A group of 46 students from Brawley Middle School were among the excited crowd that welcomed television’s “Dr. Oz” to Mooresville on Oct. 9.
The students attended a forum led by Mehmet Oz, also known as Dr. Oz, at Mooresville High School as part of a daylong event focused on health and wellness.
“It was a very proud moment and one of the crowning jewels of my teaching career,” said Mary Shalvey, physical education teacher at Brawley Middle and creator of the Integrative Health program.
The nontraditional physical education program aims to improve the overall fitness of the school’s students, as well as those in the rest of Iredell County and North Carolina.
Besides traditional physical education classes, students participate in classes at Lowe’s YMCA and take field trips such as tackling an outdoor ropes course, visiting a dairy farm or taking a guided tour through a Harris Teeter supermarket.
The visit to see Dr. Oz, Shalvey said, gave her some “TV credibility” with her students, with regard to what she’d been teaching them all along.
“The (main) items he talked about are already an integral part of our program,” she said. “He also talked about the dangers of artificial sweeteners, high-fructose corn syrup and a balance of exercise and proper amounts of rest.”
Since about 100 students attended the forum, a representative from each school group submitted one question that Dr. Oz answered on stage. Oz is a cardiothoracic surgeon, author and television personality.
Although Shalvey said the most significant thing she learned from Oz was to keep your cell phone at least 5 feet from your bed at night to prevent sleep interruption, the kids were struck by something different.
“The most interesting thing they took away from the conversation with Dr. Oz was that they should be allowed to sleep more and start school later in the day, according to their natural circadian rhythms,” she said.
Shalvey started the Integrative Health program at Brawley Middle five years ago with just one student. The program was designed to help the school’s at-risk population find alternative ways to improve their physical fitness.
“In the beginning, we targeted students who were overweight or had a very high body mass index,” said Shalvey. “In the second year, we expanded the program to meet the needs of the students who had social and emotional issues.”
The invitation to see Oz came after their program gained exposure from a $1.8 million grant the school received last year from the Federal Physical Education Program.
With the grant, Shalvey was able to deploy her program in all of the middle schools in Iredell County, as well as in six of the elementary schools.
About 20 programs now serve more than 400 students in the county.
“Our program has shown improvements in fitness, blood work, lean muscle mass, attendance, (grade-point average) and end-of-grade testing,” said Shalvey.
“The health team at our school (believes) this program has the potential to benefit every school in the state.”