Pioneer steps it up, supports healthy crusade

As part of Pioneer Elementary School’s Demonstration Team, 9-year-old Emily Helms shows off her stilt-walking prowess, honed to a fine art under the guidance of P.E. teacher Michael McKinley. ROBERT WHALE, Auburn Reporter

Pioneer Elementary School has garnered many well-deserved plaudits and attaboys and attagirls over the years for its remarkable academic success.

But what about the physical well being of the young ’uns under its wings?

After all, to hustle those big brains about, kids gotta have healthy bodies, strong bones.

Turns out, Pioneer’s crazy about walking, jumping, skipping, climbing, etc., sponsored in part, so to speak, by all the fruit and veggie snacks the school’s been packing into its kids bellies for the last 13 years.

“For so many years now,” Principal Debra Gary explained, “we have been focused on children’s health and well being, and not just their academic well being.”

What’s got Gary stoked right now is how a combination of the many things the school has done for the physical well being of its charges over the years is coming together in June.

For starters, the school just added a rubberized surface to the asphalted path it built there last year, making it much cushier to walk on.

Gary said the community is welcome to use the track after school or weekends.

“I know that Auburn is working on a contest to become one of the healthiest cities in the state by 2020, and I feel like were contributing in that area,” Gary said.

In addition to rubberizing its track, the school recently launched the eighth go-round for its three-week-long pedometer challenge, a fiercely competitive event that pits school staff against staff in the mayor’s office.

“It’s a kick off to summer for staff who are exhausted at the end of the school year and need a boost to launch into summer,” Gary said.

This month, Pioneer launches a pilot program hand-in-hand with staff from the Auburn Parks, Arts & Recreation Department, which will bring in folks from Teacher America to work with students and their families on nutrition and fitness.

This school year, Gary and the gang likewise forged a community partnership with Zion Lutheran Church that had volunteers putting together fruit and vegetable packs for kids to take home on weekends.

A new event made possible by a King County grant is Good Food Bag. Here’s how it works: once a week throughout the summer in front of the school, there’ll be volunteers at a table selling a bags of organic fruits and vegetables for $5 a pop, so people can step right up and get healthy food inexpensively.

“How can kids be their best if they are not well nourished and fit physically? So we have always both those things with the fresh fruit and vegetable servings every day and two fitness breaks during the day,” Gary said.

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