Thunder Fit Visits Steed Elementary

When the Thunder asked the fifth-graders at Steed Elementary in Midwest City how many of them are active at least an hour a day, almost every hand shot in the air.

The kids weren’t just trying to impress Thunder Assistant Coaches Mark Bryant and Maz Trakh, or the basketball operations staff visiting the school to take part in Tuesday’s Thunder Fit Clinic, presented by Homeland. This group already has a lot of the fitness and nutrition basics down pat.

A program that these students have been a part of since kindergarten appears to play a big role in why that’s the case. Steed Elementary has been partnering with Schools for Healthy Lifestyles for about 12 years to promote health and wellness among their students.

“We know that the earlier you can start with children, they are going to form [healthy habits],” said Lindsi Lemons, program director for Schools for Healthy Lifestyles. “We hope that, if we catch them as a kindergartener or as a first-grader, they are going to start changing those habits.”

Traditionally, the Thunder has offered its Thunder Fit Clinics in middle schools. However, through a special partnership with Schools for Healthy Lifestyles, the Thunder is visiting four elementary schools who have been part of their program for at least nine years.

“All four [of these schools] … show a lot of dedication to the program,” Lemons added. Their commitment and their encouraging results earned them the reward of a Thunder Fit Clinic.

Schools for Healthy Lifestyles currently partners with 62 schools across the state, providing grant funds, curriculum, teacher training and other support for elementary schools looking to start their students out on the right foot when it comes to making healthy choices.

The non-profit’s program focuses on five major areas: physical activity, nutrition, tobacco use prevention, injury prevention and oral health education. Schools are required to teach program elements at least once a month, whether it’s following classroom curriculum or bringing in guests.

Results are measured from student surveys, as well as from concrete data such as BMI recordings throughout the students’ time in the program.

“We do feel like we’re making a difference, and we hope that those changes carry on with them through middle school [and] high school,” Lemons added.

Lemons noted that Oklahoma is only one of two states that does not mandate health education, making programs such as hers even more important to stemming the tide of poor health outcomes.

One important component to the program’s success: bringing in outside partners such as the Thunder.

“When we train our teachers and they come in and push it every day, the kids will listen,” Lemons noted. “But if we bring in a third party who has that credibility – like the Thunder … they really take it in.”

While the Thunder Fit Clinic and the Schools for Healthy Lifestyles program focus on overall health and nutrition, improvements in those areas can lead to important secondary effects.

“On top of the knowledge and the attitudes and the behaviors changing around health, we’re also seeing that the Schools for Healthy Lifestyles schools are proving that, academically, because the students are healthier, they’re getting better grades,” Lemons said.

For more information on Schools for Healthy Lifestyles, visit their website at http://www.healthyschoolsok.com.