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Learning the ropes

Lakeview fourth graders promote heart-healthy life
Lakeview Elementary fourth grader Anna Quillin concentrates as she prepares to attempt to jump rope from a plank position during Jump Rope for Heart, held Feb. 26 at the Solon High School gymnasium. (photo by Doug Lindner)

SOLON– Being active can be fun.
For 90 minutes, Lakeview Elementary’s fourth graders were very active.
The entire class invaded the Solon High School gymnasium Friday, Feb. 26, to participate in Jump Rope for Heart, a community service program and fundraiser of the American Heart Association (AHA).
For an hour-and-a-half, students jumped with short ropes and long ropes, with partners and on their own; and in between sessions they were provided tips and demonstrations by physical education teacher Mark Sovers, who introduced the event to the district during his first year at Lakeview in 2002.
“I saw in PE class how much the students really enjoyed the jump roping skills that we were going over,” Sovers said, “and how much they loved jump roping and they took that to recess.”
Jump Rope for Heart gave him an opportunity to do something with kids beyond the classroom.
Students were able to use their love of jump roping skills and just physical activity, and connect it with something a little bit bigger, he explained.
“Everybody at some point gets touched by heart issues, whether it’s heart disease or high blood pressure,” Sovers said.
Heart disease is the nation’s No. 1 killer, and U.S. children are developing significant health issues that can shorten their life expectancy, according to the AHA.
The AHA cited statistics showing almost a third of U.S. children and adolescents between ages two and 19 are overweight or obese, and that makes them more than twice as likely to die before age 55.
In addition, American children and adolescents spend nearly four hours watching television every day, and 61 percent of children ages 9-13 aren’t physically active outside of school.
Jump Rope for Heart helps teach kids to develop heart-healthy habits, but it also aims to increase awareness of those in the community affected by heart disease and stroke, and how research and education can save lives across the country.
In the classroom, Sovers stresses to his fourth graders that jump rope is for everybody. He introduces it as something that improves foot quickness, coordination and cardiovascular health.
“They get a chance to try it in PE– sometimes they would never try it otherwise– and they find out that they actually like it,” Sovers said.
Students learn different routines and skills throughout the unit, but they are also imbued with the idea of helping other children with special hearts and taking the message out into the community, Sovers said.
“Jump Rope for Heart has allowed the students to reach outside the classroom walls,” he said, to learn that the things they do in class can have a positive impact on the community, and that they can make a difference.
The students set fundraising goals for themselves with the knowledge that a portion of the amount raised will benefit local AHA chapters and activities, he said.
Student scan take donation envelopes door to door, or can set up web pages where relatives and family friends can pledge support to Jump Rope for Heart and the AHA.
The Lakeview students raised $3,500 in web pledges, with more anticipated from the donation envelopes.
Since 1978, Jump Rope For Heart and Hoops For Heart, a similar basketball-themed program, have raised more than $1.2 billion for AHA research and educational programs.
For the Lakeview students, it all culminates with the marathon session at the high school, which is broken up into three segments with breaks in between.
The students start out with short ropes on their own, then spend another 30 minutes to partner with someone in a group routine, and it ends with a half-hour of long rope.
The larger venue, in the high school gym, not only provides enough room for all of the fourth graders at once, but it lends an air of excitement for the elementary-aged students.
“It gives them the feeling of something special that they normally don’t get to do,” Sovers noted.
It also provides a chance for high school students to get involved, whether its by creating artwork to hang on the walls for the event, or by jumping in with the fourth graders during a high school PE session.
The jump rope session is typically held the last Friday in February to bring attention to American Heart Month.
“Jump Rope for Heart is one of my favorite days of the year,” Sovers said. “The ability of students to come together and learn the value of physical activity is what developing a healthy lifestyle is all about. Because they have the opportunity to do it along side their family and community makes it even more special.”