By Joyce DeWallace, Contributing Writer
Shrewsbury – Good things happen when different groups in the community join together with a common goal. This year the Shrewsbury Public Schools won a federal physical education program (PEP) grant administered by Patricia Degon, director of the Physical Education Department. Together with Shrewsbury Youth and Family Service (SYFS) and the Shrewsbury Health and Racquet Club (SHARC), a course was designed for middle school students. Their efforts resulted in an after-school program called the Great SHARC recreational, active and competitive experience (RACE).
The idea was to have teams of kids go through a series of fun challenges and games to promote wellness and health education as well as develop teamwork and leadership skills. SYFS and SHARC staffed the event and facilitated the two separate events, one for the Sherwood Middle School students and the other for Oak Middle School pupils.
SYFS Executive Director Jeffrey Chin explained the ?goal of the program.
“What we wanted to do was provide a fun activity for these students to not only enjoy a physical activity, but also be in a positive, healthy environment where they could make new friends.”
To learn about leadership and nonprofits as part of their community service commitment, SYFS's Student Liaison Group, composed of seven area high school students, helped with the project. They passed out fliers at the two schools and talked to the students about the fitness program, which was loosely based on the popular “Amazing Race” TV series.
Over 60 middle-schoolers participated in the two sessions. After the bus ride over from school, they started with healthy snacks. The group learned about the concept and goals of the race, then created teams and elected captains.
Five teams each had a coach, one of the high school liaisons, and met in separate rooms at SHARC. The basketball room required the kids to shoot “around the world” and then successfully answer a nutrition question. In the balancing room, the teams had to complete 100 catches and then answer another nutrition question. Crabwalking backwards was part of the fun in the card room in order to get to the next food question.? The circuit room featured seven activities, which each team member had to complete before passing to the nutrition question and get into the last room, which was the obstacle course relay room.
All the events were timed and the coaches recorded the time it took each team to complete the race.? In their evaluations, the kids gave the program a top rating of 10.? One student explained, “It was a lot of fun.? The staff was very enthusiastic.” Another wrote, “Nothing could be improved; it was awesome.? The best part was the scavenger hunt, because it was hard!”
The PEP grant is a multi-year grant, and the program will be repeated next year.? Now that the concept has been worked out, the aim is to hold four programs, two in the fall and two in the spring.
“It is a great example of a positive collaboration between multiple community institutions, the nonprofit, the public schools, and a small business,” Chin said. “Everyone worked together to put forth a tremendous effort for the middle school kids. It was a challenging and fun experience for us to work with all the various partners.”
He added that two of the SYFS summer programs are now enrolling – the “You Go, Girl!” Program for girls 11 to 14 is accepting registrations, and the TRAILBLAZERS Youth Leadership Institute for high school teens is now accepting applications. For more information ?or to enroll, visit www.syfs-ma.org, email SYFS@townisp.com, or call SYFS at 508-845-6932.