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‘Wellness Challenge’ offers participants chance at a school garden

By Staff | Sep 8, 2011

The first wellness challenge for the Lee County School District has kicked off, attracting many district personnel wanting to compete to win the grand prize of a 400-square-foot garden for their school.

Employee Wellness Coordinator for the Lee County School District Lisa Brown said she has 29 teams, with 400 registered participants, signed up for the Love Your Mother Challenge.

“Registration was lower for this challenge,” she said. “It is early in the school year, which is one barrier, and the challenge has four target areas instead of just one, so it might be perceived as a little more complex than past challenges.”

Brown said the team Skyline Stars from Skyline Elementary School and Caloosa Olympians from Caloosa Elementary School are the two teams in Cape Coral that are doing quite well.

Caloosa Elementary School fourth grade teacher Heidi Fizer said she has participated in the district-wide health challenges for the past two years with many of her co-workers.

She was encouraged to participate because exercising and eating healthy is already a part of her lifestyle.

“Exercising and eating healthy is vitally important to living right,” Fizer said.

A group of teachers at Caloosa Elementary School decided 10 years ago to start an exercise class following the end of their school day three times a week. Fizer said the last five years they have become very structured and there are 12 dedicated employees who show up on a regular basis.

“Our workout group is already exercising,” Fizer said. “Why not be a part of the program and see what we can do as a team?”

That thought process started the ball rolling for the teachers to get involved in the district’s challenges every year.

“I took on an extra challenge to get more people involved,” Fizer said, adding that the first year they had seven teachers participate, a number which grew a little last year.

So far, the Love Your Mother Challenge has attracted 17 members for the Caloosa Olympians team.

“We go 90 miles an hour every day,” Fizer said. “The only thing that we tend to forget is to take care of ourselves. Having these challenges gives us the opportunity to say ‘OK, I am just as important as the kids that I teach.'”

Fizer said she wants to set a good example for their students, which she believes can be accomplished through the challenge. She said the healthier they become, the better role models they are.

Caloosa Olympians was ranked second this past weekend, which is much higher that their past challenge of ranks between 10th and 20th place.

“This is the first time we cracked the top five,” she said. “The one thing I love, is it is so fun and motivating to go online to see where our team stands. You start getting this competitive attitude in a good way.”

The four categories for the Love Your Mother Challenge that participants can earn points in include physical activity; portion plate; reduce reuse and recycle and hang up the keys.

The physical activity category allows participants to earn 25 points for every 15 minutes of completed structured physical activity. A maximum of 150 points can be earned, which is an equivalence of 90 minutes of physical activity a day.

The hour workout at Caloosa Elementary School takes place on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3-4 p.m. earns the group points towards the challenge. Fizer said they do anything from core training, to weight training, aerobics, martial arts, yoga and sports drills.

“You name it, we do it,” she said.

Fizer said the class allows the teachers to get rid of all of their stress, while laughing and having a good time.

The portion plate category, which replaced the USDA food pyramid to showcase a balanced meal, allows participants to earn 25 points for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The balanced meal contains 50 percent of fruits and vegetables, 25 percent protein and 25 percent grains and carbohydrates.

Another category, reduce, reuse and recycle category provides an opportunity for district employees to earn 25 points for each different action they perform to protect the earth. A total of 75 points can be earned in a day.

Fizer said they became very energy efficient at their school last year by implementing simple things like turning off lights when leaving a room and placing recycling bins throughout the school.

“Last year we really got the kids involved in taking care of the environment,” she said.

The last category, hang up the keys, encourages participants to carpool with their fellow employees, ride their bike, walk or use transit to get to and from where they need to go.

A maximum of 100 points can be earned a day. A round-trip is 50 points and one-way is 25 points.

Fizer said she knows of a few teachers who carpool from Fort Myers.

This year the school team with the most points will win a 400-square-foot garden from Heartland Garden for their school. Heartland Garden is a non-profit organization located on McGregor Boulevard in Fort Myers.

Fizer said she is looking forward to winning the grand prize.

“We have been wanting to get a garden for our school,” she said. “We are going to work really, really hard to get that garden for our school and kids.

“It is not a reward for you, it is a reward for the whole school that is one step in a really positive healthy direction.”

The challenge ends on Oct. 3.