It used to be that the start of spring marked the end of the Healthy Futures Challenge for the year.
For years, Healthy Futures has offered two, free physical activity challenges during the school year — one in the fall and one in the spring. In June, the Healthy Futures program is starting its first Summer Challenge with a few programs across the state ready to support Alaska kids being active throughout the summer.
“Our program is about building habits, and the summer has always been a large gap between our spring challenge and our fall challenge,” said Harlow Robinson, executive director of Healthy Futures and the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame. The summer challenge provides support for daily physical activity when many children need it, he said.
Healthy Futures is partnering with Camp Fire Alaska, the Alaska Afterschool Network, and RurAL CAP to run the summer physical activity challenge in four rural communities that participate in Camp Fire’s Rural Camp program and through Camp Fire’s school-based summer camp program in Anchorage.
“Camp Fire Alaska strives to teach and encourage youth to make healthy life choices. Partnering with Healthy Futures seemed like a natural fit,” said Joanne Phillips-Nutter, director of development and marketing for Camp Fire Alaska. “The partnership provides Camp Fire with a tried-and-tested system to further encourage, incentivize, and promote the practice of lifelong fitness. We are excited to partner with Healthy Futures, and provide the opportunity to extend their programming to reach youth year-round!”
The school-year Healthy Futures Challenge and the Summer Challenge run in slightly different ways. To successfully complete the school-year challenge, children in grades K-6 fill out a physical activity log for an entire month. To complete the Summer Challenge, children need to fill out an activity log for a two-week period of time. During those two weeks, participating children need to be active for 60 minutes a day for at least 10 days, Robinson said.
This two-week Summer Challenge period matches the two-week length of the summer camps that Camp Fire runs in rural communities across the state. This summer, the Healthy Futures Challenge will be offered in Kaltag, Nulato, Ruby and Koyokuk.
There will be four, two-week Summer Challenge periods in June and July, Robinson said. Children who complete the Summer Challenge will receive a prize. If children complete three of the four Summer Challenge periods, they will be eligible for a $300 grand prize gift card to buy physical activity equipment.
Robinson calls this Summer Challenge a pilot, and Healthy Futures will be seeing how it works in rural and urban communities. Some of these communities have participated in the school-based challenge that is run every fall and spring in almost 200 schools. Others haven’t participated before.
“It’s an opportunity to get in the door in those communities,” Robinson said. “Hopefully they will continue on (with the challenge) in the fall.”
To learn more about the Summer Healthy Futures Challenge, contact Healthy Futures at email@example.com.
A circus is coming to Barrow next week, and the community’s children will be the performers.Every summer in Barrow – the northernmost community in Alaska – circus artists fly in to provide a two-week camp for almost 100 Barrow children. Kids from 5 and up can attend every day at no cost to them.
The camp has been running for the past eight summers in Barrow and for five years in the surrounding villages, said Sandy Solenberger, who has helped organize the yearly North Slope circus camps. Children can attend circus camp for free because it is fully funded by a federal diabetes grant and Ilisagvik College, and it receives in-kind support from the City of Barrow and the North Slope Borough School District, Solenberger said.
This year’s Barrow camp will run May 23 through June 3. During that time, the campers will get to learn unique physical activities – including walking on stilts and a tightwire, balancing on a board atop a rolling cylinder, hanging on a trapeze, and tumbling. These circus skills help Barrow children get closer to 60 minutes of physical activity each day – the national recommendation for good health.
“What we are trying to do is help kids develop the habit of physical activity,” Solenberger said. “We are looking for unusual activities that make joyful memories.”
Some of these activities seem novel, but they have a history in Alaska Native culture, Solenberger said. For some regions of Alaska, juggling is an Alaska Native skill that was done with rocks instead of balls. The Barrow circus camp staff are hoping to leave behind more juggling balls in North Slope villages to promote this physical activity after the camp concludes, Solenberger said.
The camp promotes health beyond increased activity. Solenberger said the only drink available to the kids during camp is water. At the beginning of camp, kids decorate their own water bottles so they can drink water throughout the day. Camp coordinators also talk to kids about the health concerns linked with sugary drinks.
If you’re in Barrow on June 3, be sure to stop by for the grand finale of Circus Camp. The children will put on an evening circus show for the whole community. Families will be entertained, and the children get to show off their new physical activity skills.
Want to make a healthy salad that passes the kid test?
Alaska kids tried 20 new salad recipes during the past year, and their top choices for salads, dressings, and seasonings were printed in the new Alaska School Salad Book, which is available online for free.
Alaska kids from the Alaska Gateway School District in Tok and the Boys and Girls Home of Alaska in Fairbanks taste-tested pizza salad, crispy ranch chickpeas, Mediterranean couscous, and more and then graded them with words, and scores.
"It is epic and good," said one child about one of the salads. “Awesome,” said another.
When asked to rate a salad on a scale of 1-6, with 6 being the best, one student’s score went through the roof: 999,999.
It’s hard to question the deliciousness of a salad when one child says, “It’s the best thing in the world.”
The Alaska School Salad Book was published in partnership by the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS); the Department of Education and Early Development; the Department of Natural Resources, Division of Agriculture; the University of Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service; the Alaska Gateway School District; and the Boys and Girls Home of Alaska The recipes come in bulk sizes so that schools can make them for the growing number of salad bars available in Alaska schools. But don’t worry if you’re not up for making a salad that feeds 100 people. The health department has also printed all of the salad recipes in quantities that feed a much smaller family of four. All of the recipes are saved as PDF files and can be printed and cut-out for your personal recipe files.
The salad recipes provide fun news ways to help make fruits and vegetables a part of children’s daily diets because they are essential for optimal child growth, weight management and chronic disease prevention, said Diane Peck, a registered dietitian with DHSS. Unfortunately, Alaska children are not eating enough fruits and veggies. Only 20% of Alaska high school students eat the minimum recommended amount of five servings of fruits and vegetables per day, according to Alaska’s recent Youth Risk Behavior Survey.
The salad book, and the smaller-size family recipe cards, show off unique ways to mix fruits and vegetables in salads. Toss together wheat berries, green peppers, black olives, some spices and a little mozzarella cheese and diced pepperoni and you have pizza salad. It’s got all the flavors of pizza, but is served in a bowl and not on a crust. Fruits and vegetables are front and center in the Carrot and Mandarin Orange Salad. Want a surprise of color? Prepare pink potato salad with red potatoes – skin still on – and whole beets.
“It was exciting to see the kids trying new foods, especially foods that come from Alaska,” Peck said. “The students made great suggestions to improve some of the original recipes. They were so eager to try new foods when they were involved in the process.”
When the snow melts and warmer weather arrives, many of Alaska’s kids are anxious to get outside on their bikes. And many of Alaska’s physical education teachers are anxious to give those kids a refresher course in bike safety.
But some kids can’t get their bikes to school easily, some don’t own a helmet, and the bikes they bring often have mechanical issues that delay learning and safety skills practice while teachers help students get their bikes in working order.
Now, a cooperative effort between the Alaska Injury Prevention Center, the Anchorage School District, and the state Department of Transportation’s Alaska’s Safe Routes to School Program is providing an all-inclusive bike safety class-in-a-trailer that includes well-maintained bikes, helmets, and a curriculum.
Health and physical education teachers can reserve the trailer through an online request system and have it delivered directly to their school. White Spruce Trailers in Anchorage outfitted the 20-foot trailer with the hooks and storage for the bike fleet and helmets, and a supply cabinet filled with cones and signs for setting up a bike skills course along with the tools needed for simple maintenance and upkeep of the bikes.
The bikes are Bike Friday’s OSATA bikes and are capable of adjusting to fit riders from 4’0” to 6’2” and up to 200 pounds. They are made in Eugene, Ore. of Made in America steel — a rarity for children’s bikes.
The curriculum includes classroom and on-the-bike instruction taught using the Bikeology curriculum, designed by ShapeAmerica (Society of Health and Physical Educators) with funding from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Bikeology is tailored for students in grades 6-12 and meets national standards for K-12 physical education.
“We are excited to work with our community partners to enhance our current programs by finding innovative ways to engage our students,” said Melanie Sutton, the Health and Physical Education Coordinator for the Anchorage School District. “This program allows us to increase our ability to provide an equal playing field for students to learn about the benefits gained from being physically active as well as the skills and knowledge to incorporate safe, satisfying physical activity into their lives.”
Looking for a brain break?
That’s the term a number of Alaska teachers are using when they add in a short burst of physical activity in the middle of classroom learning. Physical activity has benefits that go beyond helping children and teens maintain a healthy weight. Recent national studies show that physical activity can help our children think and learn better
Since children and teens spend more than half of their waking hours in the classroom, school is a prime location to increase physical activity among children. Some Alaska teachers are seeing the direct benefits of short activity breaks in their classrooms, and they say it is a great way to help youth reach the goal of 60 minutes of physical activity every day
“They say that with any muscle you need to work it, but also give it some rest, so we take little brain breaks throughout the day,” said Marisa Glieco, a teacher at Lake Otis Elementary School in Anchorage. “When the kids have been sitting for 20 minutes or so, listening, taking notes, or doing an activity, a brain break gives them a little chance to move their bodies and give their minds a rest. I am always looking for ways we can get them up and active, and re-engage their brains.”
Sarah Tunley, a health specialist with the Anchorage School District, said she uses the same approach in the health and life skills classes she teaches to students in kindergarten through 6th grade.
“In elementary school, a lot of the time we are still kind of focused on all of our content, and kids are sitting and being sedentary a lot throughout the day,” Tunley said. “I want to make sure the kids are getting physical activity throughout the day, and not just at recess or PE time.”
There are numerous sources online for active classroom break ideas, but Glieco and Tunley both said their go-to brain break activity source is www.gonoodle.com
“Most of the teachers at my school use Go Noodle,” Glieco said. “The site has a wide variety of activities, so there is something for everyone from dancing, to Zumba, to weird YouTube videos the kids like to jump around to.”
Glieco said her principal encourages teachers to have their classes take short extra recess breaks when possible to help kids focus better. When the schedule doesn’t allow a full outdoor break, a 10- or 15-minute activity break in the classroom can be just as helpful.
“When we don’t (take an activity break), you can tell the difference (in their behavior),” Glieco said. “They enjoy that ability to not only connect with each other, but to be active.”
Glieco and Tunley also like the wide variety of activity levels they can choose from when using online resources.
“If you are having a really rambunctious class, there are calming activities and yoga that can help them focus on an activity and help them be mindful,” said Glieco.
Most online classroom activity resources require little or no teacher preparation, special equipment, or resources. Glieco said she particularly likes to show videos that the kids can follow along with for brain breaks because it gives her a chance to rest her brain and get active as well.
Looking for short classroom activity break ideas? Check out these sites:Go NoodleTake 10Active Classroom ResourcesFuel up to Play 60 Activity Bursts in the ClassroomKids in Motion
Today, Play Every Day is looking at one of the most confusing drinks sold in the sugary drink aisle of the grocery stores. It’s called a vitamin-enhanced water drink. The confusion around this drink comes with how it’s marketed.
When you look at the front of a vitamin-enhanced water drink, it appears to be a healthy choice. The front label stresses that it’s packed with vitamins. If you turn the bottle around, however, the nutrition facts label tells the truth. A vitamin-enhanced water drink is actually loaded with sugar — about 8 teaspoons of added sugar in a 20-ounce bottle.
This January, the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans issued the first-ever recommended limit for the amount of added sugar we eat and drink every day. The limit states that everyone — old and young — should limit their added sugar to 10 percent or less of total daily calories. A typical adult consuming 2,000 calories a day should limit their sugar intake to 12 ½ teaspoons of added sugar or fewer each day. A moderately active 8-year-old boy should have no more than 10 teaspoons of added sugar each day. Just one vitamin-enhanced water drink gets a child or an adult close to the daily sugar limit, and that doesn’t count all of the other added sugar eaten each day in cereals, snack bars, desserts, even condiments like ketchup and salad dressing.
Play Every Day has been looking at several different types of sweetened drinks to find out how much sugar they contain. Earlier this month, we focused on the powdered mix. While it’s often billed as a breakfast drink with added vitamins, a 16-ounce glass of a powdered mix can start your day with more added sugar than a can of soda.
For the best health, skip sugary drinks like vitamin-enhanced beverages and powdered mixes. Instead, serve your families water or low-fat milk. If you want vitamins, stick with whole foods and all-natural sources, like fruits and vegetables.
A national public health foundation has recognized Anchorage as one of four communities nationwide that reduced its childhood obesity rates. Obesity rates among Anchorage School District elementary and middle school students declined by 2.2% between the 2003–04 and 2010–11 school years, due to coordinated efforts among the school district, the Municipality of Anchorage, and the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS).
The report discusses a number of strategies and collaborations that likely contributed to the childhood obesity decline seen in Anchorage between the 2003-04 and 2012-11 school years. Strategies completed through partnership by the Municipality of Anchorage, the Anchorage School District and DHSS had a positive effect on obesity rates.
At the Anchorage School District, the wellness team made the following changes:
increased weekly physical education and health instruction time for elementary students;
no longer sold sodas during school hours;
improved school lunches to meet stricter health standards;
expanded the national school lunch program to high schools;
increased the number of students participating in the Healthy Futures Challenge — the free, school-based physical activity challenge run by Healthy Futures, an Alaska nonprofit organization; and
adopted a comprehensive School District Wellness Policy that improved the foods available in vending machines, school stores and classrooms.
At the same time, the Municipality of Anchorage’s Task Force on Obesity and Health increased public awareness of the health consequences of childhood obesity; improved childcare licensing requirements around physical activity and nutrition; encouraged a variety of agencies to engage in improving the health of Anchorage residents; and guided development and adoption of the Anchorage Pedestrian and Bike Plans.
“Childhood obesity is a serious health concern in Alaska, and about 1 out of 3 children in this state is overweight or obese,” said Karol Fink, the DHSS Obesity Prevention and Control Program manager. “This report shows that a broad set of policies applied by a large group of partners over a period of time can affect health behaviors and reduce childhood obesity rates.”
While community partners are pleased obesity rates among Anchorage students have not increased since 2011, the collective efforts must continue to further decrease obesity rates. Many children remain at increased risk for weight-related health problems, including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
At a public event at an Anchorage elementary school, Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz, Anchorage School District Superintendent Ed Graff, and Dr. Jay Butler, Chief Medical Officer and Director of Public Health for the state of Alaska, committed to continue working collaboratively to address childhood obesity in Anchorage.
Spring is on its way, and that means it’s almost time for running race season!
There are two runs coming up in April that are great opportunities for families Spring is on its way, and that means it’s almost time for running race season! There are two runs coming up in April that are great opportunities for families to get active together while raising money for good causes.
The Skinny Raven Superhero Showdown on Saturday, April 9, is a chance to suit up in a superhero costume — anything from Watchmen to the Incredibles to the Avengers — and join dozens of other families on a Heroes vs. Villains 5K or Little Heroes 1.3K course (for kids under 10) along Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.
You can run with a team, decide if you are heroes or villains, and compete for fastest team, biggest team and best-costumed team. Local food trucks, face painting, and a bouncy castle offer more fun at the finish line. Participants receive a T-shirt and a medal.
Register online before April 8 and pay $40 for the 5K and $25 for the 1.3K. Prices are $5 more for race-day registration.
Families also can request financial assistance for youth entry fees by emailing Healthy Futures. Skinny Raven will match all donations up to $1,000 for the Healthy Futures program.
Come out again two weeks later for the Alaska Heart Run on Saturday, April 23. Choose from a timed 5K, untimed 5K run and walk, or a 3K walk — all on the UAA campus.
Register online before April 3 for the best prices: Adults pay $25 for the timed 5K and $20 for the untimed 5K, children ages 4-18 pay $10 and $5, and little ones under 4 are free.
According to the race website, all money raised at the Heart Run will benefit the American Heart Association to fund research and community programs that help to fight cardiovascular diseases and stroke.
Participants who register for the Alaska Heart Run on or before April 22 will be entered to win a free Alaska Airlines ticket. Children in 6th grade and below will receive a Heart Run medal and there will be awards for the top 5 male, female, and Mended Hearts runners (heart attack or stroke survivors), top fundraising teams and top participating schools.
When you talk about sugary drinks, the most common one that comes to mind is soda.
But it’s not just soda anymore.
Today, sugary drinks can mean many different types of beverages that come loaded with added sugar and other sweeteners. Play Every Day is going to explore how much sugar is hiding in these d
Sugary drinks are the source of almost half of all added sugars consumed by Americans. Several years ago, we talked with Alaska parents of children ages 5 to 12 — in Bethel, Barrow, Nome, Fairbanks and Anchorage. We asked these parents what kinds of sugary drinks they had on their cupboard shelves at home.
The most common drink at home for these families wasn’t soda. It was powdered drink mix.
The powdered drink mix is available in all kinds of flavors, including the popular orange flavor. It can be found stacked up in displays at Alaska rural grocery stores. These drinks are stable on the shelves for months at a time and can be stirred in by the scoopful — turning a healthy beverage (water) into a drink that contains almost as much sugar per ounce as soda.
A 16-ounce glass of a powdered drink can have 11 teaspoons of added sugar. If you serve that to your children at breakfast, they will hit the recommended cap for a whole day’s worth of added sugar before even arriving at school. This January, the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans issued the first-ever recommended limit for the amount of added sugar we eat and drink every day. The recommendation states that everyone — old and young — should limit their added sugar to 10 percent or less of total daily calories. A moderately active 8-year-old boy, for example, should have no more than 10 teaspoons of added sugar each day. That’s less than what’s found in that one glass of a powdered drink mix.
For the best health, skip sugary drinks like powdered mixes and serve your families water or low-fat milk. Learn more about sugary drinks on our website.