If 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.
When 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 email@example.com.
We 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
2, or example
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.”
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.”
“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!”
Have you ever seen hundreds of kids warming up alongside Olympic athletes, and then taking off in on
e 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 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."
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
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
School’s about to start, so take a look on the walls at your child’s school to see if you can spot Play Every Day’s newest messages about the importance of physical activity and the health risks of sugary drinks.
For the past few years, Play Every Day has been sending its posters to hundreds of schools across Alaska. Many of them are stilling hanging up – showing kids and parents how much sugar is hiding in sugary drinks (a 20-ounce bottle of soda can have the same amount of sugar as 16 chocolate mini doughnuts.)
This year’s posters touch on two pieces of news:
• First, Play Every Day and its partner, the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, filmed new public service announcements (PSAs) this summer featuring Alaska parents and adults in Bethel and Unalakleet who help children in their communities be physically active.
• And second, the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans issued its new recommended limit for the amount of added sugar you eat and drink every day.
Play Every Day took this news from the Dietary Guidelines and photographs from filming families this summer and turned them into a new poster series for schools and health clinics across Alaska.
Let’s start with the new PSAs and posters that focus on physical activity. One PSA includes Nick Iligutchiak Hanson, a Unalakleet man who participated in the American Ninja Warrior TV competition this summer. Nick doesn’t just focus on his own physical activity. He spends a lot of time motivating children to be active through his free running club, his obstacle course on the beach, and his involvement in playing neighborhood games. The second PSA features the Iverson family from Bethel who gets children moving through playing, coaching sports, and heading to fish camp. Schools are receiving several new posters that feature Nick Hanson, the Iverson family, and children who get out and play in Unalakleet and Bethel.
Play Every Day has two new posters and two-sided rack cards focused on drinking water instead of sugary drinks. In January, the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommended that people limit the amount of added sugar they eat and drink every day to less than 10 percent of their total daily calories. As an example, an adult eating an average of 2,000 calories a day should limit their consumption of added sugar to 12 ½ teaspoons each day. Play Every Day took that recommendation and communicated it using sugary drinks. One bottle of soda (with 16 teaspoons of added sugar) and one tall glass of a powdered drink mix (with 11 teaspoons of added sugar) have more sugar than a child should consume in one day. That bottle of soda has more added sugar than anyone should eat or drink in one day. The text across the top of the new posters drives home the main message: Even one sugary drink each day is too much.
Do you want to help us share these messages? We have more posters and rack cards and can mail them across Alaska. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 907-269-3433 to have posters sent to you.
Earlier this year, Alaska Governor Bill Walker signed a bill designating every August 10 as Alaska Wild Salmon Day.
The annual celebration of all-things-salmon came about from a bill sponsored by Alaska State Rep. Bryce Edgmon (D-Dillingham). He said he hopes this day will promote healthy and delicious Alaska wild salmon, and recognize the importance of salmon subsistence fishing, recreational fishing and commercial fishing.
At Play Every Day, we’re excited to celebrate salmon’s place on Alaska dinner plates (and breakfast, lunch, and snack plates as well). Wild Alaska salmon is an excellent source of lean protein, and it boasts high concentrations of heart-healthy Omega 3 fatty acids. People who eat one to two servings of salmon or other fish each week reduce their risk of dying from heart disease by 36 percent.
Health leaders in Alaska recommend that everyone eat fish at least twice a week for the best health. Alaska wild salmon is low in an environmental contaminant called mercury, so state health leaders recommend unrestricted consumption of all species of wild salmon, as well as other types of fish caught in Alaska waters.
Adding Alaska wild salmon to your plate this week?
Search for wild Alaska salmon recipes online: http://recipes.alaskaseafood.org/
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 6 (2 cups each)
2 packages (8 oz. each) risotto with mushrooms
1 cup fresh mushrooms (button, crimini or porcini), cut into bite-size pieces
1 can (14.5 oz.) chicken broth (regular or low sodium)
4 Alaska Salmon fillets (4 to 6 oz. each) fresh, thawed or frozen
Pepper, to taste
10 to 12 oz. fresh asparagus (sliced into 2-inch pieces) and/or peas, blanched
1/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup chopped basil leaves
• Prepare risotto according to package directions adding mushrooms, but cooking just three-quarters of total time, about 15 to 18 minutes.
• While risotto is cooking, bring chicken broth to a simmer in a large (12-inch) nonstick pan or stockpot.
• If salmon is frozen, rinse off any ice glaze under cold water.
• Turn off heat and gently add seafood to the chicken broth, skin side down.
• Return heat to a simmer. Once simmering, cover pan and cook 4 to 5 minutes for frozen salmon or 2 minutes for fresh/thawed fish.
• Turn off heat and let seafood rest in liquid for 5 minutes, until seafood is opaque throughout.
• Remove salmon from broth, season with pepper and cool slightly.
• Add asparagus/peas and Parmesan to partially cooked risotto; finish cooking risotto.
• Break salmon into large chunks (removing skin, if any) and gently fold salmon and basil into risotto.
Families across Alaska have stories to share about how they help their own children — and their community’s children — be physically active. This summer, Play Every Day and its partner, the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium
, visited two communities to help tell those stories.
We’ve talked about our visit with Nick Hanson
, the American Ninja Warrior
contestant in Unalakleet who coaches and mentors children of all ages. In June, we also visited Bethel and met the Iverson family. Watch our new TV public service announcements featuring Nick Hanson
and the Iversons
helping their communities be physically active.
Carolyn and Shane Iverson are raising three children in Bethel, a community along the Kuskokwim River. Carolyn is Yup’ik, grew up in Akiak until age 5, and has lived in Bethel for years. That’s where she met her husband, Shane. They have two boys and a girl — all under the age of 8. Carolyn is a social worker with the Lower Kuskokwim School District and Shane is the general manager for KYUK.
The Iversons are busy, but they work hard to make sure their whole family is active every day. They limit TV time and don’t have video games. They make physical activity a daily priority by finding ways to weave activity into their family’s day.
“Sometimes people think physical activity needs to be separate from their daily lives,” Carolyn said. “When you can incorporate it into your daily lifestyle, that’s when it will be easiest to maintain.”
Activity is a part of the kids’ school day. The boys do Native dance twice a week at the Yup’ik Immersion School. After school, the Iverson children play basketball, wrestle, do judo or play soccer — depending on the season. When school’s out for the summer, they pick berries or take trips to the sand pits to run around and play. They often take a boat to their fish camp so they can fish together on the river.
The Iverson family has found a way to be active and help the community be active at the same time. In the summer, Shane coaches soccer while his children play the game. During the school year, Carolyn coaches girls basketball and Shane assists. Carolyn calls physical activity a “family affair.”
“If my kids are in wrestling, then our whole family goes to wrestling,” she said. “In basketball, when we coach, our whole family goes to basketball and they’re in the gym. So any time we have somebody doing something, our whole family goes. Shane will play Ultimate Frisbee, and our kids will be playing off on the sidelines.”
Carolyn says she gives her time to help young kids because she wants them to think about the importance of being physically active. She wants to inspire them to maintain that level of activity throughout adulthood. She also wants to help them feel better about who they are, and start thinking about their goals for the future.
“We are trying to raise our kids to choose to be active and engage in things that make them feel good,” Carolyn said.
She encourages parents to join their kids in play. If your kids are playing outside, play with them. If your children are playing soccer, go with them to the soccer field. That’s what makes it more fun, she said.
This is how the Iversons are helping children in their community be physically active. What can you do in yours?