by Morgan Smith
The preschoolers at The Jewish Preschool on Sardis are learning what it means to live healthy lives. Although small, the students are big in knowledge, especially when it comes to eating right and exercising.
That’s largely in part to Kids on the Run, a parent initiative at the school giving the 85 students, ages 1 through 5, the opportunity to learn and grow in an area that could seem unfamiliar to many toddlers.
“We felt that because of the ridiculous obesity levels in this country, we needed to teach them to know that their bodies are working, verbalize what’s going on,” Randi Lan, co-chair of Kids on the Run, said. “It’s not only an awareness, but also to expose them to different types of fitness.”
Students at the school already participate in daily developmental activities like playing soccer or spending time on the playground, areas where students participate in the natural development of motor and social skills. But Lan, also a parent at the school, helped start the program last year when she decided to share her passion for health and fitness with her own kids.
“Our tagline really says it: ‘Healthy Mind, Strong Body, Happy Child.’ That’s really our goal,” Lan added. “If we can teach them to be happy and confident children, preschool is where you really have to build that. It’s a good thing to take care of yourself.”
The students participate in various activities throughout the year, including Fitness Fridays, an initiative every week where students are exposed to different types of fitness. Students have enjoyed some yoga and its many positions, such as downward dog, and even some Taekwondo, as well as other activities involving music.
“There are a variety of ways to get healthy,” DeDee Goldsmith, director of the preschool, said. “It doesn’t have to look like mom running in the park or dad lifting weights.”
And to really bring what the students learn back to their families, parents came up with the Kids on the Run Challenge. The community-wide event promotes the importance of health and fitness and helps in the fight against childhood obesity.
“The run was the idea that they have been doing this all year long. It’s the perfect way to bring school to home,” Lan said.
This year’s second annual fun-run event, where toddlers and alumni of the school can all participate, will take place in April and consist of four different races: 1 to 2 year old race; 3 year old race, 4 to 5 year olds and alumni and older kids. The event coordinators are still mapping out the distances of the races, but each will be age-appropriate.
“It’s really less about the distance and more about the meaning behind it,” Lan said. “Last year we had parents push their kids in the stroller. Everyone just gets so into it.”
The school also will dedicate its new vegetable and herb garden at the event, the first piece of another healthy initiative in the works at the school.
Last year, the school received a grant to help kick-start a $30,000 renovation on the playground, turning the outside space into a custom outdoor playscape which will include a 5-foot-wide pathway that leads to natural exploration centers like a butterfly garden, dramatic play stage, water/sand play area, learning garden, art fence and council circle, as well as a multipurpose lawn with a vine tunnel plus edible trees and shrubs to shape the surrounding areas. The project is expected to be complete by 2015.
Lan said the playscape and garden and the Kids on the Run initiative go hand-in-hand, promoting not only good stewardship of the body but also good stewardship of the land.
“(The garden) is driven to be more about what we put into the environment and what we can do better,” Lan added.
“We started the garden in August and that was a good move forward for us and getting the kids involved,” Goldsmith said. “They water, they weed; they planted some seeds recently. They are part of the process and we want them to continue to be part of the process.”
The fun-run and garden dedication in honor of Saul Wojnowich, a school supporter and avid gardener, will begin at 8 a.m. April 22 at the school, 6619 Sardis Road. Registration will take place the morning of the races, and is open to the public.