Childhood Obesity: How One Arkansas School Fights It


by Miranda Reynolds
Delta Digital News Service

As childhood obesity rates rise in America, one school in the northeastern part of Arkansas actively works toward lowering the rates in their school.

Helping Hands provides to schools in need by helping financially disadvantaged students. A special committee formed in 2017 by Rector school district and Helping Hands addressed physical activity among students. Elementary principal Anthony Dowdy said Helping Hands contributes a lot to the school.

“Helping Hands is a tremendous help to our school. They give in a lot of ways, not only in volunteering their time, but they also provide extra funds when we need it,” Dowdy said.

The school’s teachers requested outdoor and indoor equipment for the students, including:

  • Basketballs
  • Hula Hoops
  • Kickballs
  • Skip-balls
  • Scooters
  • Basketballs
  • Balance Boards

Rector School District administrators knew about the high rates of obesity in Arkansas. While tackling the rates, they tried to keep the focus of the students in the classroom as well. Dyslexic Therapist Lynnette Trail said burning off energy helps the students focus.

“They’re getting up and using those large motor (skills) and developing those skills and that helps to burn off some of that energy so that when they go back to the classroom, they’re more focused,” Trail said.

For the younger grade levels, burning off energy before returning to the classroom helps the teachers, too. First grade teacher Sara Rabjohn said a break from the classroom helps.

“Once they get that brain break, you can pull them back in for a little bit longer rather than trying to do it all without a break,” Rabjohn said.

The school formed a Health and Wellness Committee to also help with obesity problems. The committee consists of a cafeteria supervisor, the elementary principal, school nurse and a few teachers.

The committee met to make plans throughout the year to address obesity and make sure the students get enough physical education, Dowdy said. Keeping the students active in the school helps see the plan through.

“We try to keep them active as much as we can. We have extracurricular activities and provide them opportunities to participate in physical education,” Dowdy said.

Schools addressing obesity in children helps redirect the outcomes for adulthood. Rector School District actively works toward keeping their students active and healthy.