SYCAMORE - Mohawk Elementary School students are getting more physical activity and healthier food thanks to the work of a teacher and help from grant money.
Nelle Nutter, a third- and fourth-grade math teacher at Mohawk, applied for and received a $4,000 national grant through Fuel Up to Play 60 and American Dairy Association.
"We received notification in November," she said.
Nutter said Mohawk had received a federal grant that was used to add breakfast and revamp the cafeteria menu to make it healthier. The first things purchased with the most recent grant money were 15 blenders so the school could add smoothies as an option for breakfast.
Teachers are allowed to use the blenders for classroom parties, she said.
"We're trying to make the classroom parties healthier. ... The blenders are available," she said.
Nutter has used the blenders for two parties and offered fruit smoothies instead of candy and cupcakes. Parent volunteers supplied fruit, and students could select from the choices and make smoothies, she said.
Also, smoothies have been added to breakfast Tuesday mornings.
The school has three stations, and students get to select which smoothie they would like. They get a smoothie and a grain bar for the regular breakfast price, Nutter said.
"It's awesome," she said. "The kids love it."
When smoothies were added to breakfast and people tried to make school parties healthier, teachers would incorporate banana smoothies to teach the letter "B" during a letter-of-the-week lesson, she said.
"We're just looking to make our students healthier and more successful academically," she said.
Nutter serves as the Fuel Up to Play 60 coordinator. Teachers Heidi Fortney, Andrea Hoerig, Erin Patrizi, Tony Patrizi and Gina Wyman assist with making smoothies and with an after-school program.
Nutter said 112 students stay after school once a week for an hour of additional physical activity. The grant funded the purchase of a Wii game system and dance games to be used after school.
"(Students are) very excited to be a part of the physical activity after school," she said.
The after-school fitness time is free, according to information from Nutter. The students meet in the cafeteria after school and pay $1 to cover the cost of a snack.
Funds are available to cover students who receive free and reduced-price lunches, Nutter said.
"No kid is going to be turned away if they can't afford it," she said.
The school also was able to buy other fitness supplies, including agility ladders, fitness mats and stability balls, for its activity room. Nutter said students can go in the room during indoor recess and participate in activities that are to tie into them competing for a presidential physical fitness award.
When they are stuck indoors, they are not stuck in a classroom, she said.
"They can go to that other room and get some of that energy burned off," she said.
Mohawk also has added chocolate, strawberry and white milk to the concession stand, and chocolate milk sells out every game, she said.
Nutter said she is thrilled about the project and is happy about how much it has blossomed.
She said she is physically active and eats healthy foods, and it was easy for her to buy into the project and spread it throughout the elementary school.
"We do have a little bit (of money) remaining," she said.