Hey Alaska kids:
Do you have a fun way you like to play?
We challenge you to show us what that looks like. The Play Every Day campaign is holding a video PSA contest challenging elementary school students across Alaska to create a short video about how you get out and play. The deadline for entries is Friday, October 31.
Last year, Gladys Wood Elementary School in Anchorage created a fun video about how students there get physically active and do the Healthy Futures Challenge, which kicks off again in 186 Alaska schools this week. We thought the idea was so creative we decided to start a statewide video contest.
Use your video to show how you get physically active every day, complete the Healthy Futures Challenge, or a combination of both.
Here’s how it works:
Who: All Alaska public elementary school students in grades K-6. All entries must be supported and sponsored by a teacher or another adult school staff member. Students should take the lead in the creative direction and production, but an adult can advise students and help with the filming.
What: Make a 25-second public service announcement (PSA) video that motivates Alaska kids and families to get physically active and stay healthy.
When: Start now! Come up with your ideas, film the video and turn it in by 5 p.m. October 31, 2014.
Where: Film the creative ways you are physically active at your school or in your communities.
Why: Because playing is fun, and so is filming videos with your friends.
A panel of judges from the Play Every Day campaign and Healthy Futures will select the top three videos based on overall presentation, creativity, quality and adherence to the contest criteria. The school that films the first-place video will receive a $500 gift card to buy physical activity equipment for the school, plus $25 gift cards for up to 10 students who worked closely on the video. Prizes include Play Every Day T-shirts for participating students, teachers and the principal.
Want more information about the contest? Please visit our webpage to learn more.
Now grab your friends and make a movie – kids, cameras, ACTION!
Give a kid a race bib, and she’ll run. Give him a finish line, and he’ll lunge over it. Rain or shine, breezy or chilly, the Anchorage School District’s Elementary Cross-Country Jamborees give kids a chance to dash and run away with a sense of accomplishment.
“Much like the Tuesday Night Race series organized by the Muni, these Jamborees offer our children's families low-stakes and high-energy opportunities for healthy exercise and play,” said Ben Elbow, a co-organizer of the North Anchorage Jamboree and a physical education teacher at Rogers Park Elementary. “As a parent and teacher in Anchorage, I'm thankful for our city's tremendous trail system and appreciate all the dedicated volunteers who help organize these events.”
The annual citywide event began in 1987 when Baxter Elementary teacher Mike Allan threw the first Jamboree with help from Baxter Community Schools. He ran the Jamborees until 2003, when the elementary school physical education staff decided to split the race into three regional events in north Anchorage, south Anchorage, and Eagle River. By then, many schools had formed after-school running groups to help kids build endurance and confidence while playing games and running.
Now thousands of kids join the Jamborees across the city, and all receive ribbons after their photo finish.
"The Anchorage Elementary School Jamborees are one of the truly great Alaskan family traditions and they embody everything Healthy Futures stands for," said Harlow Robinson, the executive director of the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame and the Healthy Futures program. "We are proud to be a partner and to support the event any way we can."
Students can get a head start on the Jamborees by doing the Coyote Classic at Kincaid Elementary on Sept. 13 at 10 a.m. Get a rundown of events and fun runs for kids here and on the Healthy Futures calendar. Here are the dates and times of the upcoming Jamborees:
· Beach Lake Trails (Eagle River) Jamboree – Thursday, Sept. 11, at the Chugiak High School soccer fields and trails starting at 5 p.m.
· North Anchorage Jamboree – Wednesday, Sept. 24, at Bartlett High School starting at 5 p.m.
· South Anchorage Jamboree – Saturday, Sept. 27, at Service High School starting at 9:30 a.m.
Photo courtesy of Healthy Futures.
The first Blueberry Jam Fun Run in Kotzebue last year drew 65 people to the rolling, scenic course. Skiku coaches expected a few more this year and ended up picking barely enough berries for the 265 people who walked, jogged and ran across the finish line.
With ripe fruit and beautiful terrain as ingredients, the Blueberry Jam represents one of the many activities orchestrated by Skiku – sometimes known as NANANordic – to promote a healthy and active lifestyle for Alaska kids. What began as a Nordic ski program now integrates running, biking, and duathlon training with skate skiis and laser rifles.
“Being active all year is what we’re promoting,” said Robin Kornfield, the program manager for Skiku and vice president of communications and marketing for NANA Development. “Hunting, fishing and gathering are part of the lifestyle, and this fits into what people already do.”
Skiku runs a Nordic ski program in March and a running program in August. Competitive skiers come from throughout the country coach school kids in communities like Selawik, Kotzebue, Noatak and Shungnak. These volunteers teach physical fitness, Nordic skiing, the winter duathlon and all manner of play and, in turn, get to experience Alaska in a one-of-a-kind way.
The program also provides equipment to kids and schools to help sustain enthusiasm throughout the seasons. This year, Anchorage bicycle shops donated bikes so that kids can ride all year.
Through camps, gear and a good dose of play, the program helps “even people who aren’t into skiing or running stay active and involved,” said Kornfield.
Photo by Zach Hall, courtesy of Skiku.
They abound in yards, along trails, in the alpine tundra. They appear bold and plump, bright and dense, firm and tender. They taste impeccable by the handful, on oatmeal, in smoothies.
Yep, its berry picking time in Alaska and this year’s pickings look plentiful and ripe. Gathering berries gets us outside and moving, while also yielding a cache of goodies to eat, freeze, can and dry for months to come.
“All of Alaska’s berries, like blueberries, cranberries, and currents, provide vitamins, fiber, and antioxidants that can help prevent chronic diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer,” said Diane Peck, the Public Health Nutritionist for the state’s Obesity Prevention and Control Program.
“Cup for cup, cloudberries, or low-bush salmonberries, provide three times the amount of vitamin C in orange juice.”
Leslie Shallcross, an associate professor in the Anchorage office of the UAF Cooperative Extension Service, agreed. “Alaska wild berries are true nutrition power houses with even higher levels of antioxidants than their Lower 48 counterparts and the most abundant fruit type growing in Alaska,” she added. “Regular consumption of berries has been linked to many health benefits such as improved memory, lower blood sugar levels and decreased pain.”
All of which is to say, there are many good reasons to fill a pail with berries. Many Alaskans hold dear the secret to their favorite berry patch, of course, but it only takes a bit of looking to find one.
“Some of the parks in Anchorage will have blueberries, lingonberries, watermelon berries, currants, rose hips, high bush cranberry,” said Shallcross. “For family outings, Girdwood, Arctic Valley, Hatcher's Pass, Hope are favorites in South Central. …Some only grown in the damper, milder temperatures of Southeast Alaska.”
Berries don’t grow abundantly in the same places every year, so it pays to go on hikes ahead of time to look for flowers and immature berries. The exact ripening period varies in different regions and years, but most berries are ready to pick in mid to late July through August, with some ripening as late as September.
Some popular types of berries ripen in this order, from early to late summer -- wild strawberry, currants, wild raspberry, cloudberry, nagoonberry, salmonberry, blueberry, highbush cranberry, rosehip, crowberry, service berry.
“Altogether, there are around 40 different edible berries, although not all of these are tasty,” said Shallcross.
A few are poisonous or unpalatable, so it’s important to know how to identify them. Baneberry is particularly poisonous and just a few berries can lead to death. Adults should make sure children know how to identify safe berries before picking them, and beware of wildlife, plant live (like Devil’s club) and other hazards associated with the wilderness.
Parents should make sure their children know how to identify safe berries before picking them, and beware of wildlife, plant life (like Devil’s club) and other hazards associated with the wilderness. As always when headed outdoors, take water and prepare for the weather.
Armed with some knowledge and an appetite, everyone can fill up on one of the healthiest food on the planet by plucking them from the berry playground within your reach.
Maybe you rent an apartment and don’t have a yard. Perhaps you have a yard, but it’s not big enough for a garden that feeds your family. Or, maybe you just like to plant vegetables among family, friends and neighbors.
All of these are great reasons to check out a local community garden program in your city. A number of Alaska communities have low-cost garden plots that you can rent to supply your family with lettuce, carrots and other vegetables throughout the summer. Here are links to some of them, but call your city to ask about gardens in your area:
These websites will help you find out when to register for a plot, what supplies are available and the rules for renting garden space. Fair warning: Community garden programs can be very popular and there may be waiting lists due to a limited number of plots.
There are lots of benefits to renting garden plots. You know what goes into your greens, and you can’t get much more local than your own garden plot. You have a place to be physically active — preparing the land, planting and harvesting — and reap the healthy rewards at your dinner table. You can get your kids involved, showing them how to grow their own food.
What can you grow? On its website, Juneau’s garden association calls potatoes “practically foolproof” and rhubarb “almost effortless.” The association recommends planting a short row of lettuce every couple of weeks, and to consider kale, a leafy green that “loves our weather.”
You can also save money by renting a garden plot. The cost for one plot in Anchorage is $35. In Juneau, plots also cost $35. The plot cost in Fairbanks is $40. Some gardens come with extras, including water for irrigation, picnic tables for family gatherings, portable toilets and a nearby area for kids to get out and play. Families can use their plots to grow their own vegetables without having to spend money purchasing produce that often has to be shipped here from outside states and countries.
Each garden has its rules. You must get your plot ready and planted by a certain time each year, and you need to tend your garden a certain numbers of hours each week. You need to be a good neighbor and keep your produce inside your plot boundaries. And you need to clean up after yourself at the end of the harvest.
Community gardens are in full swing this summer, but be sure to check out your community’s website to learn more about how you can grow your family’s food on a rented garden plot.
(Photo copyright 2013 Nathaniel Wilder. Used with permission from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.)
A person at play needs the right fuel to do it. For that, nothing beats Alaska farmers markets, where you can find fresh, flavorful and nutritious vegetables, meat, seafood and bread.
Using Alaska Quest cards – the means for accessing SNAP benefits— eligible Alaskans can also take advantage of a matching program supported by the state that allows them to purchase up to $40 worth of eligible market foods for $20.
“My goal is to increase access to and the availability of healthy foods,” said Diane Peck, the Public Health Nutritionist for the state’s Obesity Prevention and Control Program. “Local food, especially produce, is very healthy, fresh, and it supports local farmers and businesses, supports our economy, and all of that helps public health.”
The Alaska Farmers Markets – Quest Card Program began promoting and supporting the implementation of electronic banking at two pilot markets in 2011 using funds provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Electronic card readers allow markets to accept Quest cards. The pilot markets yielded $13,000 the first year. The program expanded from there, earning markets revenue of $50,000 in 2012 and $114,000 in 2013 when the matching program began.
This year, 11 markets accept Quest cards in Anchorage, Bethel, Homer, Fairbanks, Petersburg, Sitka and Willow, and all provide access to the matching program.
Access to fresh local foods makes a difference in health and the local community, said Peck. A survey of Quest card users showed their enthusiasm for supporting local farmers and having access to an array of organic foods, she said, and that means growing the customer base for local farmers.
When you bike, you need wheels. When you swim,
you need water. When you ski you need snow and boards under your feet. But when you run, you need little more than the right attitude.
“You can cover distance, you can do it anywhere, and you don’t need equipment to do it,” said Olympic skier Kikkan Randall, who also won the 2011 Mount Marathon trail race.
“And,” added Holly Brooks, the current Mount Marathon champ, “You never know when it’s going to come in handy.”
Like when you go from freeze to speed when playing tag, capture the flag, soccer and “keep-up-with-the-dog.” Truth is, you can jog or run anywhere – on trails, tracks, treadmills, playgrounds, grassy fields, sand, and mountain scree.
Running can also propel you into fun and unexpected territory. Randall got into skiing to stay in shape for cross country running, and later carried that momentum from Mount Marathon to Sochi, Russia – where she raced in the 2014 Winter Olympics where Holly did the same, and many other athletes and Alaskans integrate running into their journeys.
The fish are running and so should you. Check out the Alaska Runner’s Calendar for outdoor events and fun runs throughout Alaska. Here’re a few upcoming highlights from the list:
- July 23 and July 30, Aug. 6: The Salmon Run 1K and 5K race series, 5 p.m. registration and 6 p.m. 5K run start, Wednesdays on the Tsalteshi Trails in Soldotna, www.kenaiwatershed.org.
- July 25: The Pipeline Run in the Late night Sun 5K in Delta Junction, 8 p.m., http://deltanafair.com/fair_events/pipeline-run/.
- July 25: Relay for Life in Kodiak, 6 p.m. to 6 p.m., www.relayforlifeofkodiak.org.
- July 26: Dog Jog 1-mile/5-mile runs in Anchorage, 10 a.m., www.friendsofpets.org.
- Aug 2: Blueberry Fun Run & Walk 1 mile kid run, plus 5k/10k in Ketchikan, 9 a.m., www.ketchikanrunningclub.com.
- Aug 3: 12th Annual Running with the Bulls 1K, 5K and 10K at the Musk Ox Farm in Palmer, 1 p.m., www.muskoxfarm.org/events/.
- Aug 9: Alaska Statehood Fun Run/Walk 5.5K in Fairbanks, 10 a.m., www.runningclubnorth.org.
- Aug 10: Breast Cancer Beach Run in Homer, www.kbfpc.org.
- Aug 16: Big Wild Life 2K for kids in Anchorage, 9:30 a.m., www.bigwildliferuns.com.
- Aug 16: Superhero 5K in Kenai, 11 a.m., www.facebook.com/#!/KenaiSuperhero5kRunWalk.
- Aug 17: Big Wild Life Runs in Anchorage, assorted courses, www.bigwildliferuns.org.
- Aug 23: The Milk Run trail 5K course in Anchorage, www.owensmilkmoney.org.
- Aug 30: Houston Half Marathon & Relay with ½-mile and 1-mile kids’ dashes, 11:30 a.m., www.thehoustonhalf.com.
- Aug 30: McCarthy-Kennicott Half Marathon and 5K, www.wrangells.org.
- Aug 30: End of Summer Mini Marathon 5K in Seldovia, www.seldoviachamer.org.
Obesity costs our kids by putting them at risk for childhood diabetes, heart disease, asthma and other chronic conditions, as well as putting stress on their joints, bones and organs.
Now translate that into dollars and cents. The medical cost of childhood obesity will top $625 million dollars over the next 20 years when considering just the current group of children and adolescents in Alaska, according to a new study by the University of Alaska’s Institute of Social and Economic Research.
This number doesn’t include indirect costs of obesity, such as lower productivity, missed time from work or limited education, said the study’s author, Mouhcine Guettabi, an assistant economics professor at UAA. Guettabi said the number “can be used as the absolute lower boundary of medical cost estimates.”
The study used a 2012 cohort of children from 2 to 19 years old to estimate obesity-related medical costs over 20 years for that group only. The pattern will continue in Alaska as more children are born, grow up, and become obese.
“This picture will repeat itself over and over and over,” Guettabi said.
The study bases its numbers on current patterns of obesity that show 15.2 percent of Alaska’s children classified as obese and 20 percent of non-obese Alaska children become obese adults.
The study concludes that reducing obesity rates in children between 2 and 19 years by 1 percent would save nearly $17 million over 20 years. Decreasing the percentage of non-obese kids who become obese adults by 1 percent would save over $14.3 million over 20 years. Dropping the percentage of obese adolescents who become obese adults would save another $2.9 million.
Play it safe: When on wheels, wear a helmet; when on water, wear a life jacket.
Sunlight and summer break appear on every kid’s ingredient list for play, but the recipe for fun should include safety gear, too.
Injury is the leading cause of death for Alaska children.Helmets and life jackets can make the difference between life and death when kids play on wheels or water.
Gaining speed and doing tricks on bikes, skates, scooters, skateboards and unicycles means risking unexpected bumps and falls. Thrills and spills happen, of course, but standard safety precautions can reduce the incidence and severity of injury.
“Both children and adults need to be wearing a helmet and be knowledgeable about the rules of the road,” said Stephanie Holmquist, program manager for the Be Safe Be Seen program for the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services. “Bicyclists should be aware of cars at all times and never assume the vehicle can see you. Wearing a reflector is a great way to be noticed by vehicles during the day or at night.”
Make sure helmets fit snugly and that kids know the importance of visibility. Even in daylight, reflectors and bright clothing help, and making eye contact with others on the road or trail means seeing and being seen.
Visit Alaska’s Injury Prevention Program to get more information on bicycle and pedestrian safety or to get reflectors or helmets for your school. Also, check out the testimonial of mixed media artist Margret Hugi-Lewis, who suffered a head injury when skating in her studio.
Kids also spend a lot of time in and around water during the summer months.
If you own a boat or spend a lot of time by the water, make sure you have life jackets on hand and that kids wear them. Children under 13 are required by law to wear personal flotation devices when in an open boat, on an open deck and when waterskiing.
Look for the Kids Don’t Float loaner boards at beaches and near bodies of water throughout Alaska. These boards allow you to borrow life jackets free of charge. There are over 500 loaner sites from Adak to Yukon Village.
Whether by land or by water, help kids play safely so they play every day all summer long.
The first 150 schools that sign up for the Challenge will receive two window clings to display.
It’s hard to think about the next school year when this one is days away from summer break.
But the Play Every Day campaign is working with Healthy Futuresthis week to sign up Alaska elementary schools for the Fall Healthy Futures Challenge next September.
Getting schools signed up now means teachers and other staff can prepare to kick off the physical activity challenge when the 2014-15 school year begins.
If you’re a principal, teacher or school staff member, visit the Healthy Futures website to sign up your school. Registration begins at 8 a.m. Wednesday, May 14. Don’t wait to register. During the registration period for the Spring Healthy Futures Challenge that just ended, 90 schools signed up in the first hour and the first 150 schools signed up in three days.
Current funding allows Healthy Futures to provide prizes to participating students at the first 150 schools that sign up. Those first schools will also receive two window clings to show off their involvement in the Healthy Futures Challenge.
Additional schools that sign up will be added to a waiting list and entered into the Fall Challenge if funding allows.
Here’s how the Fall Healthy Futures Challenge works: The Challenge will run September, October and November 2014. Students in grades K-6 at participating schools will pick up a log form at school each month and mark down the number of days they were physically active. They’ll turn in the log at the end of the month to a designated staff member at their schools. Healthy Futures will send prizes to the school staff to distribute to students who successfully complete each month of the Challenge.
Schools with the highest participation rates also can win Healthy Futures grants to buy health and physical education equipment.
If you’re a student or a parent who wants to make sure your school participates, please talk to your school’s staff and encourage them to register the school online. The Fall Challenge is free for schools and students throughout Alaska.
Join the fun, and get out and play, every day.