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Fannett-Metal students on trail to physical fitness

September 05, 2006|by JENNIFER FITCH

WILLOW, HILL, Pa. - On a blustery morning during the first week of school, Gary Hockenberry and Danny Foy's physical education class took them off the playing fields and out of the gym.

The two moved with classmates through Fannett-Metal School District's new fitness trail, where Gary explained the stretches to Danny since he had used it once before.

The high schoolers and their counterparts at the middle school hit the trail with the start of school, and plan to dedicate it to the community today at 1 p.m.

The public was key not only in the application for the $17,000 Summit Endowment grant that paid for the trail, but also in installing it, Principal Brad Ocker said. Now, area residents and businesspeople are welcome to use the trail anytime.

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"I guess the biggest thing, whether they're school-age or not, is to instill lifelong fitness," Ocker said.

Ocker said the rural school district doesn't have a community center or health facility, and school-sponsored events often are standing-room only. In applying for the grant last spring and designing the fitness trail, district officials were looking for something that could be used by everyone.

By positioning the trail near the public tennis court and away from the schools themselves, the public can use the trail without disturbing students or transportation, Ocker said.

"We strategically planned for where it's going to be," he said.

The course spans a quarter-mile, and starts with stretching before going into a series of sit-ups, pull-ups and push-ups.

The end of the course is in a grove of walnut trees, providing shade for the strenuous portion of the trail. Workers, many donating their talents, had the course ready for use in about a week's time.

"The 20 stations are almost in a circular pattern," Ocker said. A path between stations will be installed after the natural flow is observed by patterns in the grass, he said.

Visitors are welcomed to the trail by two signs, which list health benefits and warnings. They also explain how to properly take one's pulse while exercising.

"Middle schoolers are really enthusiastic about it. They're reading the signs," physical education teacher Greg Best said.

The four key components of the course are cardiovascular endurance, flexibility, muscle endurance and muscle strength, Best said.

"Our physical education classes are going to use it for healthy living," Ocker said.

The cardiovascular endurance aspect has been increased for students because they have been asked to jog through the course, Best said.

As the school year progresses, he's looking for students to increase their abilities on the course, which can be adapted for people of different levels of fitness. Some students might not be able to do pull-ups now, but can stretch and hold onto the bar for 15 seconds, he said.

"I'm stressing that what you put in is what you get out of it," Best said.

With today's focus on reducing childhood obesity, school districts are expected to measure children's body mass indexes. Block scheduling means students in the Fannett-Metal School District aren't always enrolled in a physical education class.

Scheduling also leaves some students with an independent gym class, where they now will keep a log of progress made on the fitness trail, Ocker said.

"I'm looking at doing it every other day at the high school," Best said.

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