By REBECCA WEBSTER
Recorder News Staff
It was a half-day for students in the Greater Amsterdam School District Thursday, but at the Wilbur H. Lynch Literacy Academy, they were using the shortened day to focus on being healthy.
It was the second Health and Wellness Day that the school has held in the past few years.
Gary Fluery, who teaches math at the middle school, was one of the main organizers for the event.
"We've been alternating a Career Day with a Health and Wellness Day for, this is our fourth year now," Fluery said. "The Health and Wellness Day is something that we want to enrich the students with so that they can take away some everyday tools that they can go home and live a healthier life."
This year's health-focused day was a stark difference to what was held two years back.
Fluery explained that the first Health and Wellness Day brought 18 to 20 presenters to Lynch and included only the seventh-graders.
This year all 850 students were involved.
The four-period day brought together nearly 60 presenters for the students to learn from.
"It's taken all year to get these people in," Fluery said.
Some were local professionals from the community who volunteered their time to bring education and knowledge of leading a healthy lifestyle to the student body.
Others were Lynch teachers with passions for pieces of health living.
"We opened it up to our staff to give them an opportunity to work with the kids in a different way than what they're used to," Fluery said.
Workshops taught students about the art of Tae Kwon Do, yoga, tumbling, and proper stretching.
Others focused on educating students on team building, tobacco awareness, eating right, sensory awareness, and volunteering.
Theresa Jordan, a band teacher at Lynch, presented to the students on eating right and had students try types of oatmeal during her presentation to focus their attention on the importance of breakfast.
"It's easy. If you have a healthy lifestyle, it's easy," she said. "But that's the point. Kids have not been exposed to a healthy lifestyle. They are exposed to instant, fast."
Jordan said the day gave the kids a chance to be exposed to things they might not normally see.
"And hopefully they will go away with the idea that it would be that hard for me to do something good for myself," she said.
Mary Ann Louison, of Catholic Charities, said her agency was invited to take part in the day to focus on wellness in terms of what people put into their bodies and minds.
"It's not only what we put in in terms of foods and chemicals and choices of the different substances that are out there, prescription drugs, but also our attitude," she said. "I used the idea of wellness being a deliberate effort and it is the choices that we make."
Louison said she believes that even though there are times when you don't feel great, you can still focus on wellness.
Brian Westerling, also an organizer and a teacher at Lynch, said other workshops really focused on incorporating health into things the students are already doing at home.
"We did some more electronic things that are more applicable to the kids today, like applications on their smart phones that are exercising or fitness apps," Westerling said.
Some of those workshops also included using the XBOX and Wii video games that get the kids up and moving, he said.
It was just a day to focus on both physical and mental health, Fluery said.
"They are things that they (the students) can take right home and say, hey, you know what, if I make this choice instead of this choice, maybe it will be something that I'll like," he said.
The push this year, he said, was to make the workshops and presentations more hands-on for the students, as the last year the wellness day was held students gave feedback that there wasn't enough activity involved.
"That was one of the big driving forces this year, was make it more interactive," he said.
Some day, Fluery would like to see the Health and Wellness Day last a full day.
Jomayra Jusino, an eighth grader at the school, went to a class about the body during her first period of the Health and Wellness Day.
"I think it's pretty good because it shows us how we're taking care of our own bodies for cancers and everything for us," she said.
Brianna Collins, also an eighth-grader, said she thought her first class was "cool."
Collins said the day was an important opportunity to learn.