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Elementary School in Wesley Chapel wins awards for fighting obesity

ABC Action News

Coach Gorman and 2nd grader Abby complete a partner jump during Jump Rope for Heart (part of Wesley Chapel Elementary Wellness Week)

It may look like nap time for the kindergarten class at Wesley Chapel Elementary, but the young students are doing a classic technique to relax and stretch as part of their school day lesson.

It's all part of an ongoing effort by Principal John Abernathy to educate and incorporate healthy habits into his student's lives. He and his faculty members are winning awards for it. The Alliance for a Healthier Generation awarded Wesley Chapel Elementary "The Bronze Level Award." The Bronze Level Award is a national recognition and we've been able to receive it by basically altering our schedules so that our students get extra physical fitness during the day and a balanced diet."

To meet standards set by the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, who gives out The Bronze Award, Abernathy has invited local growers in to offer fresh fruit and vegetables during lunch. "Interestingly enough, kumquats are grown in Dade City, just down the road and we've had many students who didn't even know what a kumquat was. So, by exposing them to local things, we are able to teach them new things they can actually eat and enjoy."

Students also tend to their own school garden. In order to promote physical fitness, the school created two fitness labs on school property. Students like Abernathy's daughter, Natalie, take a turn and wait for the bell. "Each person moves to the next station and everything is numbered so people know where they are supposed to go next."

"For students, this health plan is really about more than just relieving stress or fighting childhood obesity." Abernathy says, "There's been research that shows that students who get exercise are actually able to concentrate in class more. "Ultimately, that would make them healthier and make them better academically. Our mission is to make sure they're academically prepared."