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Hillside Elementary focuses on health

Teachers at Hillside Elementary participate in Zumba classes on Monday nights as part of the WE Committee's effort to promote fitness in the school. The classes are taught by Kim Tate, who also teaches classes through New Richmond Community Ed and The Centre.

Hillside Elementary staff are focusing on health.

The school recently added Wellness to the Environmental Committee to help motivate the staff to live healthier.

Founded as the Environmental Committee, Principal Frank Norton suggested the committee add a wellness chapter to the committee.

"It makes sense because healthy living and environmental health go hand-in-hand," said Elizabeth Erickson, co-founder of the committee.

The group's T-Shirt motto "We Are Fit" plays on the Wellness and Environmental (WE) name.

"We're working to promote health," said Erickson. "Healthy living, healthy choices."

The staff at Hillside started their health initiatives earlier this year in hopes of earning another School Health Award from the governor's office; however, Gov. Scott Walker has since eliminated the program,

Hillside had previously won several health awards from the governor's office, the most recent being the gold award in 2011.

Erickson said it's disappointing that the governor would eliminate such a program, but said it wouldn't prevent the school from moving forward with its goal of becoming healthier.

This year the WE Committee used its wellness funds, money from the school district to be used for staff wellness, along with money raised from T-shirt sales to rent two water coolers, establish a new Wellness Room at the school and sponsor a jump rope presentation for the student body.

The water coolers are located in the staff lounge and the administrative office. Previously the school had planned to buy bottled water for employees, but the coolers made more sense because they are more environmentally friendly.

The Wellness Room, which wasn't previously being used by the school, houses a donated elliptical machine and treadmill purchased through wellness funds.

In addition to the Wellness Room, fitness classes are being organized for Monday and Thursday afternoons. The group currently offers Zumba classes to teachers on Monday nights and yoga classes are slated to begin March 1.

"As part of the WE Committee, we did a survey of staff to see what they were interested in," Erickson said.

She estimated about 20 teachers take advantage of the Zumba classes offered Monday nights.

"It's been an active group," Erickson said. "Everyone has been involved. We're a driven crew."

During the school day different activities and educational opportunities are offered, Erickson said.

February was designated "Leap into Good Health" as a play on the 2012 leap year. Teachers were introduced to nutritional/healthy foods, foods and exercises that specifically focused on a healthy heart, and exercise-based applications that can be used with iPads and mobile devices. During heart health week, 39 of the school's third-, fourth- and fifth-graders PACER (Progressive Aerobic Cardiovascular Endurance Run) runners had a "PACER showcase showdown." Cole Eastop ran 100 laps, winning a WE T-shirt.

The March theme will be "March into Good Health." During the month of March the WE Committee plans to challenge staff to participate in a "poor man's marathon."

"We figured out it takes 12 laps around the school to make a mile," Erickson said.

To complete the marathon, staff will be challenged to walk one mile per day for 26 days.

"Everyone has been real enthusiastic about being healthier," Erickson said of the WE Committee's goals.