BUCKTOWN — Stability balls and exercise bands usually are school supplies best suited for a gym class, but at Pulaski International School you might find them in any classroom.
"Last year, we built the active indoor recess program, we also had our first-ever family fitness night, which was the most successful event in the school's history. We've done yogurt parfaits and smoothies during lunchtime," said Lee Schram, a physical education teacher at Pulaski, 2230 W. McLean Ave.
"This year we have a class where we're using stability balls as their chairs to get them up and moving in the classroom and we've also purchased exercise bands for every classroom," Schram said.
The school partnered with Fuel Up to Play 60, an in-school nutrition and physical activity program to help empower kids to make healthy choices and stay active. The program, which partners with the NFL and the National Dairy Council, is active in 73,000 schools in the nation and helped 14 million students make better food choices and stay physically active, organizers said.
Monday, students filled the Pulaski auditorium donning their sky blue Fuel up to Play 60 T-shirts to recommit to that promise and meet NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, celebrity chef Carl Hall, and former Chicago Bears Otis Wilson, Anthony Morgan and Hunter Hillenmeyer. The former Bears reminded the students the importance of the commitment. The program announced its own recommitment of $250 million to schools around the nation.
"It's vital because it shows the next generation of leaders that you have to make a choice and that choice is to take care of your body because you only get one body," Morgan said. "When Fuel Up to Play 60 was launched, that's the vision that they had that allowed the next generation to see take care of yourself now and see the investment down the road."
Schram said the program not only helped students become more aware of their health and the benefits of exercise, but has helped some students emerge as leaders and changed the culture of the school.
"They tell me that they're eating better. I've seen them exercise in the classroom. We have an active indoor recess now, so I'm able to witness that going on," Schram said.
"I hear reports from parents where it has gone home now. When they go to the grocery store they're making healthier choices, you see parents coming in for nutrition education classes here at Pulaski. So the whole environment here, the whole culture of the school is becoming aware of health and nutrition."
Goodell joined the kids and former Bears players with some football-themed drills. Students lined up for stations that included throwing footballs, and running around cones and over hurdles along with a stop for a healthy snack. The students were not shy to say why they loved the program between bites of their yogurt parfaits.
"It's fun because you get to do fun stuff, exercise and have fun with your friends," said Rachel Valentin, 12.
"It's also good because you get to be active for at least 60 minutes a day," fellow student Matthew Santiago agreed. "You can run, play football anything you love."