After a morning of mathematics and language arts, 43 children in grades two through six from the Pine Bluff Lighthouse Charter School arrived at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff for Nutrition and Physical Fitness Camp.
Before entering the Adair-Greenhouse Hall Department of Human Sciences food production lab, the children washed their hands. They donned gloves to handle the ingredients to make nutritious smoothies, placed the smoothies on a tray and covered them with plastic wrap for transport upstairs. While camp helpers with the cart full of smoothies rode the elevator upstairs, the children formed their single file Lighthouse Line and climbed the stairs.
Upstairs, tables for four to six children complete with white tablecloths, cloth napkins and a small centerpiece awaited the children. They sat quietly, folded their hands, listened and answered questions posed by Delta Obesity Program Director Dr. Felicia Taylor Waller and Alexandra Gray, human sciences instructor and director of the Didactic Program in Dietetics. The discussion included the differences between fast food and table-service restaurants, how behavior differs in each, ordering from a menu and table manners.
Some restaurants offer both buffet lines and table service. For this day’s demonstration, a buffet line was set up offering a choice of either chicken or beef tacos. After their meal, there was more learning as children identified the food groups to which their food belonged and the role that food group plays in creating healthy bodies.
Soon it was time for a change of pace: the physical fitness part of the camp. Despite the heat, the children eagerly went outside for activities with Patrick Wheat, physical activity teacher, who led both boys and girls in walking, running and skipping forwards and backwards.
Then everyone gathered under a shade tree while Wheat unloaded exercise toys — hula hoops, a pogo stick, a volleyball net and posts, balls, low-rise stilts or bucket stompers and a large jump rope — from his truck nearby. Much to the delight of the jump rope twirlers, Samuel Green, the Lighthouse Charter school administrator, began jumping. The girls twirled faster and faster, but he kept pace. Eventually with all parties acknowledging a tie, he took his turn twirling while encouraging the amazed but tired twirlers and other students to jump rope.
“The importance of physical fitness combined with good nutrition cannot be emphasized enough. In today’s society, we are subjected to a sedentary lifestyle and there is a greater need than ever to increase the daily activity level to maintain both cardiovascular fitness and body weight. What the children learned during the week will serve them well through their lives,” Waller said.
The week-long camp is sponsored by the UAPB Delta Obesity Project, a U.S. Department of Agriculture funded project addressing obesity health disparities and obesity prevention in the Arkansas Delta. The project has been part of the UAPB Human Sciences Department since 2009.