Elementary students ‘Play 60’ with Carolina Panthers, NFL

rsouthmayd@heraldonline.comApril 22, 2014 

— The sounds of children laughing and cheering were everywhere at Ebenezer Avenue Elementary School in Rock Hill on Tuesday morning as students caught footballs, crashed into tackle dummies and ran through tunnels and cones – all in the name of health.

The students were participating in 2014’s first Play 60 camp, sponsored by the National Football League and the Carolina Panthers. Tuesday’s activities were another part of Ebenezer Avenue’s yearlong focus on wellness, said principal Johneka Simmons.

“We just got lucky with the Panthers deciding to come,” she said.

The NFL’s Play 60 program is designed to encourage children to get 60 minutes of “play” every day, said Ryan Philman, who helped lead the students in a discussion about healthy living before starting the day’s “play time.”

The four most important healthy habits are playing 60 minutes a day, eating healthy foods, getting plenty of sleep and learning as much as possible, Philman told the students.

“We’ve got to get them outside, get them active, get them away from video games and TV,” he said.

After Panthers mascot Sir Purr led the children in some stretching, students made their way through eight stations of activities, which were challenging but fun, said fourth-grade student Mary Williams.

“It’s like a routine what football players do to warm up for a big game,” Mary said.

Students ran through tunnels, jumped over bags, tackled dummies, caught footballs, touched cones, tossed balls at a target and did physical conditioning exercises, all led by Panthers staff and community volunteers.

And while all that activity was “a lot of fun,” according to the older students, the younger ones, particularly the first-graders and kindergarteners, got to have their own active fun inside.

“The first and kindergarten groups are going through Sir Purr’s dance party,” said special education teacher Renee Hobbs.

With Sir Purr leading the way on stage, students and staff members, including cafeteria workers and the principal, danced all around the cafeteria and took pictures with Sir Purr, much to the delight of the students.

For first-graders Nicole Juarez Reyes and Grayson McCurry, good friends who speak in almost complete unison, the dance party was a lot more fun than working in class.

“We get to dance however we want,” the pair said.

In today’s technology-focused world, Hobbs said, it’s easy to forget that kids need to be active.

“This is just a great reminder to help them get moving,” she said of the Play 60 day.

Outdoors on the equipment, fifth-grader Zy Conner said he wants to grow up to be a quarterback for the Green Bay Packers. Tuesday’s activities weren’t hard for him because he loves playing football and being active.

“You get exercise, and you don’t want to be stuck in the house playing video games,” he said.

Ebenezer Avenue Elementary’s first year of wellness education will wrap up soon as nurses complete a second round of screening to see how students progressed throughout the year, Simmons said. The school hopes to collect data that shows their programming has been successful and they plan to continue their focus on wellness in the years to come.

Rachel Southmayd •  803-329-4072

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