Fitness Renaissance founder Dr. Tommy Newton appeared before the Clinton City School Board of Education Thursday night to share some exciting news about his program and where it is heading.
That news alerted the board, through data collected, that the program has been an effective tool in the fight against childhood obesity in the school system during the last school year.
“Last year we had usable data that came back to us,” Newton said. “From those numbers, it was the best results that we have ever done.”
Since the 2004-05 school year, K-5 children in Clinton City Schools have benefited from the Fitness Renaissance Program, which is designed to allow physical education teachers assess and assign individual student fitness goals in five different exercises — V-sit reach, the quarter-mile run, flex-arm hang, push-ups and the shuttle run.
Last year, the program served close to 4,000 students in both the Clinton City and Sampson County school systems. Seven of out 11 schools had an improved percentage of children who met the criteria of being overweight or obese.
“If you look at raw data, we still have a serious problem,” Newton explained. “At least 40 percent of the kids at Butler and Kerr, at the start of the year, meet the criteria for being obese. That is startling.”
The national average for students meeting the criteria for being overweight or obese is around 20 percent.
“That is greater than 85 percentile of their Body Mass Index (BMI) for their age,” said Newton.
Butler Avenue School had a two percent decrease in its student BMI number from the start of the program to the finish last year; L.C. Kerr had a slight increase (0.1 percent).
“Almost nothing,” Newton said of the increase at Kerr. “If you look at all the national trends, all the numbers are going up, the fact that we are even staying baseline is amazing. That is why the decreases that we have are very significant. Because of that, we feel like this program continues to make an impact on the kids.”
Based on their overall performance to goals, children who participate in the program are presented gold, silver or bronze awards at school-wide assemblies. Other awards are given away as well, including certificates, decals, movie passes, games and athletic equipment.
“We have given out over 3,400 medals this year,” Newton said proudly. “Ninety percent of the kids that participate in the program got some kind of medal during the last school year, which is consistent with what this program was designed for. To get the kids involved and get them moving for their individual goals.”
Newton credited the success of the program by citing the bold step taken last year by both superintendents in the two Sampson County School systems, who had added the student performance of the program to the teachers’ evaluation at the end of the year.
“I am proud to say it will be used again this year,” noted Newton. “We have spent a tremendous amount of time analysing that data that has been provided by those teachers and we are making some moves this year so that the information can be streamlined, which should really make things a lot easier.”
Some of that data showed that last year students in the systems performed at or above the national standards on the fitness activities in which students were tested.
The program, now an official 501c3, is endorsed by the North Carolina Academy of Family Physicians and has its own board of directors and finance committee.
Newton, assisted by vice president of the program, Dr. Grace Ho, explained to the board that there was some exciting things being planned this school year.
“The fitness part of it will remain the same,” he said. “We recently purchased a push-up training mat for every school. It teaches kids how to do push-ups. We also will give each child a Fitness Renaissance wrist band. I just got approval for that and we will give them out so kids can wear them all year round. Just to let you know, the teachers and principals were all in favor of that because the stickers didn’t last too long.”
Also new this year is the Fitness Renaissance poster that will sit in each participating classroom. It is designed to be a checkoff list for the participating student.
“Every time a parent comes into the classroom, they will be able to see it,” Newton explained. “That will track their progress throughout the year.”
The biggest news reported by Newton and Ho is that Fitness Renaissance will be piloting a new program called FR-Plus in conjunction with the Steps to Health program in both school systems.
“This is Fitness Renaissance with the added nurtitional component,” explained Newton. “Casey Stevens has been doing her program for the past two years and last year, her and Grace spent a lot of time developing six lesson plans that we are going to pilot in two third grade classes this year.”
Those two classes will be in Clement Elementary and Butler Avenue School.
“Star Telephone did us a great service where they will film each of the six lessons so it can be put on DVD and passed out to schools in both systems,” he said. “Hopefully, we will be able to do that in the next year. It is very exciting for us and it adds another component for our program.”
“Each lesson has a teacher lesson, a handout that goes home and a student activity,” explained Dr. Ho. “We will be charting the student activity.”
Before both doctors left, board chairman E.R. Mason thanked them for their work with the students.
“On behalf of this board, I would just like to thank you and your staff for your outstanding work,” he said. “We really appreciate all you are doing and we can see the results. Thank you so very much.”
To reach Doug Clark call 910-592-8137 ext. 123 or email to firstname.lastname@example.org.