MOUNT CLEMENS — No space? No equipment? No time? No problem. That’s the motto at Mount Clemens Montessori Academy, where, on Oct. 18, their Just Move program kicked off in an effort to keep students fit and healthy.
The preschool through fifth-grade school is one of six Michigan schools to receive a $1,000 grant from Active Schools Acceleration Project (ASAP) to participate in the Just Move program that was launched by First Lady Michelle Obama in collaboration with her Let’s Move! Active Schools initiative in 2012, a campaign designed to bring national attention to the issue of childhood obesity.
According to Casey Rakowski, assistant principal at Mount Clemens Montessori Academy, the school is using the grant money to bring Just Move into each classroom.
“The whole idea of the program is getting kids into being involved and being active, and making healthy food choices,” he said. “They’re learning that a better body means a better mind.”
Just Move is a classroom-based activity program that incorporates mini fitness sessions by using a set of high and low intensity exercises that can be done in the classroom, led by teachers, staff or student champions.
Students develop confidence and practice leadership skills when conducting Just Move, school supporters say.
“When I read about the opportunity, I thought it was the perfect fit for our school that’s short on space but abundant in determination,” said Gloria Vettese, a Mount Clemens Montessori parent and Just Move committee chair, the group that applied for the grant money. “It’s a great chance to get our children moving more while enhancing the learning process in the classroom.”
Vettese, whose son attends second grade at the academy, said she integrates activity and healthy food choices into her family’s everyday lives, so she was overjoyed when she learned that the school would be able to instill that healthy mindset in all its students. The grant money is being used to purchase health and fitness textbooks that the students and staff will use this year and into the future.
“These daily activities will help every student; the ones that are feeling lethargic will wake up and the ones who may have a bit too much energy will be able to direct that energy in a positive way,” Vettese said. “And bring everybody where they need to be.”
Sean Vandenbussche, physical education teacher at Mount Clemens Montessori, said the Just Move program gives each child a path to a positive healthy lifestyle at a young age.
“Obesity with children is at an all-time high, and we have the chance to change that,” he said. “It can improve your health, well-being and further your child’s academic performance. It’s a great program and something we all can learn from.”
The school held a school-wide kick-off celebration for the program on Oct. 18, and Vettese said incentives will be offered to the classrooms and students throughout the year. Students or classrooms who reach certain health and fitness goals each month will receive a different award. Of course, those awards will be focused on continuing a healthy lifestyle, which means no pizza parties.
“Our role as administrators is to create a school climate that promotes learning,” said Montessori Principal Kathy Szachta. “Studies have shown that students are able to be more focused in school when they are active physically. The Just Move grant allows us to integrate physical movement and exercise into the classroom at times that will be most beneficial to learning, in addition to our regular physical education curriculum.”