Friday October 5, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- You know it's going to be a good day at elementary school when there's a DJ and a rock star at your school.

This week, a program called "Jump with Jill" is being performed in Pittsfield elementary schools to promote fitness and nutrition.

Kristina Psitos stars as "Jill" for the nationally touring show, and Trevor "DJ T" Gast produces music for the original program, which was created by Pittsburgh-based registered dietitian and nutrition educator Jill Jayne in 2006.

Portraying Jill, Psitos described the program to the students as "the only rock and roll nutrition show you'll ever see.

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"They have been a fun way to bring the importance of nutrition to our elementary students," said Linda Avalle, curriculum coordinator for physical education and health for the Pittsfield public school district.

In the hour-long performance, spinach gets a shout-out, whole grains get a "Hey!" and one dairy product dressed up in sunglasses and bling gets a "Yo, what up, milk?"

Students also pick up a bunch of new dance moves while singing along to some catchy tunes like the power ballad "Superpower Vegetables," Latin-tinged "Get Me Goin' (With Breakfast)" and "The Bone Rap."

Jill talked with students about the importance of drinking water and learning to read food labels, and she also got students to pledge to try one new vegetable in the next week.


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"I just hope they learn that they need to take care of their body. It's about empowering the possibilities. Even at a young age, they get the message," Psitos said.

Travis Polidore, a physical education teacher, participated in the program with his students Thursday at Conte Community School.

He said it "absolutely ties into everything we do."

"We talk about exercising, being healthy and eating well in class," said Polidore, who sees students once a week for 45 minutes.

Conte's new principal, Anna-Stina Wardlaw, said the awareness will continue as students prepare for a schoolwide Turkey Trot on Nov. 20.

"The whole school will be running or walking a mile. It ties in with the whole wellness campaign," she said.

In 2010, Pittsfield Public Schools received a $2.2 million federal grant from the Carol M. White Physical Education Program to help prevent childhood obesity through physical education and nutrition awareness.

The grant includes a district-wide partnership with Berkshire Health Systems' Operation Better Start. Berk shire Health Systems nutritionist Lisa Kuczarski and clinical coordinator Cathy Marchetto help facilitate the school-based programs and workshops, which schools can sign up for throughout the school year.

Other schools in the district have also been doing more to promote health and fitness, from last month's Harvest for Students week, celebrating farm-to-school menus, to Thursday's second annual school walkathon at Herberg Middle School.