Locust Fork Elementary awarded Be Healthy grant


In a continued effort to prevent childhood obesity, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama’s Be Healthy Grant Program has awarded $266,500 in grants to 27 schools statewide, including a $10,000 grant to Locust Fork Elementary. This is the second year that a Blount County School has received this grant.

As stated in their grant application, Locust Fork Elementary (LES) has chosen to erect a traverse-climbing wall to increase physical fitness and develop upper/lower body strength during physical education classes. The climbing wall will allow students an alternative to other fitness activities and games, all while giving them an opportunity to build and increase strength in their core muscles.

LFE principal Amy Williamson said, “LFE is thrilled to be one of 27 schools to receive the BCBS Be Healthy grant. This $10,000 will equip our elementary school gym with a traverse wall. I cannot wait to see our students’ faces when we get this installed. Many of our students have asked about a rock-climbing wall.

“Now, this grant allows our students to have an alternate option during physical education. This traverse wall will help students build core and upper body strength, while having fun at the same time. We are so thankful for the Blount County Education Foundation giving our students the very best.”

Physical educators are now operating under the new guidelines called the Alabama Course of Study – Physical Education (2019). The latest guidelines focus on critical areas including movement and performance, movement concepts, physical activity and fitness, personal and social behavior, and value of physical activity. Previously, the focus was a sports- and recreation-based class. It has now transitioned to a focus on behavioral changes and lifelong healthful living.

Under the direction of the Healthy School Project Team, and as part of the existing physical education program, the addition of the traverse-climbing wall will further extend and enhance the fitness experience for LES students. It will challenge students to travel horizontally, overcome obstacles along the way, and collaborate with others students who are simultaneously testing their own maneuverability on the “makeshift mountain,” in addition to increasing their core muscle strength.

Using padded mats at the base of the wall for safety, the typical traverse wall is eight feet tall. Students can climb across the wall without the use of ropes, harnesses, or any other special equipment. Because of the activities that can be added by the PE teachers, students are challenged in a creative, non-traditional setting as they develop overall fitness and strength.

As part of grant requirements, the project will also include a nutrition focus, as well as parental involvement. Staff who will be overseeing students using the climbing wall will be appropriately trained, and the Healthy School Project Team will guide the implementation of the project.

Blount County Education Foundation executive director Mitchie Neel said, “It is really exciting about our second Blount County school receiving one of the Be Healthy grants. One activity of BCEF is to support schools in grant writing. We were happy to assist in writing this grant for LFE when Mrs. Williamson made the request and are thrilled they received the award.”

Williamson will direct the project. A presentation of the award by Blue Cross/Blue Shield will be held this fall.