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January 09
Ketchikan School District promotes drinking water and plain white milk for good health, growing up at a healthy weight

IMG_1596.jpg​When you walk through the lunch line at Ketchikan schools, you have two choices about what kind of milk you’ll drink.

But neither choice comes with added sugar or flavors. You can have white nonfat milk or white 1% lowfat milk. Chocolate milk isn’t served at schools in the Ketchikan Gateway Borough School District at breakfast, lunch or during school fundraisers, said Emily Henry, wellness coordinator for the district.

Chocolate milk is one of a number of drinks that contain added sugars. Sugar can add up when children drink sweetened beverages at breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner – and then eat sugary foods as well. There is evidence that consuming sugary drinks is linked to obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and tooth decay. One year ago, the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans set its first recommended limit for daily sugar intake, stating that adults and kids should limit their added sugars to less than 10 percent of the calories they consume every day. For a child, that means just one bottle of soda (16 teaspoons of sugar) or one tall glass of a powdered, sugary drink mix (11 teaspoons of sugar) is too much and exceeds that daily limit of sugar.
In 2014, the Ketchikan Gateway Borough School District adopted its new wellness policy that doesn’t allow chocolate or flavored milk to be sold as part of the National School Lunch or Breakfast Program. That policy holds for the elementary, middle and high schools serving 2,200 students in the district.

“Ketchikan’s choice to stop selling flavored milk at school is a great example of a district working with their food service to address parent concerns about added sugars in their children’s diets,” said Lauren Kelsey, School Partnership Coordinator with the Alaska Obesity Prevention and Control Program. “Norms can change pretty fast in a school district. Having the policy in place during the past three years means pretty soon there won’t be kids in elementary schools who remember when chocolate milk was an option.”

The Ketchikan policy promotes other areas of nutrition, including using Alaska farm and fish products when possible in school meals and snacks, providing salads and fruits to be prominently displayed in dining areas to encourage students to choose healthy foods, and stating that food rewards or incentives should not be used in classrooms to encourage student achievement or good behavior.

“All foods available in district schools during the school day shall be offered to students with consideration for promoting school health and reducing childhood obesity,” the wellness policy states.

The Ketchikan School District’s school wellness policy is up for review again this winter. Henry said the district is considering updating its policy to model the State of Alaska Gold Standard School Wellness Policy, which was revised in 2016 to align with new federal regulations and a new state law requiring almost an hour of physical activity during each school day. Ketchikan’s District Wellness Committee meets Jan. 18 to discuss revising the policy.

Ketchikan schools have also added a number of new ways to help students drink water during the school day.

A student at Houghtaling Elementary School gathered more than 100 signatures from students and staff for a petition presented to the Parent Teacher Association asking to get a water bottling filling station installed. The PTA unanimously approved the petition, and the filling station is on order, Henry said. Ketchikan’s high school has two water bottle filling stations. Tongass School of Arts and Sciences, a charter school for grades PK-6, also has two water coolers and recently won a national award that will help pay for a water bottle filling station, said Cindy Moody, health aide at Tongass. All Tongass classrooms also allow students to keep water bottles at their desks, Moody said. If the students don’t have bottles, the school puts cups next to the water coolers so the students can serve themselves when they are thirsty, she said.

“It’s cool, it’s fresh, it looks appealing,” Moody said about the water coolers. When the cups run out, the kids are quick to let staff know.
“Which they do daily,” Moody said, “because they drink a lot of water.” 

To read more about Ketchikan’s school wellness program, visit the district’s website. A copy of the district’s wellness policy also can be found on the Department of Education’s wellness policy website. 

Photograph courtesy of the Ketchikan Gateway Borough School District
December 27
Strike a pose: Yoga helps children with flexibility, relaxation and more

Yoga-3054.jpg

​Kids today live in a busy world of school, homework, sports, and activities designed to keep them busy and nurture their growing minds and bodies. But doing nothing is important, too. Well, not really nothing, but taking time to relax the mind and body, stepping away from the pressures of the world, and learning to be still and calm are also important to healthy development.

Yoga can help children learn techniques for relaxation, frustration and anger management, and handling stress and anxiety. Physically, it also helps with flexibility, strength, coordination and body awareness.

“Proper breathing is a great way to energize, learn concentration and reduce stress,” said Dietrich Johnson, a children’s yoga instructor in Anchorage

“Standing poses build posture and strength. Balancing poses develop focus, strength, balance and poise. Difficult poses build self-esteem by teaching children that they can achieve what they set out to do all on their own. And relaxation poses reduce stress and teach kids how to focus.”

Pretending to be animals is a good way of introducing basic yoga poses, said Johnson.

“Luckily, most children love to talk, and they love to move — both of which can happen in yoga,” she said. “Children will jump at the chance to assume the role of animals, trees, flowers, warriors. Your role is to step back and allow them to bark in downward dog pose, hiss in cobra, and meow in cat stretch. They can also recite the ABCs or 123s as they are holding poses.”

Many yoga studios offer classes specifically for kids, but if there are none close by, you can still get the benefits of yoga by practicing with your children at home. It doesn’t have to be formal or even planned ahead of time. With just a few simple poses and enough space to spread out arms and legs, kids and parents can both have fun while benefitting from the practice.

“The first step is to just work on taking a deep breath in, slowly through your nose, and then slowly release your breath through your mouth,” said Johnson. “While you and your child are doing this, encourage your child to try to only think about the breath coming in, warming up, and going back out. This can be a life skill to help your child relax.”

After a few minutes of breathing, try some simple poses together. There are many good books, websites and videos available that demonstrate simple kid-friendly poses (see the list below). Let it be a fun, relaxed experience, and let them lead the practice, if possible, Johnson said.

“Sometimes my kids want to do poses and try new ones,” she said. “Sometimes they like to do yoga to songs. Sometimes they want to play games like Toe-Ga where we pick up pom-poms with our toes. And sometimes, they just want to do some guided relaxation.”

As your children become more comfortable with the practice, introduce some more challenging poses, ask them to plan a series of three poses in a flow so they can see how poses can fit together, or read a yoga book together and try out the poses as they are presented.

Two or three 20-minute yoga sessions a week can help most children, even those living with special needs, become more calm and handle life’s frustrations better, said Johnson.

“I have a daughter with mild-to-moderate autism and a stepson with ADHD,” said Johnson. “Yoga has helped them with self-regulation and muscle tone, and with techniques they can use to help them calm down if they have anxiety.”

Photograph courtesy of Dietrich Johnson

 
 
 
 
 
December 12
Elementary schools:  It’s time to sign up for the free Spring 2017 Healthy Futures Challenge

2014 Healthy_Futures_Logo.jpgYear after year, our partner the Healthy Futures program has been going after a goal.

Could the program get more than 200 elementary schools in Alaska to sign up for its free challenge that awards prizes to children who log enough physical activity each month?

Healthy Futures got closer and closer every Challenge. In Spring 2015, 189 schools signed up. Then 192 schools registered in Fall 2015. In Spring 2016, 199 schools signed up.

But this fall, Healthy Futures finally hit — and passed — its goal. All across Alaska, 209 elementary schools signed up so that thousands of Alaska kids could be supported and motivated to log 60 minutes of physical activity a day.

To support Healthy Futures, Play Every Day encourages schools to sign up for the upcoming Spring 2017 Healthy Futures Challenge and keep the momentum going. Elementary schools can sign up for the Spring Challenge now at: http://database.healthyfuturesak.org.

With schools across the state participating in the Challenge, more than 15,000 Alaska kids in grades K-6 regularly log their physical activity on a simple form and turn it into teachers who help track their progress. Students fill out their activity log every day, and those students who complete at least 60 minutes of physical activity on 15 or more days each month win a Healthy Futures prize. Schools with high student participation also can receive small cash grants from Healthy Futures to put toward physical activity equipment and programs.

To learn more about the Healthy Futures Challenge, visit the Elementary Challenge website.

November 21
Sign up your school so thousands of Alaska kids can get moving — all at the same time

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​Elementary schools across Alaska are getting ready to cheer on thousands of Alaska kids as they jump, run, dance and play — all at the same time, all across the state.


They’ll be participating in the first-ever PLAAY Day.

PLAAY is not spelled wrong. It stands for Positive Leadership for Active Alaska Youth. It’s an effort organized by our partner, the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame, to help community leaders improve how they work with Alaska’s youth on physical activity, health and wellness. PLAAY Day is set for Thursday, Feb. 23. Schools and groups across Alaska will organize a half-hour session at 10 a.m. when students in elementary schools will get up out of their seats and get moving.

Children will get together in school gyms, classrooms, outside, or in recreation centers. Students from the University of Alaska Anchorage Department of Health, Physical Education and Recreation will join athletes to lead the kids in an organized — and synchronized — fun session of physical activity. The Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC) and GCI will link all of these children in different communities through a free, live videoconferencing session. Communities that are not able to access that live session will receive a recorded video of the physical activities that they can use to participate in the Feb. 23 event.

Almost 50 elementary schools across Alaska have already registered to participate in the free PLAAY Day. Schools can sign up now here and will receive more information about the event as the date gets closer.

“We know the benefits of physical activity,” said Harlow Robinson, executive director of the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame. “It is one of the most cost-effective ways to improve a child’s self-worth, which in turn empowers them to recognize they can make active choices for improving their health.”

Physical activity is linked to an increase in concentration and focus at school, improved classroom attendance and behavior, better academic performance, and improved overall health, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. PLAAY Day will help Alaska kids get closer to the national recommendation of 60 minutes of physical activity needed every day for the best health. It will help children complete the February Healthy Futures Challenge, when kids across Alaska will be logging their daily physical activity through logs distributed at elementary schools. PLAAY Day is also an activity that goes toward addressing SB 200, the new Alaska law requiring schools to provide almost one hour of daily physical activity for all students in grades kindergarten through 8.

Last year, the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame helped organize the first PLAAY Summit focused on improving youth’s health. This year, the PLAAY Day physical activity event at Alaska schools on Feb. 23 will be followed by the PLAAY Summit on Feb. 24 and 25 in Anchorage at ANTHC. The Summit will feature experts from around the state who will help teachers, parents, nurses, coaches, administrators and other leaders address many areas of youth and adolescent health, including psychological, social and emotional development. The PLAAY Summit also will focus on physical activity as a way to improve health.

Partners of the PLAAY Day and PLAAY Summit include Healthy Futures; ANTHC; the Children’s Hospital of Providence; the University of Alaska Anchorage Department of Health, Physical Education & Recreation; the Chugach School District; GCI; the Anchorage School District Department of Health and Physical Education; Play Every Day; the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services; King Career Center, and others.

To learn more about PLAAY Day or the PLAAY Summit, contact Wallace Wilson at wally@alaskasportshall.org or Harlow Robinson at harlow@alaskasportshall.org.

 
November 07
Petersburg school celebrates birthdays with books instead of treats
IMG_0237 (1).jpgIf it’s your birthday at Stedman Elementary School in Petersburg, your day is going to start off with a school-wide celebration.
 
The principal is going to announce your name over the intercom during morning announcements. You’re going to be invited to walk down the hallway to the main office and pick up your signed birthday certificate. Then you will pick out your own book that you get to keep in honor of your birthday.
 
What you won’t get is a cupcake in your classroom. That’s because Stedman Elementary is one Alaska school that has changed its birthday celebration policy to recognize children’s special day in a healthy way.
 
The new practice of handing out books — not treats — started when the staff at Stedman Elementary School realized that they didn’t want to have cupcakes come in to the school for every child’s birthday.
 
“We decided that we could find other ways to celebrate the birthday that would make the student feel special and recognize the student on their special day,” said Teri Toland, principal of the school that teaches about 230 children in kindergarten through fifth grade.
 
Toland said the kids love having their names announced and walking down to the office to pick up their books. The kindergarten classrooms take the celebration a step further. Every child in the classroom makes a special card for the birthday student. The card says “You are 6 years old today. If I could give you anything, it would be ________.” The children get to fill in that blank with whatever gift they’d like to give and draw a picture of it.
 
“Children who don’t have a lot of money are able to give a really extravagant gift,” said kindergarten teacher Becky Martin. “They can give a castle or a rocket ship.”
 
“It makes the giver feel good, and it makes the birthday person feel pretty darn special,” said Erin Willis, Stedman’s other kindergarten teacher.
 
The kindergartner celebrating a birthday wears a crown for the day. The teachers bind all the birthday cards together into a special book that the student decorates with a cover and then takes home as a keepsake.
 
The change in how birthday parties are celebrated at Stedman Elementary stemmed in part from changing government standards calling for healthier snacks at school, but also from school staff who wanted a healthier way to celebrate their students on their special days. Toland, who was a teacher at Stedman when the birthday policy changed, said staff talked about the problem. If they considered a classroom of 20 students, that could mean celebrating 20 different birthdays each year, and 20 different days in which students ate sugary treats at school to celebrate those birthdays.
 
“As parents, we realized that having an extra treat at school wasn’t necessary,” Toland said.
 
As teachers, they realized that 20 different days of cupcakes in the classroom was causing a disruption to many school days. Furthermore, allowing families to bring sugary treats to the classroom put parents in a difficult position, Toland said. Some parents couldn’t afford to bring in treats for the whole class.
 
“It kind of differentiates between those who have and have not, and those who can and cannot,” Toland said. The new practice of celebrating students with school-supplied books and not parent-supplied treats removed that issue for families who couldn’t afford to bring in cupcakes and ensured every student was celebrated in the exact same way. The birthday books given to Stedman students don’t cost the school, or the parents, anything. The books are purchased using the proceeds collected from the annual school book fair.
 
Toland said switching to the birthday book celebration wasn’t an easy change for everyone to make, but the staff stuck with it and over time parents stopped bringing in sugary treats for their children’s birthdays. Healthy snacks, like fruits and vegetables, are still allowed if parents choose to bring them for the class. Toland said parents rarely choose to do that. Toland helps ensure that all parents and staff know the birthday policy by starting each school year with a school bulletin that explains how birthdays are celebrated at Stedman Elementary.
 
“It’s been a good way to teach kids that we eat healthy snacks,” she said.
 
Petersburg School District has partnered with the Alaska Obesity Prevention and Control Program for the past four years to maintain and train a District Wellness Coordinator who helps the district focus on supporting student nutrition and physical activity. The district’s work has been highlighted in previous blogs on the Second Chance Breakfast program and participation in Walk to School Day.
 
 
October 19
Schools follow new state law increasing physical activity to improve health, academic performance

SB200 blog.jpgA new law takes effect this week in Alaska requiring schools to provide almost one hour of daily physical activity for all students in grades kindergarten through 8.

Children benefit from physical activity, both in their overall health and their academic performance. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, meeting the daily recommendation of physical activity is linked to an increase in concentration and focus, improved classroom attendance and behavior, better academic performance, prevention of obesity, and improved overall health.

In 2016, the Alaska State Legislature passed and the Governor signed SB 200, with the short title “Mandatory Physical Activity in Schools.” The law went into effect October 16, 2016.

The new law states the following:  “a school district shall establish guidelines for schools in the district to provide opportunities during each full school day for students in grades kindergarten through eight, for a minimum of 90 percent of the daily amount of physical activity recommended for children and adolescents in the physical activity guidelines by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention…”. Full text of the law can be found at www.akleg.gov.

The CDC recommends 60 minutes of physical activity every day for children and adolescents (the same recommendation in Play Every Day messages). The new Alaska law requires 90 percent of that amount — or 54 minutes of physical activity — during each school day for grades K-8. The 54 minutes may include a combination of physical education classes, recess, and in-classroom physical activity. Since daily physical education is an important component of the educational curriculum, many schools will meet part of the requirement by offering PE. However, each district may decide their own combination of activities to meet the daily 54-minute requirement.

The Superintendent of the North Slope Borough School District, based in Barrow, asked each schools’ staff how they were going to meet this new requirement, said Brian Freeman, a member of the district’s wellness team. The school district’s leaders stressed that the law doesn’t allow inclusion of after-school activities toward the 54 daily minutes of physical activity, Freeman said.

Schools in this district came up with different strategies to reach the activity goal during school hours. Nunamiut School in Anaktuvuk Pass reports using dancing during its school-wide morning opening time to reach its goal. Nuiqsut Trapper School has recess and physical education classes every day for their students. Ipalook Elementary School in Barrow is incorporating Brain Gym exercises into its teachers’ daily lesson plans.

The Alaska School Health program, within the Division of Public Health, has created a webpage providing resources and options to assist school districts in their planning efforts to meet the requirements of SB 200. Visit http://dhss.alaska.gov/dph/Chronic/Pages/SchoolHealth/physicalactivity.aspx for guidance, including sample scheduling options, recommended classroom-based physical activity resources, and model language to ensure school district wellness policies (also known as the Student Nutrition and Physical Activity policies) meet the new requirements of this law. 

October 04
State starts new Healthy Drinks for Healthy Kids project to reduce sugary drink consumption

HealthyDrinks_ServeWaterOrMilk_sm.pngWhen you drink a soda, the large amount of sugar hiding inside can start doing its damage right away in the mouth.

Soda, sports drinks, powdered mixes and other sugary drinks can lead to cavities in teeth. They can cause unhealthy weight gain in the body and damage to the heart. They can lead to blood vessels carrying too much sugar – a condition known as type-2 diabetes.

The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) started its Play Every Day sugary drink campaign with a main focus on the connection between sugary drinks and unhealthy weight gain. This fall, department program directors working on Play Every Day and obesity prevention are teaming up with department directors focused on dental health to strive for a similar goal: reduce sugary drink consumption among Alaska families to improve the health of their entire bodies – from their mouths to their waistlines to the health of their hearts and blood vessels.

“The new Healthy Drinks for Healthy Kids project provides a great opportunity for public health and dental professionals to team up to cut sugary drink consumption,” said Karol Fink, manager of the department’s Obesity Prevention and Control Program.

“The campaign will engage dentists and dental hygienists to educate young Alaska children and their parents during routine dental exams about the large amount of sugar hiding in drinks, why too much sugar is harmful to the health of teeth and general health of the child, and why water and plain white milk are the healthiest drink options,” said Dr. Brad Whistler, manager of the department’s Oral Health Program. “These Alaska families likely won’t forget these important health messages from their dental appointments as Play Every Day will be reinforcing this information in TV Public Service Announcements running in communities across Alaska and in posters in health clinics and in schools.”

This two-year pilot project is being funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to improve dental health and prevent obesity and other chronic diseases in Alaska. Across the state, about 1 out of 3 children is overweight or obese. About 2 out of 3 adults are overweight or obese. During the 2010-11 school year, dentists under contract with the Alaska Oral Health Program examined the teeth of young children in Alaska and found 41% of kindergartners had a filling or an untreated cavity on at least one tooth at the time of the screening. Rates of past or present cavities were even higher in third-graders, with 62% of students having past or present decay on at least one tooth at the time of the screening.

Between now and August 2018, DHSS health program directors will partner with dental providers to reduce sugary drink consumption among their patients, especially families with young children; expand the Play Every Day campaign’s sugary drink prevention efforts; and provide dental and public health clinics with patient educational materials.

Reducing sugary drink consumption in Alaska is essential, given that many Alaskans drink too many sugary beverages, and they’re drinking them every single day. Just one sugary drink — such as one bottle of soda with 16 teaspoons of added sugar — has more added sugar than people should have in one day based on the new sugar limits in the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

• 42% of Alaska adults and Alaska high school students drink one of more sodas or sugary drinks every day (2013 BRFSS, 2015 YRBS)
• One out of 5 Alaska parents of elementary-age children serves their children a sugary drink every day, and two out of three parents serve their kids sugary drinks one or more times each week. (2014 Play Every Day Statewide Telephone Survey)

During the next two years, the Healthy Drinks for Healthy Kids project will offer training to dental clinics and providers to ask their patients about sugary drinks, advise patients to reduce consumption, and assist these patients in coming up with a plan to reduce the sugary drinks in their diets and replace them with water. The project also will build on the recognizable Play Every Day campaign, creating specific educational messages to support the work of dental providers. Play Every Day’s current educational messages focused on reducing sugary drink consumption and promoting water are found online and will be updated when new materials become available.

To learn more about this partnership, visit the Healthy Drinks for Healthy Kids project or contact playeveryday@alaska.gov.

September 26
Getting active can be fun when you make a family activity chart
Family Activity Calendar.jpgWe all want our kids to exercise, and most of us could add more activity to our days, too. Making physical activity a family affair is a great way to achieve both those goals at once.
 
Creating a Family Activity Chart is an easy way to plan activities, motivate the family to get active, and track your family’s progress toward 60 minutes of active play every day
 
Erin Kirkland, founder of the website AKonthego.com, says the best way to get started is to keep it simple. There are some free activity charts you can download online, or create your own as a family craft project (see example 1, example 2, or example 3).
 
Then, identify time slots for activities, such as taking a walk, playing sports or doing active chores. Choose times of the day or week when everyone is most likely to stick to the schedule. Then work together as a family to set an easy, reachable goal.
 
“If you go too big to start, it becomes impossible to meet your goal, and that makes it less fun,” Kirkland said. “Set a simple goal for your family to start with, like after dinner every day, we are all going to go for a walk for 15 or 20 minutes.”
 
Then, when you get home, make a big deal about noting the activity on your family chart, so everyone feels a sense of accomplishment. If you need help thinking of ways to get your family active, the Let’s Move Family Activities Guide and the Centers for Disease Control’s Healthy Youth Toolkit have lots of ideas.
 
But Kirkland emphasizes that not all activity needs to be pre-planned. Spontaneous play time counts as activity as well.
 
“Grab a soccer ball, grab a football, or just take a little walk together,” Kirkland said. “Even something as simple as playing tag. Kids don’t play a lot like they used to and I think family play time together is very important in building and maintaining those relationships. As adults, we lose some of that sense of play and I think it is important to show your kids you can still play and have fun, and it encourages them to do it as well.”
 
Once your family is in the habit of being active together, you can plan longer or more intensive activities for a few days a week. None of your family activities need to be costly, either. You can choose to walk or ride bikes to school or the bus stop; use local, low-cost, or free places like public parks, baseball fields, and basketball courts; attend family nights or other physical activity events at your child’s school or local community centers; and bring along balls, kites, jump ropes, or other items that can be used for active play whenever you leave the house.
 
“Stop and look at what you’ve got right around you,” she said. “Don’t feel like you have to make a big monetary investment, because the important thing is to spend time together and be active and the rewards will pay off big-time.”
 
Amorette Payment, a Nutrition Educator with the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service, suggests combining activity time and community service time.
 
“I would encourage families to find a charitable organization that needs yard work and make a regular weekly or monthly commitment of time,” she said. “Find out if a senior citizen neighbor needs house cleaning or snow removal, or you could volunteer to walk dogs at the animal shelter. The kids will be proud of their contributions at the same time that they will be active and it sets the stage for more than one lifelong healthy habit!”
September 12
Running Jamborees are a great way to get out and play!
Have you ever seen hundreds of kids warming up alongside Olympic athletes, and then taking off in onJamboree photo from ASD.jpge mad dash through Anchorage’s trails?
 
Get ready for the Anchorage Cross Country Running Jamborees that are happening all over this city in September.
 
The annual elementary school running event started almost 30 years ago by Mike Allan, a physical education teacher at Baxter Elementary in the Anchorage School District (ASD). The event has expanded over the years throughout the city. Today, there are three, free running Jamborees in north Anchorage, south Anchorage, and Eagle River. Many schools help their students get ready for the fun runs by organizing after-school running clubs. These clubs help kids build endurance and confidence by running around the schools and playing physical activity games.
 
The ASD Health and Physical Education (PE) Department partners with the Healthy Futures program, Play Every Day, the University of Alaska Anchorage, Alaska Pacific University, local athletes and Olympians, and others to organize the Jamborees that will attract almost 5,000 Anchorage kids across the city, said Melanie Sutton, curriculum coordinator for ASD’s Health and PE Department. Elementary students will run different distances, depending on their ages. The race course length ranges from about ½ mile to 1 mile. All kids will receive medals when they reach the finish line.
 
"The Jamborees are an excellent opportunity for children to be introduced to organized running in a healthy environment that does not emphasize winning," said Harlow Robinson, executive director of Healthy Futures. "The last child to finish is celebrated the same as the first."
 
Look for other physical activity events and fun runs for families on the Healthy Futures calendar. Another fall tradition in Anchorage is the Tuesday Night Races series that started last week and will happen every Tuesday through Nov. 1.
 
Here are the dates, times and locations for the upcoming Anchorage Cross Country Running Jamborees:
 
• South Anchorage Jamboree — Saturday, Sept. 17, starting at 10 a.m., with a walk-through of the race course beginning 30 minutes prior to the race start. The Jamboree will be held at the trails near Service High School.
 
ASD teachers coordinating the South Jamboree: Michel Woods, Abbott Loop PE teacher; Nick Leiser, Trailside PE teacher; and Deb Clayton, Abbott Loop classroom teacher
 

• Beach Lake (Eagle River) Jamboree — Thursday, Sept. 22, starting at 5:30 p.m., with a walk-through of the race course beginning 30 minutes prior to the race start. The Jamboree will be held at the Chugiak High School soccer fields and trails. 

ASD teachers coordinating the Beach Lake Jamboree: Caela Nielsen, Ravenwood PE teacher, and Chris Ruggles, Eagle River Elementary PE teacher

• North Anchorage Jamboree — Tuesday, Sept. 27, starting at 5:30 p.m., with a walk-through of the race course beginning 30 minutes prior to the race start. The Jamboree will be held at the trails near Bartlett High School.
 
ASD teachers coordinating the North Jamboree: Ben Elbow and Jill Singleton, both Rogers Park PE teachers
 
Parents are encouraged to pre-register their children for the Jamborees at their schools. All children must have a signed waiver before participating in the event. Ask your child’s physical education teacher for more information about the Jamboree in your area.
 
Photograph courtesy of the Anchorage  School District

August 30
Healthy Futures Fall Challenge goal: 200 schools
IMG_5690.JPG
The 2016 Fall Healthy Futures Challenge is about to begin in almost half of Alaska’s elementary schools. Just five years ago, in 2011, only 34 schools in 4 school districts took part in the twice-annual effort to encourage Alaska’s kids to get out and play, every day. Today, 197 schools in 34 school districts are registered to take part. That’s great news for the future health and well-being of our youngest Alaskans.
 
The Healthy Futures Challenge is a three-month challenge that takes place each spring and fall for students in kindergarten through sixth grade. Students keep a log of their daily physical activity with the goal of being active at least 60 minutes a day for 15 days each month. This helps Alaska children get closer to the national recommendation of 60 minutes of physical activity every day for the best health.
 
Participation is free, and children win fun prizes throughout the challenge for being active. As a bonus, the prizes are typically things that children can use to be even more active.
 
Participating schools that achieve at least 20 percent student participation in the Healthy Futures Challenge will be eligible to receive a $200 grant. Schools can use this money to purchase educational materials or equipment that supports student physical activity — a bonus for educators facing shrinking budgets. 
 
Natasha Bergt’s school received a $200 grant last year, which helped her purchase equipment her students can use at recess.
 
“Recess is a great time for kids that don’t have parents driving them to hockey or ballet or other after-school activities to get their 60 minutes a week in,” said Bergt, a PE teacher at Huffman Elementary School in Anchorage. “We’ve been a huge Healthy Futures school right from the start. We have kind of made it part of our school language that we should all be active at least 60 minutes a day. It’s a conversation that keeps reinforcing that you need an hour of exercise a day.”
 
Healthy Futures organizers say they hope even more schools sign up for the challenge this time.

"We're thrilled that 196 schools have already signed up for the fall Healthy Futures Challenge, and we're excited to bring more schools on with the goal of 200 statewide participating,” said Alyse Loran, Healthy Futures Challenge Coordinator. “The Challenge is a fun, free opportunity for schools and communities to encourage their youth to develop the habit of daily physical activity."
 
Is your school signed up for the Fall Healthy Futures Challenge? It’s not too late to sign up online.


 

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