NEWCASTLE — Students at Newcastle Public Schools soon will be writing about their weekends — not only what they did, but what they ate.
The exercise in activity recall is one of the changes brought about through a federal grant to help the school district implement a physical fitness and nutrition program in the schools and community.
It's the only school system in Oklahoma to win a 2012 Carol M. White Physical Education Program grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The grant, renewable each year for three years, will bring about $645,000 to Newcastle this school year.
Dana Chambers, grant director for Newcastle schools, said the goal is to increase physical activity and improve student nutrition. Journaling — keeping track of food intake and exercise — is one activity students will be asked to participate in.
Data on students will be collected five times a year, Chambers said, and baseline measuring will begin soon.
“We have to collect body mass index and do a PACER (fitness test for aerobic capacity) test,” she said.
Students in all grades — including kindergarten — eventually will have pedometers, and will complete journals of their weekend activity when they return to school on Mondays.
Superintendent Tony O'Brien said the grant opens up lots of possibilities “outside the box of the gym.”
“This is not just sports-focused. This program will give our kids exposure to things they can do for a lifetime.”
O'Brien and Chambers cited Zumba, Pilates and karate classes and a ROPES course as possibilities for Newcastle students through the grant.
Chambers, a nationally board-certified physical education teacher, will oversee the project. She will attend a meeting in Washington, D.C., to learn details on what the grant allows. After that, she will meet with the community partners to begin formulating an overall plan.
“This grant is going to allow us to increase activity and improve nutrition, our two big focus areas,” Chambers said.
The grant is expected to allow Newcastle to provide equipment and advanced training for physical education teachers, she said.
Implementing the grant is a joint effort of the school system and 11 community partners, including the city of Newcastle, the Newcastle Chamber of Commerce, Mid-America Technology Center and five local fitness centers.
Ian Crittenden, Newcastle parks director, said city officials hope to use the grant as an impetus to further develop what the city has to offer recreationally.