Morris Avenue Intermediate opens fitness, fruit trail
By Alison James
Students at Morris Avenue Intermediate School have another opportunity for fresh air and exercise with the opening of the Fitness and Fruit Trail.
The trail was the brainchild of Morris Coach Chris Rhodes and Auburn University’s Dr. Sean Forbes.
“I had wanted to do a fitness trail here because I did a little bit of work in my master’s degree with a fitness trail,” Rhodes said.
With Forbes on the job as part of the Opelika Grows initiative – a collaboration of Opelika City Schools, Keep Opelika Beautiful, the East Alabama Food Bank and Auburn University – the fitness trail went from concept to reality over the summer.
“This is just another aspect of fitness they will get to use,” Rhodes said. “This is opening up so many possibilities outside.”
Seven workout stations, separated by bonus workout challenges, test and engage the students on stretching, climbing, balancing, coordination and more. Each station also features a fruit tree, to intertwine fitness and nutrition.
“Each class that comes through can watch the fruit grow and develop their bodies at the same time on the fitness trail,” Rhodes said.
“If you want to turn kids on to nutrition, fruits a lot better access than vegetables,” Forbes added.
Forbes said the idea behind Opelika Grows is to address the “challenges schools have to provide enrichment activities given the state and local standards they face. The organization promotes an overarching mission to “install gardens (and programming) in service of locally identified needs.”
The partnership, and specifically the new fruit and fitness trail, “works so well because it’s decidedly organic,” Forbes said. “We just started communicating: ‘What is it you have that I need? What is it I have that you need?’ And it was challenging in a lot of ways, but it wasn’t difficult.”
The Morris Avenue students had different tasks in the project – researching the fruit trees, developing exercises for the stations and creating maps, photos and videos of the trail. In addition to providing a lesson for the Morris students, it was also an opportunity for service learning for Forbes’ students.
“I went through the Opelika School System, so this was an opportunity for me to give back – I’m a product of the schools. I went to school at Morris Avenue,” said senior J.B. Harris. “It’s a cool experience.”
“I get to be in the schools and get my hands dirty – literally,” said doctoral student Eric Hogan. “It allows me to see the K-12 experience.”
Morris Avenue students, at the ribbon cutting for the trail last Friday, demonstrated their knowledge at each station.
“I thought it was going to be fun – something new. We haven’t really done anything like this,” said Eliza Davis of the whole project. She manned Station One, featuring wooden posts with elastic bands for stretching, along with blueberry bushes, during the ribbon cutting, along with Sydney Lowe. “It’s pretty, and it’s in the big field.”
Superintendent Dr. Mark Neighbors said it was great to have another way to get the students outdoors. “It’s nice to have a campus of this size, to have a quarter-mile walking area,” he said.