SPARK grant

Students at SPARK Academy at Cowart Elementary hold up a big check for $10,000 Thursday, Oct. 21. SPARK Principal Beth McKinney said her school received a Be Healthy School Grant from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama. She said the funds were used to purchase an obstacle course that will be added to the school's playground area.

Students enrolled at SPARK Academy at Cowart Elementary will soon have a new way to help release some of their excess energy during P.E. and recess.

Athens City Schools announced via social media Thursday, Oct. 21, that SPARK was the recipient of a $10,000 Be Healthy School Grant from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama.

SPARK Principal Beth McKinney said the school will use the funds to purchase an obstacle course to be added to SPARK Park.

“Especially at this age, but really at any age, an active body leads to an active mind,” McKinney said. “It gets the blood flowing through the brain, and that increases our learning. We believe in getting up and moving, even within the classrooms. Their little bodies are not meant to sit in a seat all day and try to learn.”

SPARK Park was moved onto the school's campus almost exactly a year ago from a former location. At the time McKinney said her students loved the new playground, and even some teachers had been caught enjoying the swing set during down time.

The new obstacle course will include pull-up bars, a balance beam, over/under bar, parallel bars, monkey bars, swinging monkey bars, a chain climbing wall and a climbing ladder.

“We ordered our obstacle course in June,” McKinney said. “We had to wait awhile — it was just delivered last week, and we are waiting on the install. We are maybe two weeks out.”

McKinney said SPARK requested the funds for the obstacle course because the school needed another means of helping its students remain physically active.

“We have the gym, and within the gym we have a climbing wall,” she said. “We wanted to add another fun way to get outside and be active. It helps out in multiple ways. We focus on all aspects of health. This is another way to help students pay attention to how they are physically active, and tt helps our P.E. standards like balance and upper and lower body strength.”

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