By Crystal Wylie
Register News Writer
Educator Steve Stewart returned to his family’s home in Richmond this week after a 3,600 mile bike ride across the 10 states with the highest childhood obesity rates – Illinois, Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, West Virginia and Kentucky.
Stewart completed,what he called an “integrity challenge” to promote an educational program he designed that combines 20-minutes of physical activity and phonics for student K-2.
Stewart received media attention in almost every state he visited, until he got to Georgia, around the same time Hurricane Sandy blew in, he said.
The program is called Sound Off! Movement Adventures, and reinforces reading skills while engaging students on a “top-secret mission to protect the English language,” Stewart said.
Stewart will present the program to the county’s elementary teachers next week.
Sound Off! uses traditional phonetics reinforcement activities, but with moderate exercise that can be executed right next to a student’s desk, he said.
A Morehead State University graduate, Stewart taught special education for several years and became frustrated that teachers were asked to increase academic performance while increasing physical activity at the same time.
“We were asked to do two things at once, but with no resources to get it done. We had to find a way to combine the two so we were not sacrificing academic time,” he said.
Stewart also knew that many teachers would not feel comfortable leading exercises in front of their class, so the program is designed to do it for them.
“We tell teachers to sit and watch, but then they start getting up and doing it themselves,” he said. “Not only is it a student-fitness program, but a teacher-fitness program as well.”
Stewart began developing Sound Off! in 1999. Pilot schools in Morehead, Olive Hill, Shelbyville, Frankfort and Lebanon have already been using the program during its developmental stage. The final product was completed in September.
While on his bike trip, Stewart wrote to Sara Brady, the principal of Calvary Elementary School, a pilot school in Lebanon (Marion County). He asked her how the program was going, and she replied: “The kids are loving it! I often walk by a room with lights off and paper over the windows. It always makes me wonder what's going on in there ? and then I remember ? it’s top secret! The product is working great for us. Hope your ride is enjoyable, safe and productive!”
Dr. Kim Nettleton, a professor at Morehead, is compiling data on the effectiveness of the program, Stewart said.
During his bike journey, Stewart was able to sell or give away around 20 kits and will be delivering 10 more in Kentucky in the following weeks.
Until Dec. 15, the 70-DVD set will be offered to schools, at cost, for $250. There also are opportunities to win the program for free listed on his website at www.integritychallenge.com. A video also is posted on the site demonstrating how the program works.
“We have been approached by potential investors, but have put them off until December,” Stewart said. “Traveling that route would drive the cost up substantially.”
Donors and investors who have helped pay for the program’s development were told to expect delayed compensation upon introducing the program to the market, he said. However, one stipulation for joining the Sound Off! team was to allow Stewart to sell the product at cost to schools across the country.
“For us, it’s never been about profits. It is about overcoming the obstacles that prevent schools from providing daily physical activity without sacrificing academic instruction time,” Stewart said.
Crystal Wylie can be reached at email@example.com or 623-1669, Ext. 6696.