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​Making Physical Activity Easier for Alaska Children

Alaska kids are great at getting out to play in any weather, but coordinating outdoor play can be a struggle during the school day.

Petersburg in Southeast Alaska faces the challenge of many rainy days, while Utqiaġvik in the northernmost region of Alaska has little or no sunlight in the winter months. These communities are making physical activity more accessible by building playgrounds that children can use anytime — regardless of the weather.

Stedman Elementary School in Petersburg — Covered playgrounds make playing outside easier

Stedman Elementary School in Petersburg — Covered playground

The national Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend that school-age children get 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day. Kids can get that activity through recess, physical education class, and activities before and after school.

The school district in Petersburg, a small community of about 3,000 residents, makes sure children can maximize their time at play. Petersburg is located among the islands of the Inside Passage in Southeast Alaska. That means it's located in the rainforest. The rain doesn't stop elementary kids from playing outside, however, because their school playgrounds come with outdoor roofs that cover basketball hoops, foursquare games, and other areas for play.

"We don't hold kids in for rain," said Ginger Evens, wellness coordinator and teacher for the Petersburg School District.

"Anybody can play, anywhere."

Fred Ipalook Elementary School in Utqiaġvik — Inside playgrounds make play possible all year

Fred Ipalook Elementary School in Utqiaġvik — Inside playground

Travel more than 1,000 air miles north to Utqiaġvik, formerly known as Barrow, and you'll find about 4,500 people living along the Arctic Ocean. Utqiaġvik is the northernmost community in the United States and is known for having no sunlight during winter months, with cold temperatures and many feet of snow.

The dark, cold and snowy conditions don't stop Utqiaġvik kids from playing because Ipalook Elementary built its playground inside. An entire playground that you'd expect to see outside is in the heated school building, including jungle gyms, slides, ladders, basketball hoops and open space.

Both schools will give credit to the overwhelming community support—teachers, administrators and parents—as the reason they are able to make changes and give kids their best chance for health and success in school.

This is what Alaska communities are doing to help kids grow up healthy. What can your community do? Click here to find more ideas to provide healthy foods, drinks and physical activity for kids.​​​​​​​​​​​​