Bringing Physical Education to Delta Schools
In most schools, structured physical education is a fundamental offering. But in a region of the nation where obesity is prevalent and preventive healthcare is hard to find, such curricula shouldn’t seem like a luxury.
“Some schools don’t even have P.E. teachers,” said Leslie Johnson, a program director for the Delta Health Alliance. “Hard to believe. But so much depends on our children having access to regular, organized physical education.”
To help ensure that students are receiving the physical activity necessary for good health and better academic performance, behavior and cognitive skills, Delta Health Alliance has been offering a new program to local schools, called CATCH PE, or Coordinated Approach to Child Health. By uniting multiple players in a child’s life, CATCH PE is proven to help prevent childhood obesity.
Two of the most important ways that CATCH PE creates behavior change are by enabling children to identify healthy foods, and by increasing the amount of moderate to vigorous physical activity that children engage in every day.
“CATCH PE is all inclusive,” said Johnson. “It’s not so much about competition as it is making sure that all children are participating.”
The program began in the Delta three years ago with Johnson and CATCH PE representatives working with schools and P.E. teachers in Leland and Hollandale to implement onsite training. The program also involves pre- and post-testing of students’ knowledge and behavior regarding physical activity and nutrition. “In P.E., a lot of times children don’t have a lot of structured curriculum to make sure all children are participating,” said Johnson.
Through CATCH PE, all children participate in activities designed to be effective for good health as well as being fun. Just last year, the program reached about 1,200 kids. Teachers are trained and provided materials to conduct the program in their respective schools.
At Sanders Elementary School in Hollandale, Delinda Samuel, a P.E. teacher with seven years’ experience, is at the helm of the CATCH program.
“Back in the day, P.E. often meant just throwing a ball and trying to catch it. But not anymore,” said Samuel. “I can tell you that my students are much more excited about coming to P.E. because it’s something different each week.”
From games and exercises focused on hand-eye coordination to activities that combine physical activity with problem solving, the CATCH program is laying the foundation for a healthy life, said Samuel.