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Program helps Hatfield students jump-start morning

  • Hatfield Elementary students, from left, Willy Childs, Jacob Yagodzinski, Morgan Whidden, Maisy Dyer and Elena Baranoski practice proper form for squats during a BOKS (Build Our Kids' Success) program before school last May.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Hatfield Elementary students, from left, Willy Childs, Jacob Yagodzinski, Morgan Whidden, Maisy Dyer and Elena Baranoski practice proper form for squats during a BOKS (Build Our Kids' Success) program before school last May.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Hatfield Elementary students Jacob Yagodzinski and Maisy Dyer run cross-gym sprints during a BOKS (Build Our Kids' Success) program before school Tuesday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Hatfield Elementary students Jacob Yagodzinski and Maisy Dyer run cross-gym sprints during a BOKS (Build Our Kids' Success) program before school Tuesday.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Andy Pelc, right, smiles at Jarrett Borer as the Hatfield Elementary students practice a "skill of the week" in the BOKS (Build Our Kids' Success) program held before the start of school Tuesday. Also joining them are Jameson Lavallee, bottom right, and Owen Baranoski, background right.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Andy Pelc, right, smiles at Jarrett Borer as the Hatfield Elementary students practice a "skill of the week" in the BOKS (Build Our Kids' Success) program held before the start of school Tuesday. Also joining them are Jameson Lavallee, bottom right, and Owen Baranoski, background right.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Hatfield Elementary students, from left, Olivia Niedbala, Amanda Novak, Madeline Niedbala, Casey Letourneau and Maisy Dyer play a game of keep-away Tuesday during the 10 minutes of "free time" that opens each BOKS (Build Our Kids' Success) program.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Hatfield Elementary students, from left, Olivia Niedbala, Amanda Novak, Madeline Niedbala, Casey Letourneau and Maisy Dyer play a game of keep-away Tuesday during the 10 minutes of "free time" that opens each BOKS (Build Our Kids' Success) program.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Hatfield Elementary students, in foreground from left, Elena Baranoski, Hadley Szynal and Jarrett Borer jump rope during the ten minutes of "free time" that opens each BOKS (Build Our Kids' Success) program led by physical education teacher Julie Andrus, far left.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Hatfield Elementary students, in foreground from left, Elena Baranoski, Hadley Szynal and Jarrett Borer jump rope during the ten minutes of "free time" that opens each BOKS (Build Our Kids' Success) program led by physical education teacher Julie Andrus, far left.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Hatfield Elementary physical education teacher Julie Andrus and student Olivia Niedbala jog back from the pavilion behind the school during a BOKS (Build Our Kids' Success) program that Andrus leads before the start of the school day.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Hatfield Elementary physical education teacher Julie Andrus and student Olivia Niedbala jog back from the pavilion behind the school during a BOKS (Build Our Kids' Success) program that Andrus leads before the start of the school day.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Hatfield Elementary students play a game of "crabwalk" soccer in the gym during a BOKS (Build Our Kids' Success) program before the start of the school day Tuesday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Hatfield Elementary students play a game of "crabwalk" soccer in the gym during a BOKS (Build Our Kids' Success) program before the start of the school day Tuesday.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Hatfield Elementary students, from left, Olivia Niedbala, Amanda Novak, Madeline Niedbala, Kaci Letourneau and Maisy Dyer play a game of keep-away Tuesday during the 10 minutes of "free time" that opens each BOKS (Build Our Kids' Success) program.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Hatfield Elementary students, from left, Olivia Niedbala, Amanda Novak, Madeline Niedbala, Kaci Letourneau and Maisy Dyer play a game of keep-away Tuesday during the 10 minutes of "free time" that opens each BOKS (Build Our Kids' Success) program.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Hatfield Elementary students, from left, Willy Childs, Jacob Yagodzinski, Morgan Whidden, Maisy Dyer and Elena Baranoski practice proper form for squats during a BOKS (Build Our Kids' Success) program before school last May.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Hatfield Elementary students Jacob Yagodzinski and Maisy Dyer run cross-gym sprints during a BOKS (Build Our Kids' Success) program before school Tuesday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Andy Pelc, right, smiles at Jarrett Borer as the Hatfield Elementary students practice a "skill of the week" in the BOKS (Build Our Kids' Success) program held before the start of school Tuesday. Also joining them are Jameson Lavallee, bottom right, and Owen Baranoski, background right.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Hatfield Elementary students, from left, Olivia Niedbala, Amanda Novak, Madeline Niedbala, Casey Letourneau and Maisy Dyer play a game of keep-away Tuesday during the 10 minutes of "free time" that opens each BOKS (Build Our Kids' Success) program.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Hatfield Elementary students, in foreground from left, Elena Baranoski, Hadley Szynal and Jarrett Borer jump rope during the ten minutes of "free time" that opens each BOKS (Build Our Kids' Success) program led by physical education teacher Julie Andrus, far left.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Hatfield Elementary physical education teacher Julie Andrus and student Olivia Niedbala jog back from the pavilion behind the school during a BOKS (Build Our Kids' Success) program that Andrus leads before the start of the school day.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Hatfield Elementary students play a game of "crabwalk" soccer in the gym during a BOKS (Build Our Kids' Success) program before the start of the school day Tuesday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Hatfield Elementary students, from left, Olivia Niedbala, Amanda Novak, Madeline Niedbala, Kaci Letourneau and Maisy Dyer play a game of keep-away Tuesday during the 10 minutes of "free time" that opens each BOKS (Build Our Kids' Success) program.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

This spring, Hatfield Elementary School incorporated a 10-week physical activity program designed to energize students and jump-start their brains in preparation for a day of learning. Forty students in grades 1 through 6 are participating in the program.

Sponsored by the Reebok Foundation, the Build Our Kids Success program is offered before school starts and combines early morning play, physical activity and team games, with short tutorials on food and nutrition. The goal of the program is to promote healthy habits for children that increase their learning ability and help them to achieve lifelong fitness.

“We are the only school that is doing this program in Hampshire County,” said Hatfield School Superintendent John Robert. “The only other school that has a BOKS program in western Massachusetts is the Sullivan School in Holyoke.”

The pilot program runs three days a week and costs each student $2.50 a day to pay stipends to the trainers, physical education teacher Julie Andrus and school cook Jackie Pelc. The school is seeking additional funding for the program, so it can offer it at no charge and to more students. Hatfield Elementary has 253 students in pre-kindergarten through sixth grade.

“We have written a few grants for the program and we fully anticipate we will receive that funding,” Robert said.

Robert said the program was created, in part, in reaction to cuts in elementary schools’ physical education classes and recess periods, often due to reductions in funding or replacing those activities with things like preparation time for standardized tests.

“Research shows, however, that test scores go up for children that engage in physical activity and they go down for children with less physical activity,” Robert said. “The earlier that physical activity occurs in the day, the more alert and ready a child will be for the rest of the day.”

According to the program website, www.bokskids.org, national guidelines recommend that children get at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day, yet fewer than 4 percent of elementary schools provide daily physical education and only 57 percent have regular recess.

At Hatfield Elementary, students have physical education class once a week for 40 minutes, and a daily recess that lasts 20 minutes.

Principal Jennifer Chapin said the program has been met with great enthusiasm by students.

“The kids just love it,” Chapin said.

“The first-graders and sixth-graders don’t have many opportunities to see each other. So this helps build the camaraderie in the school,” Pelc said.

Pelc and Andrus both took the training that was offered in Canton at the Reebok headquarters.

“It’s been awesome,” Andrus said. “We have had great attendance ever since we started doing this.”

Smiling broadly while catching his breath one recent morning, Maxwell Bartlett, 11, said he looks forward to the activity at the start of the school day.

“This is really fun and it energizes me in the morning,” Maxwell said. “I think it helps me to concentrate more, and then it’s like I sort of want to do the schoolwork more.”

Combining both indoor and outdoor activities, a typical day will begin in the gymnasium with some cardio games. Each week, students focus on a “skill of the week.” Last week students not only learned how to execute a proper push-up, but also the names and locations of the muscle groups they were working.

On one recent morning after a warm-up exercise, the children moved outside to the playing field, where they quickly set up for a relay race. Andrus, who has a commanding presence both in the gym and on the field, constantly called out directions and words of encouragement.

“OK. I need you to drop, give me three proper push-ups, then run to the end of the field, drop, and give me three more, and run back to your teammate,” she said. “Remember it is about teamwork, sportsmanship, being friendly, doing your best and having fun.”

When the students returned to the gym, Pelc took over the class for a quick lesson in nutrition. “Today we talked about reading the ingredients on boxes of food and what to look for. We do this to try and help them to make better food choices,” Pelc said. “They get it. They even told me they thought about what they were eating while they were on vacation.”

Pelc said she likes to talk about the importance of staying hydrated, healthy snacks, portion sizes and getting enough sleep.

“We are also trying to have a healthy menu in the kitchen. This is right in line with the program of good food and exercise that Michelle Obama is encouraging,” Pelc said.

“I hope we can keep doing this,” said Colin Ferrara, 11. “It is good to exercise, and it keeps me focused in class. But mostly, it is just a lot of fun.”

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