A HEALTHY MIND, BODY

EVART — Instead of scrolling through their cellphones or playing video games, 42 Evart Middle School students were battling each other for poison ball supremacy.

Minutes later, the students were working together to make their h

ealthy snack, as part of the after-school program Wildcat FUNatics!

The program, funded by a grant from the General Mills Foundation, allows students to have an hour of physical activity, a snack and an hour of learning culinary skills and nutrition.

There were seven sessions held throughout the first semester, said science and language arts teacher Sherry Morgan, who helps facilitate the physical activity portion of the program with Michelle Van Buren. There is another Wildcats FUNatics program slated for next semester as well.

“We had to cut off the number of students who could sign up this time because the program is so popular,” she said. “We wanted to get other students who wanted to participate a chance to be here.”

Thanks to the grant, Morgan said the students get to learn about healthy lifestyles and how it benefits them.

“This is the third year we’ve done this,” she said. “It’s very popular with the younger students, the fifth- and sixth-graders. They always have a lot of fun and many of them want to do it again.”

Donovan Dunean is one of two eight-graders taking part this semester, and is participating in the semester-long program for the second time.

“It’s so much fun,” he said. “There’s so much to do as a group, as there are lots of physical activities.”

Along with a variety of running, push-ups, jumping jacks and jump rope, Donovan said he likes when they are able to play dodgeball or poison ball, as it keeps everyone moving.

With time waning in the gym, math teacher Deb Vincent and language arts and science teacher Jennifer Natale take the culinary arts skills portion.

“We try to education them about healthy foods, snacks, portion sizes and to try new things,” Vincent said. “They get a chance to try new foods and they find out that they like it, it’s good and good for them.”

The students handle all of the prep work for the food, from cutting vegetables and fruits as well as measuring out their ingredients.

“It’s amazing that some students started and didn’t know what a tablespoon was,” she said. “They learned real quickly and have started to learn more as we have held each session.”

Vincent said she stresses food safety, which includes making sure all surfaces are clean and their hands are washed.

“In general, when it comes to cooking, it’s important for them to know they don’t have to run to McDonald’s to get something to eat,” she said. “They can make their own quick, healthy meals, focus on portions sizes and know it’s good for them and can still taste really good.”