Middle School students ‘fueling up’ with good nutrition, exercise habits


If you’ve watched a professional football game, no doubt you’ve seen the commercials encouraging young people to go outside and play for at least 60 minutes each day. The program, “Fuel Up to Play 60”, is much more than just going outside, however, it’s a plan designed to help kids live healthier lives by helping them develop eating and exercise habits now.

And seventh students in Pam Yates’ health classes at Switzerland County Middle School are taking full advantage of the opportunity.

Through technology, students are able to log into the Fuel Up website, where each has an individual space. Each student through the health class can log in and record what they’ve eaten during the day and how much exercise they got. The site then calculates how that student might eat a more healthy diet, and then rewards the student with “badges” when those eating habits change.

“One of the thing we do is that we go on the website everyday and track our eating habits,” student Cora Castle said. “We track what food groups we eat and how much of it we eat, and also our activities that we play. If you do certain things, the website will reward you for the things you do.”

Cora Castle said that rewards can also be obtained by taking polls on the website, such as “What’s your favorite meal of the day?” or “What is your favorite after school snack?”

“There’s pretty much a competition to see who can get the most badges and the most points,” Cora Castle said.

And who’s winning that competition? That would be student Bailey Bennett, who so far this year has amassed 80 badges. Cora Castle has earned 30 badges thus far; and Cameron Bartlett has 21 badges.

“We’ve been doing this since the year started,” Bailey Bennett said. “Since we have health class first period, we can also work on it during homeroom, which helps.”

Bailey Bennett said that Mrs. Yates has a competition going throughout the seventh grade to see which student in each class will get the most badges, with prizes being awarded to the winning students.

The strong participation by the students has also been recognized statewide.

The Dairy and Nutrition Council of Indiana has chosen to award the school a grant of $1,500 to support its ‘Fuel Up to Play 60’ initiatives.

The funds will be used to help schools implement the program. This seed money can stimulate action that leads to change, thus generating momentum and validating schools for their effort, leadership and commitment.

Bailey Bennett said that there are other activities, including painting “milk mustaches” on their faces; and “taste the rainbow”, where the students had different fruits to try. That activity was paid for through the grant. Students are also trying to influence their friends and others to get on the website and track their eating and exercise habits – because the program is open to anyone, not just students in health classes.”

Students also entered a mural contest centered on healthy eating, and the winning designed will be painted on the wall of the cafeteria. Cora Castle won a backpack for a poster contest that she participated in.

Across the country, more than 70,000 schools nationwide are involved in the program.

“I like tracking the food and activities,” Cameron Bartlett said. “This is the first year we’ve done it, and it’s really interesting to see all of the different options that we have.”

The seventh grade health class is coming to an end, as the class is for the first semester. After Christmas, the eighth grade classes will switch from gym class to health class; with the seventh graders taking gym next semester.

Even though they won’t be in health class, the students all said that they will continue to participate in the ‘Fuel Up to Play 60’ campaign and will continue to track their eating and exercise habits.

“There’s lot of bad food out there that we’ve all been eating,” Cameron Bartlett said. “This really helps all of us eat healthier foods.”

“I didn’t realize how much fat food I ate,” Cora Castle laughed.