Students Rise to Gov. Rendell’s Fitness Challenge

HARRISBURG (PRNewswire-USNewswire) – Gov. Edward G. Rendell said that Pennsylvania schools have overwhelmingly accepted the “Governor’s Fitness Challenge” and are exceeding all expectations toward helping students make better choices for healthier lifestyles.

“I’m pleased to report that 304 schools are meeting the challenge with extraordinary efforts. Since only mid-January, students have logged nearly 1.5 million miles worth of exercise,” Rendell said. “They have exceeded all expectations and they have shown us their true commitment to making a positive difference for their own well-being.

“It is our responsibility to help kids learn about the importance of how eating nutritious food and being active can lead to balanced lives. I challenged schools and students to take part in this so that, ultimately, they will help develop a healthier Pennsylvania.”

Schools began competing on Jan. 16 for one of three, $5,000 grants that will be used to help pay for equipment to promote physical activity, such as gym and playground equipment; or to improve nutrition, like vending machines that offer healthy snacks.

Students at participating schools record their minutes of activity and convert them to miles traveled using a conversion tool. Students receive credit for participation in various forms of activity, like running, walking, dancing, swimming, or playing soccer. Any type of activity is encouraged.

Converted miles are then used by classes to help them interactively chart their way across Pennsylvania. During their journey, they “stop” at historic landmarks using curriculum provided by the state Department of Education.

The program is aligned with state academic standards since students are learning about mapping history, geography and local scientists. The “walking paths” can easily be incorporated into a teacher’s lesson plan.

Winning schools — those charting the most miles per student — will be selected to receive a $5,000 grant to buy equipment that promotes physical activity or nutrition. Winners will be announced on April 30 at the Wellness Policy Conference in State College.

In addition to his fitness challenge, Rendell is encouraging schools to enhance child wellness by investing in school breakfast and providing healthier choices for all food offered throughout the school day. The proposed 2007-08 education budget will invest $6.5 million in the health of Pennsylvania’s children.

“The governor’s budget will provide the first increase in breakfast and lunch reimbursement rates in seven years for all districts that agree to meet the higher nutritional standards,” said Secretary of Education Gerald L. Zahorchak. “With this increased investment, Pennsylvania will be able to leverage another $23.6 million from the federal government to provide more students with access to school breakfast.”

The Governor’s Fitness Challenge is a joint effort of the state departments of Education, Health, Transportation, Agriculture, and Conservation and Natural Resources.

For more information on the Governor’s Fitness Challenge, visit the challenge online. For more information on the Pennsylvania Department of Education and the governor’s proposed education budget, visit the Department of Education online.

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