Middle School Family Fun Night introduces SWITCH

Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     Monticello Middle School students are currently involved in a new program that encourages these young people to live healthier lives in more ways than one.

     SWITCH (School Wellness Integration Targeting Child Health) is all about switching what you do, switching what you view, and switching what you chew.

     Middle school staff Robyn Ponder, curriculum director; Kim McQuillen, P.E. teacher; and Jodi Heinrich, school nurse partnered with Jones County Extension and Outreach to offer the program to 6-8 graders, thanks to a grant.

     “The support of Extension has been wonderful,” praised Ponder.

     To roll out the program and formally introduce it to the parents and families of the middle school, there will be a Family Fun Night on Monday, Feb. 17, from 6-8 p.m. Aside from learning about SWITCH, there will also be fun and educational activities.

     SWITCH is a wellness program designed for elementary and middle school-age students.

     “Switch what you do” entails taking part in 60 minutes or more of physical activity per day.

     “Switch what you view” encourages young people to have two hours or less of recreational screen time (TV and video games). Screen time often correlates with sedentary time spent sitting or laying. Youth should be engaged in movement and physical activity.

     “Switch what you chew” is about youth consuming five or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day.

     These initiatives can not only be accomplished at school, but at home as well.

     Ponder said one way the middle school is incorporating SWITCH into the curriculum is through the P.E. and lunch programs, as well in the classrooms with energy breaks.

     Before introducing SWITCH to the middle school as a whole, Ponder, McQuillen and Heinrich took four students to a training workshop. Those students are members of the newly formed middle school student council. Ponder said it’s the student council that is really taking the lead with SWITCH and its various components.

     “They plan to do a lot more with SWITCH by sharing trivia at lunch about healthy eating,” she said. “They have a lot of great ideas.”

     The 12-week statewide program started a few weeks ago on Jan. 20. Each of the two weeks represents one of the three themes. At the end of the first six weeks, the three themes start over again.

     Ponder explained that each student’s activity associated with SWITCH is being tracked online.

     “Parents can log on and view their progress,” she said, similar to checking a student’s grades.

     She said the students are not engaged in leading healthier lives, but are forced to be honest about their screen time, for example.

     On Feb. 17, families can take part in learning about SWITCH, as well as activities and stations led by many of the middle school teachers. Extension and Outreach will also have a booth as well. The activities that evening will take place throughout the gym, cafeteria and art room.

     “It’s good for the students to learn about living healthier lifestyles,” said Ponder of SWITCH. “We’re starting small for now, and it could get a lot bigger.”


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