Rupert Howell’s column

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Teachers’ interest bodes well for kids

A group of 22 teachers renewed my faith in education last week.

We sometimes hear of what someone thinks is not being done in the classroom. But I witnessed 22 enthusiastic teachers from across the county go through an intense day of physical hands-on training to better prepare themselves for challenges ahead.  I was impressed.

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What challenges you may ask?

Besides all the testing, curriculum, goals and benchmarks, this year a law was passed by the state legislature and signed by the governor that requires public schools to provide at least 150 minutes of physical activity-based  instruction per week for  students in kindergarten through eighth grade.

And why would state government be meddlin’ by mandating our schools’ curriculum?

Well, it might be that for the first time the average life expectancy of our children will be less than our expected life expectancy.

That’s something to ponder. And while we ponder, consider that Mississippi is the most obese state in the nation.

If any good news can come from this it might be that we won the war on hunger in the country’s poorest state.

The bad news is that childhood obesity has reached epidemic proportions. So our state government has decided to mandate actions and show concern for this killer.

Killer, you say?

 It is a well known fact that obesity may lead to other serious health problems such as diabetes and heart disease. Considering that, it is obvious that childhood obesity will lead to shorter lives and/or sicker seniors.

The state legislature is not the only one to realize there is a problem here and many government agencies are taking steps to inform the public.

Also assisting in spreading the awareness is the Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi.

Using a grant from the Dreyfus Health Foundation of New York, the Community Foundation took local proposals to fight childhood obesity from the eight counties, including Panola, that it encompasses.

Those 22 Panola teachers came from schools and Head Start Centers from Crenshaw, Como, Pope, Sardis and Batesville.

The common thread running through them is their desire to teach and they gave their all doing learning exercises that called for physical movement throughout the day. (Thought I was going to die just watching.)

 Each was provided a manual packed with lesson plans that will help make learning fun and physical.

Meanwhile our battle against hunger has changed to a fight against obesity. Our enemies appear to be lethargy and unhealthy food choices.

The war is on.