Galloway Township Middle School principal Sharon Kurtz believes in providing her students a balanced education.
Math, science, social studies and reading all play equal roles in the school's core curriculum - but unlike most schools, GTMS emphasizes health and physical education just as strongly.
Not only is being in good health necessary for lessons in the other subjects to take hold, Kurtz said, but knowing how to maintain a healthy lifestyle will benefit students throughout their lives.
"The mind and body go hand-in-hand," Kurtz said. "You can't just focus on one without the other, and you've got to keep both sharp."
Four years ago, when she was principal of Galloway's now-closed kindergarten buildings, Kurtz and her staff held the school district's first Wellness Fair, a free showcase of school programs and local health providers and businesses for children and families.
On the evening Feb. 21 more than a dozen businesses owners, doctors and exercise teachers visited GTMS for the 5th annual fair.
Jim McElroy, owner of McElroy Chiropractic, which has offices in Northfield and Galloway Township, has run a booth at the event for all five years, discussing Chiropractic principles with visitors and giving free spine evaluations. He said he has been a staunch supporter of the fair because it teaches the kids early the importance of being in good physical health.
"If they don't do these things now, it's going to affect them late," McElroy said. "It's great they're learning it at such a young age."
Among other local businesses at the fair were Curves gym, Tilton Fitness, Brayces Orthodontics and Galloway Herbal Nutrition.
In addition to the booths that lined the school's halls, the GTMS Step Team, students from Galloway Township's Simkins Martial Arts and others demonstrated their techniques in the school cafeteria.
Members of Galloway Township Middle School's student health club, known as the Youth Wellness Group, also attended the event. They ran a booth in the cafeteria from which they offered samples of super-food smoothies like Luscious Lemon Drop and Super Strawberry.
The smoothies were meant to mimic Naked drinks, a popular, widely available line of health drinks. Like the naked beverages, the Wellness Group's smoothies contained vegetables to go with their fruit and yogurt base, making them a bit of a hard sell.
While many initially scoffed at the idea of the inclusion of broccoli or peas in a fruit smoothie, group co-adviser Angela McDonough said most were surprised by the taste.
"They're kind of skittish, like, 'Oh, I'm not drinking the veggies,'" McDonough said. "Once they taste it, it's like, 'Ah, not bad!' It's a surprise reaction."
Students from the group helped run the event. Some ferried supplies around, while others helped play host. Members Elizabeth Ryu and Simarpreet Janjua, both in eighth grade, escorted classmate and fellow group member Jinal Patel, who was dressed in a bear suit, around the fair.
Elizabeth, who joined the group at McDonough's recommendation, echoed Kurtz' sentiments about the importance of health education.
"If your health is not good, you can't really study and focus on your academics," Elizabeth said. "I think health is a really big part of our life."
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