AUGUST 19, 2020 — Elementary schools are starting this fall in all kinds of ways. Some schools are starting online, while others are starting in person. Some school districts are providing options to families, including in-person and all-virtual learning.
When students are not in school, they miss opportunities for daily movement that recess and in-person physical education class provide. Daily activity is so important for kids. It gets their hearts pumping and their legs moving, but it also relieves stress and anxiety. It helps them feel good in all kinds of ways.
The Healthy Futures program knows that, which is why the staff of the small nonprofit organization plans to keep offering its physical activity challenge this school year. It will start Sept. 1. The free challenge may need to look different in each school district, or even at different schools within a district, and that’s OK. Harlow Robinson, Healthy Futures executive director, said the physical activity challenge can offer a small amount of consistency for kids during an unusual time. Thousands of Alaska kids know about the Healthy Futures Challenge, and many do it every school year and earn prizes for building the habit of staying active. If participating schools decide that want to keep giving children a simple tool to help them stay active — whether they’re learning in school or out of school — Robinson said his program is ready to help, just like every other school year.
“We know this year is going to be tough for all of us,” Robinson said. “We want to offer something that’s helpful, in whatever way that works best for schools and students. We’ve made several different versions of the log this year to help students track their activity, no matter what technology they have at home. On one version of the log, we’ve added new elements to track other healthy behaviors — like choosing healthy foods and drinks and getting enough sleep each night. If teachers want to add these logs as one way to keep students moving and thinking about how to keep their bodies strong and healthy this year, we want to provide that.”
Elementary schools can still sign up for the Fall Challenge
This year, about 70 elementary schools have signed up for the Healthy Futures Challenge so far. Healthy Futures, a longtime partner of the Play Every Day campaign, is able to sign up more. Teachers or principals at Alaska elementary schools can sign up at https://database.healthyfuturesak.org/, or they can contact Robinson at firstname.lastname@example.org or (907) 240-3684.
Robinson knows there are questions that need answers:
- How do you run a school-based physical activity challenge when students aren’t learning in school, or they’re in school only part time? We’ve got an answer for that below.
- How do students turn in logs if they’re not going into a school building? Find that answer below, too.
- How will schools and students receive the prizes, especially if students aren’t at school? We’re still working on that issue.
Let’s take these questions one at a time.
Schools can make the challenge work for them
In a typical year, thousands of Alaska students complete the Healthy Futures Challenge in more than 30 school districts across the state. They track their activity each month on a simple paper log. If they count at least 15 days when they were active at least 60 minutes each day, they can turn in the log for a prize. Students can include active time in recess and gym class on their logs.
This year, thousands of students won’t be in school to turn in logs. They also may not have daily recess or in-person PE class time to count toward their logs. Last spring, some PE teachers provided online gym class, and that could be an option for students to count toward their logs this school year. Students also can count activities they do with their family, like walking, hiking, playing basketball or soccer, going for a bike ride or ski, and much more.
Some schools may choose to offer the challenge as part of the physical education curriculum. Other schools may offer the challenge as a way to keep students inspired to move every day, in whatever ways they can. More families are choosing homeschool options this year, and homeschool programs are invited to participate in the challenge.
More options this year for activity logs
This year, Play Every Day and Healthy Futures staff worked together to add an alternative version of the log to help students track other important healthy behaviors. Participating teachers can choose to keep using the traditional log or this alternative log. On the alternative log, students will still write what activity they did and the total number of minutes they were active. This record of daily activity will be used to determine if students successfully completed the log each month.
The alternative log also includes three images at the bottom of each day: an apple, a moon and a glass of water. Each image represents a healthy behavior. If students ate at least 5 servings of fruits or vegetables that day, they can circle the apple. If they slept for 9 or more hours the night before, they can circle the moon. If students didn’t drink any sugary beverages that day, they can circle the glass of water. Sugary drinks include soda, sports and energy drinks, vitamin drinks, fruit-flavored and sweetened powdered drinks, and chocolate and flavored milk.
When it comes to turning in a successful log, students will have several options:
- Print and fill out a log created as a Word document. Students can submit this log in person if attending school, or can take a photo of it and send the photo through email to the coordinating teacher at their school.
- Print or fill out a log created as a PDF document. Again, students can submit it in person or take a photo of it and submit it electronically.
- Download a log created as a fillable PDF document. Students can type in their activity and total number of active minutes each day. If using the fillable alternative log, they can click their cursor over the apple, moon, or glass, which places a checkmark over the image.
Recognizing students with prizes
When schools closed last spring, Healthy Futures staff faced challenges distributing prizes to children. That same challenge will continue this fall as some districts aren’t returning in person. Robinson said his team is looking for solutions. He said he will be reaching out to teachers coordinating the Healthy Futures program this fall to find out what works best for their school and students.
To find out more about the Healthy Futures Challenge or to sign up your school or homeschool program, contact Robinson at email@example.com or (907) 240-3684.