Woodland Intermediate School in Gurnee is beginning the school year with a healthy addition to its grounds.
A new fitness station, located on the west side of the school, will be used by students during the day to support healthier living through the school's curriculum. It will be available to the community after school hours.
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The idea for the fitness center was introduced by two Woodland Elementary District 50 employees. Certified school nurse Julia Plescia and physical education teacher Wayne Howard initially proposed the idea of a fitness station through a grant they submitted to the Woodland Educational Foundation in 2011. The foundation was able to partially fund the grant.
"I wanted to submit a grant that would improve student health," Plescia said. "And to give our students pride in their school."
"Encouraging activities that contribute to developing healthy lifestyle behaviors in our young children is important and we are pleased to have been a part of this endeavor," said Woodland Educational Foundation President Patricia Termini.
After seeking additional funds, the Woodland PTA and Walmart made donations to Woodland to fund the fitness station.
"The Woodland PTA was pleased to partner with the Woodland Educational Foundation and Walmart to help raise funds for the district's fitness station at the Intermediate School," said PTA President Nancy Kehoe. "Our continued goal is to build awareness related to health and fitness, building individual character and preparing the child for the future."
Located adjacent to the playground, the fitness station will be used by students year-round, especially during their P.E. classes. The nine-station fit center features a variety of stations that include gross motor and fine motor stations to develop balance, core strength and focus on stretching.
"We are excited to integrate our curriculum with opportunities for students to participate in self-directed physical activity," Howard said. "Collaborating with the health clinic staff and other departments in order to address the physical fitness needs of our students will be key."
As a certified school nurse, Plescia wants people to be aware of the importance of health at a young age.
"Obesity is an epidemic in our society," she said. "I thought it would be good to draw a positive correlation to students between physical activity that was fun as well as healthy."
And while the fitness station will be used by Woodland Intermediate School students and staff during the day, it will be open to the community after hours.
"We invite our community to embrace this healthy initiative when our students are not using it," said Superintendent Joy A. Swoboda. "Our board of education is extremely supportive of this permanent structure dedicated to promote health and fitness not only in this school district, but in our entire community."