Austin ISD Elementary Schools have been chosen to receive $320,000 or $4,000 per school, to support its Fuel Up to Play 60 initiative. Austin Elementary Schools were selected from among hundreds of schools across the country that applied for funding to help them jumpstart and sustain healthy eating and physical activity improvements. This nationwide funding program offers schools up to $4,000 to help them increase awareness of and access to nutrient-rich foods and physical activity opportunities for students. Funding for this competitive program is provided by Dairy MAX (the regional arm of the National Dairy Council) and America’s dairy farmers. Fuel Up to Play 60 is a partnership between the National Dairy Council and the NFL.
The elementary schools are a part of a district-wide implementation to address Coordinated School Health requirements, which involve increased physical education and physical activity time, health education, nutrition education as well as parent and community involvement. The grant will also allow the district to address improving students’ fitness assessments. Along with impacting the Coordinated School Health requirements, this implementation is aligned with the district’s strategic goals and the school board’s value in health and safety as well as the whole child approach towards academics.
The funds help expand the Active Play Project, a school-based health promotion project developed in partnership with the University of Texas School of Public Health which utilizes playground stencils to encourage physical activity. Initiated by Assistant Professor Andrew Springer, MPH, Dr.PH, the Active Play Project was piloted at four AISD elementary schools in 2011 through initial funding from the Michael and Susan Dell. Dairy MAX’s generous grant reflects AISD’s leadership role in the Active Play Project and acknowledges the growing understanding that by enhancing the school play yard, students increase physical activity and expand active learning and play.
Students will enjoy interacting with the playground stencils placed on play slabs which have been covered under the 2004 school bond to protect children from the Texas sun. The stencils will engage students both physically and mentally as nutrition messages such as MyPlate, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, protein and low fat dairy will be intergrated. "This has been a wonderful opportunity for me to explore the effects of space on the people who use it, a personal passion of mine," states Griffon Ramsey, Creative Director of the project, " With a little planning and some paint, we can make a real impact on the health and education of children. It is a relatively easy and inexpensive way to encourage a noticeable increase in self-led exercise. I'm thrilled to be involved in the reinvention of the playground!" The funds also provide the schools with incentives and materials for students to lead the efforts. Student engagement and promotion are central to the Fuel Up to Play 60 program. Students will promote yogurt parfaits, create stencil game contests, and help build a healthier school environment.
“By teaming up with Fuel Up to Play 60, all of our elementary schools are addressing the goals of the Coordinated School Health program and expanding on the Active Play Project. It is exciting to see our principals, PE teachers, students and community will collaborate to embed physical activity and healthy eating as a part of the school culture,” says Michele Rusnak, AISD’s Supervisor for Physical Education and lead for the district-wide implementation. “Because of their commitment, we are able to provide the elementary schools with playground stencils. The students will not only get the physical benefit of being physically active but will also have the opportunity to learn various academics through movement, such as jumping and spelling. Current research supports that students perform better academically when they increase physical activity. We know that students have more of a chance of building life-long habits when they start at an early age.”
More than 70,000 schools across the United States are participating in Fuel Up to Play 60. Launched by National Dairy Council, local Dairy Councils and National Football League (NFL), in collaboration with United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the program encourages youth to consume nutrient-rich foods and achieve at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day. Multiple health organizations and several major corporations are also supporting Fuel Up to Play 60, now in its third year.
“Fuel Up to Play 60 has really taken off in Texas. Wellness champions and students in more than 7,000 schools have embraced the program, and these funds will help AISD build and sustain an already successful program,” says Dairy MAX representative and lead for the AISD implementation, Lisa Losasso.
Schools, parents and students can learn more about Fuel Up to Play 60 at FuelUpToPlay60.com. Schools can learn more about eligibility requirements, and find the Funds for Fuel Up to Play 60 application, at FuelUpToPlay60.com. There are several application windows each year, including upcoming deadlines June 1, 2012.