Students in Sacred Heart School, Mount Holly, pose with their Golden Sneaker Award, which is given to the class with the highest participation in healthy habits. Courtesy photo
Students in Sacred Heart School, Mount Holly, pose with their Golden Sneaker Award, which is given to the class with the highest participation in healthy habits. Courtesy photo

By Rose O’Connor | Correspondent

In his encyclical, “Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home,” Pope Francis makes clear the relationship between human life and creation, stressing that a failure to care for creation compromises, among other things, human health. The Pope underscores the need to be aware of what it means to be stewards of God’s gifts of creation and the human person.

As part of the Catholic faith and a respect for life in every aspect, those of all ages are called to be diligent in keeping their bodies healthy, and Catholic schools in the Diocese of Trenton have a proven track record of recognizing that a healthy body equals a healthy mind.

In St. James School, Red Bank, students enjoy a Creative Movement Class. “The 30-minute class is designed to help children develop motor coordination, increase spatial and rhythmic awareness, and provide a positive learning experience,” explained Marian Cavanaugh, marketing director.

“The program includes creative moving taught through rhyme, games, musical storytelling, props, and development of basic concepts like rhythm, directionality, perception and memory. This enriching program strengthens the children’s opportunities to explore all kinds of movement, to find and use their own personal rhythms, and to feel good about participating in physical activity,” Cavanaugh added.

In St. Leo the Great School, Lincroft, students in preschool and kindergarten “participate in our Adventures in Movement program. Classes concentrate on using gross motor skills, cardio movement, stretching, body awareness, muscle awareness, as well as children’s calming poses and de-stressing poses. Every lesson ends with prayer,” said Mary Koury, director of admissions and marketing.

The commitment to physical fitness in Sacred Heart School, Mount Holly, is a whole school affair. Kathryn Besheer, principal, explained, “The last Friday of each month is called Fitness Friday. We begin our day with our Walk to School, where we all meet at a central location and walk a half mile to school. There is also a different healthy snack of the day that we encourage students to try. The class with the highest participation receives the beautiful Golden Sneaker Award.”

Middle school girls in Trenton Catholic Academy, Hamilton, may choose to participate in “Healthy Me, Healthy You,” a weekly after-school club that promotes healthy exercises such as stretching, outdoor walks and runs, and some indoor exercises.

The club’s moderator, sixth-grade teacher, Melina Stern, also moderates the Scripture and a Snack Club, which nourishes her students both physically and spiritually.

“This club delves into exploring the beauty of God’s Word and getting to know more about your faith by breaking open the Word and even practicing the Daily Examen of Ignatian spiritualty,” she said.

In St. Benedict School, Holmdel, mathematics and technology teacher Alexander Isaacs teaches students breathing and visualization techniques in order to alleviate anxiety in and out of the classroom.

Forming partnerships with local agencies also allows schools to offer programs to students that may not be regularly available.

Our Lady of Mount Carmel School, Asbury Park, has formed such a partnership with The Boys and Girls Club.

As principal Theresa Craig shared, the goal of the partnership is “to provide swimming lessons for all students in grades four and five.  These lessons take place during the school day, and students are learning to be more proficient swimmers and improve their strength and coordination.”

Through its food program, St. Peter School, Point Pleasant Beach, emphasizes the importance of what goes into the body.

“Last year, we hired our own personal chef. Chef Heather operates the Green Apron Café, which provides home-cooked meals each day for our students. Most meals are organic and contain healthy options,” shared Lorraine Knepple, director of admissions and marketing. Chef Heather also prepares food mindful of those who have allergies, she added.

As part of their “Moving Villa Forward” campaign, a strength training and conditioning room, known as the STAC, was recently created at Villa Victoria Academy, Ewing Township.  The room allows for supervised work-out time for student-athletes, students and teachers.

“We are looking to include the room into our academic program in the future through exercise sciences,” said Colleen White, director of admissions. “It goes with our mission here at Villa … educating the whole person, spiritually, intellectually, emotionally, socially and physically,” she noted.