A program designed to improve the health and fitness of students will now include a Livingston County school.

Challenger Elementary School in Howell was among 51 schools included in the Building Healthy Communities program providing better nutrition and physical activity for kids. According to Howell Public Schools Director of Public Relations Tom Gould, this is the first year that Challenger has been selected to receive the grant and, in fact, it’s the first time a Howell school has been selected for the program. Gould says that the grant will allow Challenger to receive a mobile cart stocked with new recess equipment. In addition, teachers will receive materials to teach healthy eating and physical activity lessons, create an afterschool Healthy Kids Club to promote physical activity and healthy eating, and use the student council to create a Student Leadership team that will help create and promote fun activities focused on physical activity and healthy eating habits.

First launched by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan in 2009, the program has since been embraced by more than 500 schools across the state. Program officials say that on average students are experiencing 35 minutes per week of increased physical activity and 19 less minutes per day of screen and video time. They say that has shown a nearly 75% increase in their classroom attention span. (JK)