Elementary school participates in 'Project ACES'

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Thompson - posted Tue., May. 10, 2011
Emma and Richard get ready to exercise at Mary R. Fisher Elementary School in Thompson on May 4 as part of 'Project ACES.' Photos by D. Coffey.
Emma and Richard get ready to exercise at Mary R. Fisher Elementary School in Thompson on May 4 as part of 'Project ACES.' Photos by D. Coffey.

More than 400 students from the Mary R. Fisher Elementary School in Thompson participated in the 22nd annual Project ACES – an acronym for “All Children Exercising Simultaneously” – on May 4.

Physical education teacher Beth Ten Eyck led a packed gymnasium in exercises and dance moves that the students and faculty had been practicing for weeks. Ten Eyck has coordinated the half-hour event for the last three years. Last year, even while on maternity leave, she came back to be a part of it.

Colored cones separated the different grades. When the music started, all eyes went to Ten Eyck for her lead. Reading specialist Cheryl Price and school counselor Julie Maliff helped lead the students in exercises and dance moves. For 30 minutes, the gym roiled with laughter, music and movement. Students jumped in place, punched the air, and did forward rolls and toe-touches.

The teachers did the exercises right along with the students.

Laurie Laconto came to exercise with her daughter, Stephanie, and son, Collin. “They asked all the parents if they wanted to come,” she said. Laconto’s kids have no trouble getting exercise, she said, but she thought the program was important nonetheless. “It makes kids aware,” she said. “Hopefully they’ll learn the dances and do them at home.”

Parents were scattered throughout the gym, trying to keep up with the dance and exercise moves. The point wasn’t so much perfection as participation.

Principal Noveline Beltram and Assistant Principal Robert McKenna joined Ten Eyck, Price and Maliff on stage, where they proved their leadership abilities extended to the dance floor.

“Mrs. Ten Eyck’s been wonderful,” Beltram said after the program. “She’s so dedicated. She taught all the students the dances over the last couple of weeks. You see her outside. You see her inside. She’s got energy and enthusiasm, and it has spilled over to our staff and parents. We love her. We’re so glad to bring this to the school.”

Twenty-two years ago, physical education teacher Len Saunders began Project ACES to encourage American children to exercise. In that first year, 240,000 children from all 50 states participated. Saunders never imagined his project would turn into an annual worldwide event, but it did. Immediately after the 1989 event, he started receiving mail about plans for the 1990 event. The acronym remained the same, but he changed “American” to “All” to reflect the global nature of the event.

Project ACES is the second exercise event to be held in Thompson in two weeks. The previous week saw national walking expert Robert Sweetgall bring his exercise and healthy living talk to Thompson Middle School students. Beltram is looking forward to getting pedometers for all students and staff and instituting a walking program at the start of each school day. Six- and 10-minute walks have been mapped out by Ten Eyck for the different age groups in the school.

“The first 10 minutes after announcements, we’ll head outside if the weather is nice,” she said. “[We'll] get outside and burn off some of that energy.”

Ten Eyck’s next program is a field day for students on June 9. All students will be able to participate in relay races, tag games and water games.

“It’s a fun end-of-the-year activity that we hold every year,” she said.

Parents interested in helping out at the event are urged to call her at 860-923-9142.

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