Education

Students analyze obesity and body fat at Lexington’s Carter G. Woodson Academy

School project analyzes body compositions

Woodford County High School student Kali Ratcliff, 15, takes a reading on a body composition analyzer for Storm Cherry, a Fayette County Carter G. Woodson Academy teacher on Friday, Nov. 20 at Carter G. Woodson. The two schools are collaborating
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Woodford County High School student Kali Ratcliff, 15, takes a reading on a body composition analyzer for Storm Cherry, a Fayette County Carter G. Woodson Academy teacher on Friday, Nov. 20 at Carter G. Woodson. The two schools are collaborating

Tenth-grader Jordan Lewis is leading a research project at Fayette County’s Carter G. Woodson Academy that will analyze the body composition of every student and staff member at the school.

Jordan and fellow Woodson Academy students in the Student Technology Leadership Program are collaborating with ninth-graders at Woodford County High School who are also collecting that data at their school.

On Friday, the Woodford County students brought to Carter G. Woodson devices called the Inbody Machine 230 that analyze body composition when a person steps onto it and holds onto its handles.

“The state of Kentucky has a problem with obesity, and it is continuing to accelerate,” Jordan said. “Our childhood obesity rates are even more frightening. We have a problem that will impact Kentucky’s work force, economy, and well-being. When kids are not healthy, it impacts their learning. We want to be part of the solution.”

Body composition testing measures the components of a body — what a body is made of. The students are learning that weight alone is not a clear indication of good health because it does not distinguish how many pounds are fat and how many pounds are lean body mass. The readings from the machines provide a fuller picture.

Jordan said that with data collected from staff and students this month and again in April, students working on the project will help create individual plans geared toward fitness and an active lifestyle.

The state of Kentucky has a problem with obesity, and it is continuing to accelerate. Our childhood obesity rates are even more frightening.

Jordan Lewis, 10th-grader at Carter G. Woodson Academy

The students are looking at data that includes weight, the percentage of body fat and the amount of water in the body.

The collaboration began after Woodford County High physical education and health teacher Melody Hamilton met Melanie Trowel, who teaches science at Carter G. Woodson Academy.

At first, Hamilton’s students were only going to speak to the students in Trowel’s class about the health and wellness project that had been successful in Woodford County. Woodford County High received a federal grant in 2010 that allowed the staff to buy the machines and embark on a fitness program for students.

But with students in both counties eager to participate, collaborative research began this fall. On Friday, the Woodford students came to work with students at Carter G. Woodson. The Woodford students will continue collecting data at their school as well as helping the Woodson students.

“It’s student-led,” Hamilton said. “They are teaching each other.”

Jordan said the Woodford County students “have given us a lot of really good advice and ideas.”

Trowel said that through the project Jordan not only does research, but can “integrate it into something he has always wanted to do,” which is learn about fitness.

Carter G. Woodson Academy, which serves students from sixth to 12th grade, is all male. Eighty-six percent of the students are black, and six percent are Hispanic, according to the district website .

Much of the school has embraced the project.

Trowel said while high school students at Carter G. Woodson are concentrating on the health and fitness aspect, middle school students are focusing on nutrition.

Other teachers at the school are incorporating the project into their curriculum, said Trowel, with a math teacher discussing food nutrition labels and foreign language teachers translating information about food portions into the language they teach. Hamilton said students are learning science and health and even art as part of the project.

Woodson art teacher Mandi Wilmhoff said that once students collect data, they will create graphics to showcase what students should be eating and how much exercise they should be getting. Wilmhoff’s students will also create exercise videos for their peers and for elementary school students.

On Friday, Storm Cherry, a Woodson teacher, said he learned from stepping on the machine that “I need to be a little bit more healthy.”

Kali Ratcliff, a ninth-grader at Woodford County High, said she thought students and staff at both schools would make progress over the next five months. The researchers will communicate by Skype throughout the research period before they take new measurements of fellow students and staff in April to see if the numbers have improved.

“It was beneficial to both of the schools,” Amber Kling, a Woodford County student, said after visiting Carter G. Woodson for a day. “We got to work together to improve the health of both communities.”

Valarie Honeycutt Spears: 859-231-3409, @vhspears

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