A family friendly program designed to teach students the importance of exercise on heart health has earned statewide recognition for Palm Beach Public School.
The elementary school at 239 Cocoanut Row won the grand prize for the April 2022 Energy Cubes Challenge.
On Monday, students were recognized for their accomplishments with a daylong celebration on the school's athletic field.
"This is a first for us," Palm Beach Public School Athletic Director Dana Yeckes said.
Organized by the Canadian nonprofit Grand défi Pierre Lavoie, the Energy Cubes Challenge is a free program for elementary and middle schools that challenges students and their families to move as much as possible during a particular month.
The nationwide program requires students to collect 'Energy Cubes' during activities such as running, walking or jumping, and record them in a logbook provided by their schools.
Students earn Energy Cubes for every 15 minutes of continuous physical activity in which they participate. If their parents also participate, students earned two cubes for each 15-minute exercise session.
Schools from across the state participated in the April 2022 Energy Cubes Challenge, including 22 from Palm Beach County.
Yeckes, who has been at Palm Beach Public School for 30 years, entered the school in the contest in an effort to teach students about the importance of physical activity and adopting healthy life habits.
"In my program, the idea is to talk to kids about their heart, their lungs, exercise, nutrition, working together and getting their parents involved," said Yeckes, who oversees 383 students in kindergarten through fifth grade. "We brainstormed together about what you can do for three weeks, and what ideas you had for 15 minutes of exercise."
Many of the school's students play sports or dance, Yeckes said, and those activities were recorded in their logbooks. Others walked their dogs to earn their cubes, or did other types of physical activities.
When students turned in their logbooks on April 26, they had recorded 9,750 Energy Cubes, Yeckes said.
That total was the highest in the state for April, earning the school a visit Monday from the Toronto-based Energy Cubes Challenge team.
During three 45-minute sessions, the team led students in a series of Zumba fitness exercises before sending them over to various stations where they could collect soccer balls and kick them around, have their faces painted, and take class photos.
Cubi, the Energy Cubes Challenge mascot, also visited with the students.
"When the kids came out to the field, they told me it was better than their birthday parties," Yeckes said. "They thought it was so cool."
The program went over so well, Yeckes said, that students and parents want to continue participating.
"The kids are asking for extra books so they can do it over the summer," she said. "I've got parents calling me. I've got emails all over the place. I've got everybody. They're all into it. They're all on board."
Yeckes said she hopes to register Palm Beach Public for next year's Energy Cubes Challenge, and she plans on asking nearby Palm Beach Day Academy to take part in the event.
The two schools share the multipurpose fields at the Mandel Recreation Center.
"This is a great place to have it," Yeckes said. "Everybody likes the fact that the kids are together and they're exercising."
For information on the Energy Cubes Challenge, visit www.energycubesusa.com.
This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Daily News: Palm Beach Public School students recognized for fitness achievements