JOSH O’GORMAN / STAFF PHOTO
Students scramble to pick up representations of healthy food at Northwest Primary School on Wednesday.
The pupils of Northwest Primary School are among the healthiest in the state, according to a recent award from the state Department of Health.
The school took first place in the Vermont School Wellness Awards, a collaboration between the Department of Health, Agency of Education, New England Dairy and Food Council and the Vermont Health Education Initiative.
“They are a model school,” said Todd Perry, public health specialist for the Department of Health. “We encourage all schools to have wellness policies, and that includes healthy food choices, a strong physical education program and opportunities to be active outside of P.E. every day.”
The pupils at Northwest have many opportunities to be active. The school offers a rotating series of clubs focusing on walking, running and ice skating.
“The last few years, we’ve really seen great improvements to our wellness program here. Every class, at least half the kids are in a club,” said Principal Kristin Hubert. “With these programs, you want to be a lifelong runner, a lifelong skater and be healthy for life.”
Four years ago, kindergarten teacher Danielle Greene started a running club modeled on a Road Runners Club of America program called “Kids Run the Nation.”
“It’s an eight-week program and every week has a different lesson,” said Greene.
To learn more about the lessons, it’s best to ask the pupils.
“We’ve learned about running, walking, jogging and sprinting,” said second-grader Declan Pemrick, 7. “I like to sprint. We learned about the healthy food groups, and the other ones, the unhealthy foods.”
To demonstrate their knowledge, a mixed group of about 20 pupils from kindergarten though second grade met Wednesday in the gymnasium, where Greene and Hubert placed plastic representations of food choices both healthy — chicken, fish, bread an cheese — and unhealthy, such as ice cream, cake and doughnuts.
The children took turns running to center of the room to pick out healthy food and leave behind the unhealthy choices.
While some children dashed to the center and back immediately, others pored over their options for a while, but they all picked out the food that was healthiest.
Northwest pupils just finished their skating club and on Monday, sign-up forms were sent home for the running club. By Wednesday, 80 of the 250 Northwest pupils had signed up.
But why is it important to be healthy in the first place? Second-grader Emma Bourque, 8, knows the answer.
“Because if you don’t stay healthy, you’ll get sick, and if you’re sick you won’t be happy,” she said.
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