St. Francis Xavier accepts presidential challenge

Published 9:10 am Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The President of the United States has issued students and teachers at St. Francis Xavier Elementary School a challenge. 

By exercising for at least 30 minutes a day and keeping a nutrition log for six weeks, participants of the White House-sponsored President’s Challenge can learn to make a healthy lifestyle a habit. But students at St. Francis can also score something almost as enticing — a no-uniform day at school.

The program, implemented Jan. 19 by physical education/health teacher Mindy Giambrone, aims to get children to put down the unhealthy snacks and pick up fun exercises that will benefit them both now and in the future when making healthy decisions.

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The first, second and third graders are encouraged to exercise 30 minutes a day on the program, while fourth- through sixth-graders are asked for 60 minutes of activity, both five days a week.

“Exercise can be any activity that gets their body moving. Go outside and play, go climb a tree, go to basketball practice or dance class. Recess counts, P.E. counts, so does anything that gets your body moving, and it’s basically just to make them more aware that they can be more active,” Giambrone said.

“Even watching TV on a rainy day, we try to encourage getting up during a commercial to see how many crunches you can do, or have a dance-off with your family — just something to get moving.”

Along with the fitness challenge, students are also keeping track of their meals with a daily nutrition log. Each week they are asked to complete a new goal, which can range from drinking water instead of sugary drinks to making a plate of food that is half fruits and vegetables.

“I can tell they really are into it when I have parents stop me at the grocery store and say, ‘OK, this week we’re trying to work on more vegetables than fruit,’” Giambrone said. “One of the challenges is to eat seafood, and it just is one time out of your week to eat seafood. You’d be amazed how many children don’t.”

The class with the most exercise minutes at the end of the six-week challenge earns a no-uniform day. The competition between classrooms has ratcheted up the activity level of both students and teachers as both look to benefit from the lofty presidential task ahead.

“They’re real competitive with their teacher, saying ‘My teacher is going to win!’ It encouraged some of my teachers who were maybe not quite as active to be active as well,” Giambrone said. “They’re really excited. They’re very competitive. What I love about doing it as a class is, not only are they competitive with themselves, but it gets them working as a group — a team.”