Walk into Fairfield Center School on a Thursday morning at 7:30 and you will find the gymnasium full of kids smiling and exercising before the school day even starts! The kids are part of the Get Up and Get Moving program, which allows kids to be dropped off to school early to get moving. The kids do activities from hula hooping, bowling, freeze dancing and playing the Wii dance party. Their bodies are ready to be still and their brains awake.

The Get Up and Get Moving program is one of the many initiatives that 3rd grade teacher, Bet Howrigan, has led in an effort to bring more wellness programming to the students. Howrigan has take full advantage of the program, “Fuel Up to Play 60”, which is sponsored by the Dairy Council and the NFL. Over the years, she has applied for grants to initiate programming and has received about $10,000 total over the years in grants and prizes. This year alone, she received $2600 from the program, which will be used to purchase more recreational equipment, as well as a smoothie maker, an oatmeal bin and a soup terrine. Past funding has been used to purchase snowshoes and cross country skis that teachers can use with their classes.

Howrigan, along with PE teacher, Roxanne Douville-Handy, co-advise a Focus Team of students, who meet during lunch, recess and supported study to plan and implement programming for the school. They have planned taste tests for students to try healthy foods and as a result have incorporated some of those items into the regular menu. They are in the midst of planning “Active April” for the student body. Although Bet Howrigan is the coordinator of the program, most of the ideas come from the students. It is a student driven program, where kids get to put their healthy ideas into action. Students also have the chance to accrue points and apply to be a Student Ambassadors to represent the state on the national level and have their voice heard…..and meet some NFL players. Fairfield has sent Student Ambassadors in the past and is recognized for it’s program.

As a result, the culture of the school is changing. More teachers are incorporating movement into their classrooms and embracing the change towards health. K-5 students are now required to walk or run one lap on the path around the playground before free play during the fall and spring months. The Team has also initiated flash dance parties in the cafeteria, where everyone gets up and dances for 5 minutes!

The collaboration with the Fuel Up to Play 60 program has been a huge asset. Aside from the grant funds, the school receives t-shirts, signed balls, football jerseys and other incentive prizes for the students. This year, the students are competing with other Fuel Up to Play 60 schools to have Patriots player, Devin McCourty, come to their school. The students have to complete certain steps that encourage the students and school in healthy behaviors to enter the contest. Keep up this amazing work!

Photo: Bet Howrigan and Roxanne Douville-Handy with students