Do your kids go to Craig Elementary or Island Christian Academy – both in the small Southeast city of Craig?
These schools are among 20 new elementary schools in all corners of Alaska that have signed up for the spring Healthy Futures Challenge that starts this week. Other new schools that signed up for the free physical activity challenge are in Juneau (Auke Bay, Gastineau, Glacier Valley and Juneau Community Charter) and more remote communities like Thorne Bay, Port Alexander, Hollis and Naukati.
That brings the grand total to 195 elementary schools in 36 school districts that have signed up for the spring Challenge – more schools than have ever signed up for a previous Challenge period. (Healthy Futures and Play Every Day have a goal to sign up 200 elementary schools, so it’s not too late to sign up! Principals or teachers can sign up their schools by visiting the Healthy Futures website.)
Here’s how the challenge works:
In schools that signed up, participating kindergarten through sixth-grade students will hike, bike, jump, run, skate or ski their way to 60 minutes of activity a day. They can count their activity at recess, during gym class, and add in time before and after school and on weekends. If they hit the 60-minute mark at least 15 days of the month and log their activity on a simple form, they will win prizes for each month of the Challenge. The spring challenge runs February, March and April.
There are plenty of low-cost and no-cost physical activities around Alaska to help kids hit their 60-minute goal for the Challenge. Below are a few upcoming events in Anchorage and Palmer.
· The Stud Run – Sand Lake Elementary in Anchorage is hosting its first Stud Run at 10 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 6. They’re calling it the “only lake-based winter wellness fun run” that follows a 1.75 mile lap around the frozen Sand Lake. The untimed run/walk, which is a fundraiser for the school, starts and ends near the dock behind Sand Lake Elementary.
· Nunataq Snowshoe Challenge – Come to the Government Peak Recreation Area in Palmer at 11 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 20, for the snowshoe challenge. The event includes a free 1K race for kids ages 3-10, with no snowshoes required. “Just line up and have fun!” the website says. Participants also can pay to enter a 5K, 10K and a 50-yard dash.
· Ski 4 Kids – Sign up your children for the annual Ski 4 Kids Day on Saturday, March 5. Kids up to age 14 can participate in cross country ski races, obstacle courses and mock biathlons at Kincaid Park in Anchorage. There’s no participant fee for the event, but a recommended $20 donation. Proceeds go to the Anchorage Parks and Recreation’s Ski Outreach Program and a grant program that provides ski equipment to schools and youth groups.
There are many more physical activity events for families in the coming months. Visit the Healthy Futures calendar to find out what’s happening in your community.
Tongass School of Arts and Sciences in Ketchikan became the only school in Alaska to receive a national HealthierUS School Challenge (HUSSC) award for 2015.
Emily Henry, the wellness coordinator for the Ketchikan Gateway Borough School District, said the staff’s commitment to its school translated into a bronze award for creating a healthier school with a smarter lunchroom, and for adding emphasis on physical education and activity.
“The staff is really involved in the success of their students, not only for health, but for academics, too,” Henry said.
Tongass, as part of the Ketchikan school district, is one of a number of schools that have partnered with the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services’ Obesity Prevention and Control Program to improve nutrition and physical activity for its young students.
“Healthy students learn better, and we are so excited to see schools like Tongass recognized for their efforts to prevent childhood obesity,” said Lauren Kelsey, who works with the state’s program to help schools improve nutrition and activity.
Tongass, a charter school for about 170 pre-kindergarten through sixth grade children, has added a number of programs during recent years to improve the health of its students.
HealthierUS schools must meet criteria demonstrating commitment to a healthy school environment, including implementing a local school wellness policy, as mandated by Congress. Tongass follows the Ketchikan school district’s wellness policy, recently updated based on the recommendations of the state’s Gold Standard School Wellness Policy.
HUSSC schools focus on improving the quality of foods served and providing students with nutrition education. The Tongass lunch room now has two salad bars – one for the younger kids and one for the older ones –built according to the shorter heights of the children.
“They are kid-sized, so everything is at their level,” Henry said.
The district’s schools hold a lunch menu contest that allows students to design a menu item. If the food service staff agrees that the item includes healthy portions of dairy, protein, vegetable and other nutritional components, the item gets added to the district’s lunch menu. If the new meal turns out to be both tasty and popular, it continues to be added to the menu. One of those favorite meals came from a Tongass student and includes a vegetable beef stir fry with broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, and carrots, alongside a fruit salad of blueberries, strawberries, bananas, peaches, cherries and pineapple. That’s four vegetables and six different fruits in just one lunch.
Tongass also addressed some physical activity challenges in unique ways. The charter school shares a building – and a gym – with another school. Its physical education teacher also must spend time as a school counselor. Given that, space and staff-time allows each Tongass student to get 60 minutes a week of physical education time. Tongass staff came up with a number of ways to add to that time, getting students closer to the recommended 60 minutes of daily physical activity for the best health. The school is next door to the city’s recreation center, which has a pool. Once a week, all students go to the center for 40 minutes of swimming, Henry said. Even more, the teachers for each grade level are expected to add at least 15 minutes of movement every day to the regular classroom, Henry said. The school also offers extra-curricular clubs for karate and running and weekly enrichment courses to provide additional physical activity time, she said.
Tongass also participates in the Healthy Futures Challenge, a free, school-based physical activity challenge run by the nonprofit Alaska Sports Hall of Fame. Tongass is one of almost 200 Alaska elementary schools that offer the challenge during the school year. Children log their physical activity each month on simple forms, turn them in at school, and win prizes for being active. Participating schools also can receive grants to support their physical activity programs.
If your school interested in working toward a HealthierUS School Challenge award, go online and learn how to improve nutrition and physical activity in schools.
We’re all about promoting play, so we wanted to learn more about the first-ever PLAAY Summit to be held in Anchorage on Feb. 19 and 20.
Our partner in physical activity — the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame that runs the statewide Healthy Futures Challenge for kids — is presenting the Positive Leadership for Active Alaskan Youth or PLAAY Summit that focuses on using physical activity to improve the health and well-being of Alaska youth. The Summit is geared toward teachers, parents, nurses and health care providers, coaches, and any adults who educate, coach or mentor Alaska youth in sports and other activities. The Alaska Sports Hall of Fame is organizing the conference with Alaska physical therapist Wallace “Wally” Wilson, who previously ran the Coaches Clinic that was focused on sports medicine issues for youth.
"The objective of the PLAAY Summit is to ensure those in leadership positions in our state have the right tools to promote and mentor all that is beneficial about sports and physical activity," said Harlow Robinson, Alaska Sports Hall of Fame Executive Director.
The Summit will be held from 12 p.m. – 5 p.m. Friday, Feb. 19, and 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 20. Participants will meet in Conference Rooms 1 and 2 of the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, Consortium Office Building, located at 4000 Ambassador Drive in Anchorage. The registration fee is $150, and University of Alaska Anchorage students and Anchorage School District employees can attend for $50. Registration can be completed online.
The main focus is on physical activity, but speakers also will address psychological and social-emotional development of Alaska youth. Participants will hear a keynote address from Dan Bigley. Professionally, Bigley has a master’s degree in social work and is the clinical director at Denali Family Services. Many people in Alaska also know Bigley’s story of continuing to strive for his passions and goals after surviving a bear attack. Some of the other featured speakers include the following Alaska professionals:
Dr. Jean Marcey, a certified personal trainer, wellness coach and assistant professor who will talk about recognizing and using your strengths;
Robert “Trey” H. Coker, who earned a doctorate in Exercise Science and now teaches at the University of Fairbanks, will talk about the effectiveness of physical activity programs for Alaska Native children living in remote communities;
Lynne Young, a certified athletic trainer, will talk about the risk of concussions;
Eric Boyer, a training coordinator with the University of Alaska, will talk about the importance of physical activity in suicide prevention; and
Haley Hughes, a registered dietitian at Providence Alaska Medical Center, will talk about the best nutrition and hydration options for youth in sports.
Continuing Nursing Education certificates and professional development credits will be available. For more information about the PLAAY Summit, email Wallace Wilson.
For the first time, the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans has set a limit on the amount of added sugar to eat and drink each day for the best health.
The 2015 guidelines recommend that we limit our added sugars to less than 10 percent of the calories we eat and drink each day. Added sugars are sugars, syrups and other sweeteners that are added to foods or drinks when they are processed or prepared. Easy examples are the sugars added to soda, cookies and sweetened breakfast cereals. Added sugars do not include naturally occurring sugars, such as those in plain white milk and whole fruits.
These new guidelines reinforce Play Every Day’s mission to reduce the number of sugary drinks that Alaska children and families consume every day. In Alaska, high consumption of sugary drinks starts at a young age. One out of 5 Alaska parents of elementary-age children serves their children a sugary drink every day, and 2 out of 3 Alaska parents serve their kids sugary drinks one or more times each week, according to a recent state survey of hundreds of Alaska parents. Recent statewide surveys also showed that 42 percent of Alaska high school students and adults consume one or more sugary drinks every day.
The national Dietary Guidelines are revised every five years and issued jointly by the US Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Agriculture. The new guidelines followed a review of the most current science around nutrition and issued recommendations to reduce obesity and prevent chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure. In Alaska, about 1 out of 3 children is overweight and obese, and 2 out of 3 adults are overweight or obese.
The Dietary Guidelines call for a reduction in how much sugar we eat and drink, but it turns out drinks can contribute the most to our daily sugar intake. Sugary drinks are the No. 1 source of added sugar in Americans’ daily diets. There is strong evidence that consuming sugary drinks is linked to obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and tooth decay.
For many Americans, the new daily sugar limit will be a big change to how they eat and drink. The average American consumes about 17 teaspoons of added sugar every day – in their sugary drinks, cereals, snack bars, spaghetti sauce, even condiments like ketchup. In order to meet the new daily limit on added sugars, they would need to significantly cut that sugar intake. According to the guidelines, a person eating an average 2,000-calorie daily diet should limit their daily sugar to about 12.5 teaspoons.
What does that look like?
It turns out you can eat — and drink —12 and a half teaspoons of sugar very quickly. A 20-ounce bottle of soda sold on grocery store shelves and in vending machines can have 16 teaspoons of added sugar. Drinking just that one bottle would take you over the daily limit — and that doesn’t even count the rest of the foods and drinks you’ll consume that day. A 16-ounce glass of a powdered orange drink in the morning — a common beverage in Alaska — has about 11 teaspoons of added sugar. Hand a child a sports drink on the soccer field and he’ll drink 9 teaspoons of added sugar in a few big gulps.
Play Every Day’s latest TV public service announcement and poster campaign show how sugar can add up during the day. Drinking a powdered drink for breakfast, a fruit-flavored sugary drink for lunch, a sports drink as a snack, and a can of soda for dinner can add up to 38 teaspoons of sugar from just the drinks alone. That’s more than three times the amount of sugar in the new guidelines’ limit for daily sugar intake.
Added sugars can be tricky to spot because they go by many different names, such as high fructose corn syrup, honey, glucose and sucrose. That’s why it’s important to read the ingredient list on the back of a drink or food container to find all the added sugars. If a sweetener by any name is in the first three ingredients, the food or drink is loaded with added sugars.
To reduce the amount of added sugar you drink every day, choose water or low-fat milk instead of sodas, sports drinks, powdered drinks and other sugary beverages. Make it easier to choose water by carrying a water bottle with you. Pack a water bottle in your child’s backpack or lunch box. Add a bit of flavor to your water by putting slices of lemon or lime or sprigs of mint into your glass.
In its first year, NANANordic took ski gear and coaches to villages in the NANA region to get kids doing something positive outside. They went to four villages and involved 18 coaches and 600 students in 2012.
Now known as Skiku – a name that attaches the word “ski” to the Inupiaq word for ice – the program reached 40 communities and 4,500 kids from Bethel to Barrow in 2015. The program’s growth and success prompted the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition to select Skiku as one of 47 recipients for a PCFSN Community Leadership Award for making sports, physical activity, fitness, and nutrition-related programs available in their communities.
Lars Flora, a founder and director of Skiku, expects to reach the same number of students and communities in 2016. They will go to every community they went to last year, plus head to Elim and St. Mary’s for the first time.
The idea is to get kids outside doing something fun and healthy. One of the organization’s New Year’s resolutions is to make sure “every ski in our inventory is being used by community members and students to explore Alaska’s winter landscape,” said Flora, a two-time Olympian in cross-country skiing.
What’s cool, said Robin Kornfield, chairman of Nordic Journeys who has been with Skiku from the beginning, is that many communities already had skiing histories. “When we first started, we didn’t know there were places where people skied and had been doing it for 20 years,” she explained.
People in places like White Mountain and Unalakleet had come to Anchorage and skied in junior nationals, she added. These communities already had Nordic skiing legacies, as shared by Helen Spindler in this video.
What Skiku does is put volunteer coaches who are Olympians, World Cup racers, community coaches and elite high school athletes into villages where they spend a week teaching students how to ski and participate in biathlons, which combine skiing with precision rifle shooting.
At the same time, the group leaves donated skis, boots and poles with the villages it visits so that community members can use gear whenever the snow flies.
New this year will be a ski race program in the 11 NANA region communities and volunteer involvement in Anchorage elementary schools, noted Kornfield.
Come March and April, coaches will again travel by plane and skis to communities throughout the state. Here’s the Skiku coaching schedule this year:
· March 7-11 Nome
· March 8-15 Kuspuk School District, Bethel, Lower Yukon
· March 14-18 Bering Strait School District
· April 4-15 Northwest Arctic Borough School District
· April 11-21 North Slope
As we cross off the last days on the 2015 calendar, many of us are thinking about how we’re going to make 2016 a great new year. What are we going to do differently, do better, or do more or less often?
· Set a goal, write it down and create a plan to make it happen.
Here’s the goal Kikkan Randall recently wrote us about. Kikkan is a 4-time Olympic cross country skier who’s usually globetrotting right now, attacking the World Cup ski racing circuit throughout the winter. But this year is unusual in that she’s spending more time at home in Alaska: Kikkan is pregnant with her first child.
“My fitness goal for 2016 is to get outside and do at least three different winter activities every week,” she said. “Skiing, skating, sledding, snowshoeing and snow biking are some of my favorites! Mixing up your activities makes playing every day fun and exciting.”
· Pick one thing you want to focus on and go for it.
Fellow Olympic skier of Alaska, Sadie Bjornsen, said her goal is to enjoy the outdoors every single day.
“Whether I am doing the hardest running intervals, or I am hiking with my family, or I am spending hours on the road roller-skiing, I want to make sure I enjoy each and every breath of fresh air outside that I have,” she said.
Did you see how Sadie talked about her family? Another way to help make these resolutions stick is to get other people involved.
· Share your goal with family and friends.
Sadie said she uses physical activity to chase her Olympic dreams, but also to stay healthy and happy.
“Bring friends, bring your family,” she said. “Share the most natural happy vibes there is in the world!”
Kids need to strive for 60 minutes of physical activity on the 12 days of winter break between Dec. 16 and Jan. 3 to complete the challenge. The first 200 kids who register will get stop watches and family day passes to The Alaska Club. Participation is free and doesn’t have to take place at The Alaska Club.
Last year, 300 kids participated, said Janet Warner, the executive director of Group Fitness, Fitness Programming and Family Recreation for The Alaska Club. “This year we changed the requirements slightly to align with the recommendation of 60 minutes of play each day or most days,” she added.
Kids can choose how and where they want to get moving, whether outside or in, by ice skating, sledding, swimming, dancing, doing yoga, just getting outside, or playing soccer, volleyball, or freeze tag.
Families can also stay active during the darkest days of the year by joining in community fun runs and events, or just making a point of going for walks together.
Alyse Loran, the Healthy Futures Coordinator, suggests skating, skiing and joining group activities. She lives in Anchorage, for example, and noted that the Municipality of Anchorage plans to hot mop Westchester Lagoon. There are rinks all around town, she added, but it pays to check ice conditions before heading out the door. The city also has a winter activity guide with more options.
“The snow making loop at Kincaid is great right now,” said Loran. “And the Hillside trails are ready for rock skis [old skis you don’t mind banging up!]. Just a little more snow and we should be skiing everywhere again.”
Elementary schools across Alaska can sign up for the Spring Healthy Futures Challenge starting today.
If your school is interested, don’t wait too long to sign up. Healthy Futures will be registering schools online on a first-come, first-serve basis starting at 8:30 a.m. Monday, Dec. 14. The free physical activity challenge will run February through April and award prizes to K-6 students who log their physical activity and turn in activity logs at the end of each month. This fall, 160 schools from 36 school districts in Alaska participated in the Challenge.
Play Every Day is partnering with Healthy Futures to reach the goal of registering 200 elementary schools from across the state for the Spring Challenge. Schools that sign up early will have a chance to win some great prizes, including a gift card to buy physical activity equipment for the school, as well as Healthy Futures and Play Every Day T-shirts for students and staff.
Play Every Day and Healthy Futures have partnered for the past four years to help empower Alaska’s kids to build the healthy habit of daily physical activity. Just four years ago, only 36 elementary schools and about 1,300 individual students participated in the Healthy Futures Challenge. This fall, more than 15,700 individual students participated in the 160 schools. That’s more than 1 in 5 elementary-age students in Alaska logging their physical activity to meet the challenge.
Sign up your school today to help more Alaska kids have a free, fun way to be physically active every day – and win prizes along the way.
Can having your class film a short video about choosing water instead of sugary drinks have an effect that goes beyond the work done in the classroom?
To participate in Play Every Day’s second video contest for Alaska elementary schools, Yates’ class needed to come up with a script and then film a 30-second video about why water and low-fat milk are healthier drinks than sugary beverages, like soda, powdered mixes and sports drinks. Their video won second place in the contest.
While producing their video, Yates and her 14 students accepted a bigger challenge. They decided they would only drink healthy drinks, like water and milk, during the weeks it took them to film the project.
Yates said one student took that challenge home with him. His family went out for pizza once a week, the one time a week his mother allowed him to pick any drink he wanted, even soda. The boy told his mother he’d have milk instead. When the question came up again about what he wanted to drink, the boy stuck to his plan. No soda. Just milk.
The health message the class focused on in their video “sunk in so well,” said Yates.
Yates’ class worked hard to make that message sink in. Yates tied health class into the video project. She invited a local woman who was a public health professional to do a presentation about healthy and unhealthy drinks. She showed the students how many teaspoons of sugar were hiding in sugary drinks. (The answer is a lot. Check out the Play Every Day poster series that compares the amount of added sugar in common treats — think doughnuts, cookies, and ice cream sandwiches — and sugary drinks like sodas, sports drinks and more.)
Yates then added math to the project. The students were focusing on estimation, so she asked each student to think of a sugary drink they liked and estimate how much sugar it contained. They talked about chocolate shakes, sports drinks and other sugary beverages. Then they researched how much actual sugar was added to these drinks. They plotted their drinks and the added teaspoons of sugar on a bar graph to compare them.
“They were just astonished,” said Yates, referring to her students’ discovery of how much sugar was hiding in their drinks. “Several of them went home and shared it with their parents.”
Yates then brought in the music teacher. The students had to come up with a script. What if the script incorporated a jingle and some rhythm to make the words more fun? The students practiced a routine in which they drummed on empty cups and passed them around in a circle. While doing that, they sang their message:
“Sugar, sugar everywhere. Let’s compare, let’s compare. How much sugar is in your cup? Too much sugar, you’ll go amok.
“Water and a healthy snack is all it takes to bounce right back.”
Yates, who has been teaching for 20 years at the Craig City School District, said she’s always looking for activities that challenge and engage her students in many ways. That’s why the Play Every Day video contest attracted her when she saw an announcement for it.
“My class is just hungry and thirsty for activities,” she said. “They have a lot of energy and motivation. I was just wanting to take an opportunity like this to see where they could go with it.”
They stuck with it until the end. They did what the project asked – film a video – but in the process they learned about math, music and other important subjects.
“I think that’s what really makes it so meaningful,” Yates said.
When Marisa Glieco saw the announcement for the Play Every Day video contest for Alaska elementary schools, she decided to put it to a classroom vote.
Glieco, the fifth grade teacher at Lake Otis Elementary in the Anchorage School District, asked her 30 students to raise their hands if they wanted to create a 30-second video promoting water and low-fat milk instead of sugary drinks like soda, powdered mixes and sports drinks.
Almost every hand in the class went up.
That started it, and from there Glieco’s class got to work on what would be the winning entry for this year’s Play Every Day video contest for Alaska elementary schools.
One of the rules of the contest was to put the kids in charge of the final video, and that’s exactly what Glieco did.
She asked her students to write down the top three jobs they wanted in film production, and then write a letter to her explaining why they’d be good at those jobs. They vied for jobs like designing the props, putting together the costumes, auditioning the actors, filming the video on iPads, even editing the final video. The students took charge of the entire production. Glieco just provided direction when needed, but even then she had two students who were picked as the video directors and they took charge of managing all steps from start to finish.
“For the most part, I wanted to give them ownership,” said Glieco, the only teacher in Alaska to participate in the Play Every Day video contest two years in a row. Last year, her third and fourth grade class turned in a creative video using Lego animation to show all the fun ways you could get your 60 minutes of physical activity every day. During the past two years, eight schools in five Alaska school districts turned in videos promoting physical activity and healthy drinks during Play Every Day’s video contests designed for elementary schools.
Glieco’s whole class brainstormed ideas for the video’s script this year. Maybe they should include a water-bottle super hero? What if they included Glieco’s dog in the video? Would that work?
“I was really proud of them,” she said. “It was just really neat to see their creativity come out.”
In the end, the Lake Otis class turned in two videos. One film was a play on an existing candy bar commercial, but this time the focus was on showing that water — not sugary drinks — satisfies. The second, winning video was a play on a game show, asking students to name the healthiest beverages to quench their thirst. After mistakenly guessing soda and juice, the student in the role of the game show host announces that water is the best drink to hydrate us when we’re thirsty. She then announces that it’s time for a message from our sponsors, and the video cuts to a group of students playing outside. A boy runs up to a bottle of water and drinks it, while words about water are spoken at a very fast-paced clip:
“The positive side effects for drinking water is you stay hydrated, it gives you power, and helps you avoid cavities. It is better than any other sports drinks, soda, or juice. Finally if you drink water you will be able to play every day!”
This speedy read about water was student Arlin Galovin’s idea. He’d seen it done at the end of ads promoting medicines, and he wanted to try it on their video promoting water.
“I thought it would be funny, and people would laugh,” he said. (For the record, the Play Every Day judges scoring this video laughed very hard.)
Students said working on the video project taught them how to work together and complete a project as a class. They had fun while learning how to do their jobs to finish the video. They also learned that some drinks are marketed as healthy, but they’re often not.
“When they say in commercials it’s a healthy drink, it’s really not,” said student Cizzne Mendoza. “There’s sugar in it.”
Instead, the students said, drinking water or milk is better for you than drinking sugary drinks — a message made clear in their winning video.