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Money helps Sea to Sky students get healthier

Sylvie Paillard [email protected] Even one of the fittest areas in Canada can use student fitness and health programs.

Sylvie Paillard

[email protected]

Even one of the fittest areas in Canada can use student fitness and health programs.

The Howe Sound School District has embarked on a new program to do something about ever increasing concerns of childhood fitness and health.

"With the coming of the 2010 Winter Olympics, there has never been a better time to encourage our students to exercise regularly, eat nutritiously, and get involved in recreational and sporting activities," said superintendent of schools Dr. Rick Erickson.

Howe Sound is already one of only a few school districts in B.C. to have a health and fitness coordinator as well as three locally developed health and fitness programs.

Kids in the Kitchen, an interactive nutrition program for children aged six to 11, is being piloted by Squamish and Stawamus Elementary Schools with the support of the teaching kitchen at Howe Sound Secondary.

Another program piloted by Howe Sound and Don Ross Secondary Schools helps grade 10 students get a head start on their graduation portfolio by completing the health related requirements before their grade 11 year.

A third program piloted by Howe Sound Secondary helps grade 8 students gain an understanding of portfolio assessment with an emphasis on health and fitness. Health and fitness coordinator Eric Jones, a teacher at Howe Sound Secondary, applauded the work being done at the school level.

"We believe in a grassroots approach where schools take the lead," he said. "My job is to support their work."

New provincial monies totaling $1.3 million province-wide will now give students more access to sports equipment and activities to increase physical fitness.

The province is giving $850 to each district elementary, middle and junior secondary schools, and $1,000 to each secondary school for a Howe Sound district-wide total $12,500.

"It is no secret many of our young people should be exercising more," said Joan McIntyre, MLA West Vancouver - Garibaldi. "A poor level of fitness can lead to serious health problems down the road, costing lives. By giving direct access to sports equipment, hopefully we can encourage more students to enjoy healthy lifestyles."

The sports equipment is recommended by Action Schools! BC. Schools can purchase entire Action Schools! BC bins or focus on one or two pieces of equipment. Choices include basketballs, footballs, skipping ropes and pedometers.

Schools can also invest the funding into activities that will increase physical activity levels among students, such as swimming and skating lessons and special activity instruction such as martial arts, dance, skiing and rock climbing.

During its recent Throne Speech, the provincial government announced that it will now act to integrate physical fitness and healthy eating habits throughout B.C.'s public schools and will establish new standards to ensure all students have a minimum level of activity in every school.

The new measures support the province's earlier health initiatives of setting guidelines for food and beverage sales to help schools decide what products should be sold in their stores, cafeterias and vending machines.

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