Keeping Kansas healthy, Colby Elementary secures $30,000 grant to keep students active

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COLBY, Kan. (KSNW) – Pathways to a Healthy Kansas, a program funded through Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas (BCBSKS) is bringing new life to a northwest Kansas school by breaking barriers toward healthy living. 

Keeping students healthy and active is the mission of Colby Elementary.

But when worn equipment, wintery weather, and cold snaps kept kids inside, it raised concern that they weren’t getting enough exercise or meeting the recommended number of minutes for students to be physically active.

“When we would have indoor recess, our students would stay in their classroom and play board games and that type of stuff,” said Bryan Miller, Colby Elementary Physical Education Teacher.

It took more than a year, but by revamping the district’s health plan and working with local organizations the school was able to secure a grant for more than $30,000 funded by BCBSKS.

“The whole idea of this work is that BCBSKS can’t do this on our own. We have to partner with the community and engage unique partners,” Virginia Barnes, Director of Blue Health Initiatives.

The program provides community coalitions with the tools and resources needed to engage communities and improve active and healthy lifestyles.

While working with the local Pathways coordinator, Miller found that the school’s current equipment was old and in many cases, not the correct size for his kindergarten through fourth-grade students.

The funds from BCBSKS were used to replace and upgrade the old equipment with new and exciting gear for the students to play with. The school bought a 20-foot rock climbing wall, gymnastics mats, scooters, badminton and hockey gear, among much more. 

Miller was also able to purchase a wireless microphone sound system that has given his students the opportunity to better understand and hear him during class while staying masked up.

“They get to put our idea into action the way they see fit for their community. They know what their students need. So, it’s really exciting to see how they took, you know, our grant request and ran with it and really made something, created something exciting,” said Barnes.

Miller’s motto is to learn hard and play hard and the Pathways to a Healthy Kansas program has now given his students the chance to do both at the same time. The new equipment has not only changed the way his students learn, but it’s also changed the way he teaches.

“Every lesson plan that I make can be something new and exciting and bring exposure to the kids that they haven’t seen before,” Miller said.

The change has brought joy to the community.

“It focuses on the heart. It’s really great to see the kids happy, enjoying their day, and to be able to have something to look forward to,” said Travis Rickford, Grant Coordinator, Executive Director of LiveWell NWK. “All the fun activities that our gym teacher provided for us, this just reminds me of that. It’s so exciting to see that joy and that excitement as they go to PE.”

It’s provided new experiences to the students.

“It’s fun and it’s kinda challenging,” said Ellie McCarty, Colby Fourth Grader.

As well as an opportunity for the school to promote an ongoing healthy lifestyle.

“Hopefully, this inspires them [students] that if they get to have fun activity indoors when they’re kids, they’ll want to do it their whole lives,” said Barnes.

“Change takes time, so it was totally worth the whole process,” Miller said. “I think the students have loved it. It’s brought a whole new learning environment to Colby Elementary.”

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