4-day training," Houck said. "We want to integrate the staff again (like the schools did for the technology grant they received a year ago in December) and have everyone learn how to help. It's a pretty big project."
Swenson said he's really starting to see the connections with the staff from the other districts.
"They're starting to get comfortable with each other now," he said. "They're happy to have these partnerships."
Instead of duplicating staff, the integrated schools have found success at sharing staff, thus providing more curriculum for less money.
"The Russell middle school students come over here with the Lynd middle school students for shop and Spanish instruction every day," Swenson said. "Then we take our sixth- graders over to their middle school for family and consumer science (FACS), art and computer every day."
Meeting the national standards had also a concern. Many P.E. programs are still running the same way as they did 20 years ago, the administrators said.
"Most of the P.E. teachers have their standards, but I don't know if they can all meet the standards," Swenson said. "This grant will give us the tools to meet that standard."
Lynd also has a curriculum mapping program that teachers have access to and can assess whether they are reaching those requirements.
"It's a good tool for teachers, and as administrators, we can make sure we are hitting those standards," Houck said.
The first year, the schools will have access to $420,000, most of which will be spent on equipment. The funding trickles downward after that.
"There will be playground equipment in the second year that we'll purchase for each of the districts," Houck said. "We were trying, when we wrote this, to encompass the entire community. Our concern was that we've seen a rise in obesity, and we wanted to put a stop to it."