Michael Hawkins, a senior district sales manager for the Sanofi Aventis pharmaceutical company, believes the 250 pedometers he recently delivered to Gen. J. Harry LaBrum Middle School can have a real impact.
“You’re going to decrease diabetes,” he told sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade members of student council. “Walking can help prevent one of the most debilitating diseases in the world.”
Hawkins and executive saleswoman Cecelia Freeman, who are based in Bridgewater, N.J., visited the school on Jan. 18.
Her husband, David Freeman, is LaBrum’s physical education teacher. He noted the link between childhood obesity and diabetes, and was happy that the pharmaceutical company donated the pedometers, which are instruments carried by walkers and joggers that measure the distance covered by recording the number of steps taken.
LaBrum, at 10800 Hawley Road in the Far Northeast, has had a bad reputation, like many other middle schools in Philadelphia.
Principal Bill Griffin explained that LaBrum is in the process of becoming a demonstration school, meaning that teachers will have to pass certain tests to be eligible to work there.
Griffin also serves as principal of John Hancock Elementary School, a kindergarten to fifth-grade school in Morrell Park.
The new partnership has helped LaBrum’s enrollment grow from a measly 150 last year to 192 this year. Griffin expects the smallish school to grow to about 250 students soon.
In addition, the School District of Philadelphia has been making various physical renovations and improvements to the school.
All students and staff will receive the square purple pedometer, sponsored by the diabetes drug Lantus.
For accurate distance measurements, users must walk or jog consistently. Before using, they enter their stride length, measured heel to heel or toe to toe, into the pedometer’s memory.
The battery-operated pedometers clip easily to pants or shorts.
Freeman, the teacher, plans to hang a large United States map on a wall as part of the initiative.
“We’re going to track our miles as we go,” he said. “On a weekly basis, we’re going to calculate our steps into miles so we can see how far we go the remainder of the year. We’re going to track it on the map, and it will add excitement to the whole thing.”
Griffin, the principal, plans to conduct a “Blue and Gold Competition.” Students will be divided into two teams, based on the school colors, and they will be given points based on use of the pedometers. The school is located near fields and a recreation center, and students will get to use their pedometers a lot more when the weather warms.
The winners of the joint academic and physical competition will earn a class trip, and Griffin expects a battle.
“Middle school kids are typically competitive,” he said.
Griffin explained that the school has a weight room, and that some students sit on large exercise balls, rather than at desks, in class, if it makes them more comfortable and attentive. He believes the pedometers will lead to increased physical activity.
“That’s the idea,” he said. “You can squash energy or you can harness energy of kids and use it for educational purposes.” ••EndFragment