Courtesy of St. Benedict School - St. Benedict School students Emma Perry, third-grade, Ryan McGorry, forth-grade, and Nora Kempf, fifth-grade present a check to Robyn Swan of the American Heart Association.
In addition to English, math, science and the arts, school can also be an important place for students to learn about their health. The Jump Rope for Heart program, which is presented in conjunction with the American Heart Association, is a way for students to help others while learning about keeping their heart healthy.
“We really just try to get the students to wrap their heads around; this is preventable,” said Robyn Swan, youth market director at the American Heart Association.
The program, which is usually presented in February, National Heart Month, begins with an assembly, where a representative from the AHA gives a presentation that explains the program and teaches students about ways to keep their heart healthy.
“We also talk about how heart disease is 100 percent preventable and nine times out of 10, if someone suffers a heart attack before they get to the hospital, it’s very instant and unforgiving, in that today you are here and tomorrow you are not, in some cases,” Swan said.
During the program, students have the opportunity to raise money for the American Heart Association by setting a dollar goal and asking family and friends to donate. No student is excluded from the education part of the program because they choose not to donate.
This was the first year of participation in Jump Rope for Heart at St. Benedict School in Amherst. The third-, fourth- and fifth-grade classes have adopted the American Heart Association for their service project for the next three years.
“We were looking for things that were kid-friendly that they could do easily and have an attachment to,” said Mary Damico, fourth-grade teacher at the school. “Everyone had somebody they knew who had a heart problem or could be healthier.”
The students at St. Benedict’s raised more than $2,000. Any student who earned a minimum of $100 in pledges was allowed to Silly String Principal, Molly Halady. Prizes were also awarded for top jumpers and top pledge earners.
“The kids loved it,” Damico said. “It was a good time.”
During the weeks following the American Heart Association assembly, teachers focus on heart health in the classroom and in gym class.
“They’ll do activities and lesson plans that focus on heart health and making healthy choices for your heart,” Swan said.
At the end of the program, each school has a celebration for the students.
“They all have jump ropes in their hand and there’s music playing and kids will rotate from station to station and work on their jump rope skills,” said Swan.
At St. Mary School in Swormville, students participate in Jump Rope for Heart every two years.
“The kids really enjoy the jump roping and they really understand the importance of it and the importance of keeping their hearts healthy and strong,” said physical education teacher Kristina Young.
The American Heart Association provides each interested school with a free event kit that includes jump ropes for the students, two long ropes, a teacher resource guide with lesson plans, an education banner, bookmarks, stickers, parent letters and collection envelopes.
Although the program is structured in a way that is enjoyable for students, there is a very serious message behind all the fun.
“Mrs. Swan really emphasized that the habits that they form now will be the ones that affect their lives later,” Damico said.
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