Texas schools, AgriLife Extension walk the talk on obesity
Texas schools soon may be marching forward under new legislation that requires every student to be physically active for at least 30 minutes a day.
The Texas Education Agency has joined with the Texas AgriLife Extension Service to encourage students, teachers and parents to "Walk Across Texas."
Though people will not be actually trekking from Texarkana to El Paso or from the Panhandle to the Rio Grande Valley, officials at the two state agencies say students, parents and teachers might try to go the 830-mile distance right at home.
Walk Across Texas was created by AgriLife Extension as a fun way to increase physical activity, offering education as well as support and encouragement in a team structure, according to Dr. Carol Rice, AgriLife Extension health specialist. Rice said that the 14-year-old Walk Across Texas initiative is a well-established program readily available to help school districts meet the legislative requirement for physical activities.
Under Texas Senate Bill 891, all public school students below the sixth grade are now required to participate in moderate or vigorous physical activity for at least 30 minutes daily throughout the school year. This daily activity may be part of a district's physical education curriculum or part of a structured activity during recess, according to the education agency.
One possible way to meet that law is for teachers to team up with AgriLife Extension agents--there is one for every county--to start the walking program. AgriLife Extension leaders said a good time to start Walk Across Texas may be Sept. 14 to 18 during the state's Obesity Awareness Week.
"We created the program to encourage a habit of physical fitness," Rice added.
Curriculum is available on the Web site, http://walkacrosstexas.tamu.edu. It is designed to meet Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills requirements, according to Dr. Susan Ballabina, AgriLife Extension regional program director in Dallas, where the program has been popular for years.
She pointed to a recent study by the Cooper Institute of Dallas which found that the more physically fit students are more likely to do well on standardized tests, attend school regularly and have fewer disciplinary referrals.
Though the activity requirement is only for school kids, AgriLife Extension leaders said another benefit is that the program encourages teachers, the entire school district workforce and parent volunteers to participate.
Within one school, for instance, teams could form for parents and teachers of different grade levels, or perhaps the cafeteria workers and office staff could try to track more walking than the other.
"This program enables each school or district to design a fun effort over eight weeks so that healthy walking may become a habit," Ballabina added.
To find out how to begin the program, go to the Web site, http://walkacrosstexas.tamu.edu where you will find the quick link to teachers, grade-level appropriate curricula, various activities and informational materials.
Information and assistance is available from AgriLife Extension's network of county agents, found at http://agrilifeextension.tamu.edu.