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October 06
Let’s get “Every Kid in a Park”

Attention all fourth graders in Alaska. This is your lucky year!

To celebrate the centennial of the National Park Service, fourth graders and their families can receive an “Every Kid in a Park” pass that gives free access to hundreds of national parks, lands and waters for one year. Each pass says “Use as often as you like through August 2016.”
“Because no matter who you are, no matter where you live, our parks, our monuments, our lands, our waters – these places are your birthright as Americans,” said President Barack Obama on the Every Kid in a Park website.
8-USFWS-Canoe-Alaska.Resized500x.Oct.13.15.jpgPresident Obama recently hiked and boated near glaciers in Kenai Fjords National Park during his visit to Alaska, a state with 23 national parks, preserves, historic areas and monuments. Want some ideas of where to go?
·        Denali – Visit the park with North America’s tallest peak.
·        Gates of the Arctic – Looking for a park with no roads or trails? This would be it.
·        Glacier Bay – This park is loaded with a variety of habitats, from glaciers to rainforests.
·        Katmai – Brown bears can put on quite a show in this park.
·        Kenai Fjords – By foot or by boat, see glaciers, animals and all the bounty of the fjords.
·        Kobuk Valley – Did you know you can find sand dunes in Alaska?
·        Lake Clark- Explore an area with steaming volcanoes and turquoise-colored lakes.
·        Wrangell – St. Elias – Spend time in America’s largest national park at 13.2 million acres.
Here’s how fourth-grade students, or 10-year-olds, can get a “Every Kid in a Park” pass.
1.   Go online to complete a short activity.
2.   After completing the activity, you’ll get a voucher for a free 4th Grade Annual Pass. (If you want, you can exchange your paper vouchers for a keepsake pass at certain national park locations.)
3.   Print the vouchers.
4.   Pick a park! Take your voucher with you to show to the park ranger at the entrance to any national park. If there’s no park ranger, you can put the pass on the dashboard of your family’s car.
11-NPS-Minute Man NHP.Resized500x.Oct.13.15.jpgYou and your families will have free access to the national parks through August 30, 2016. If you visit a national park site that charges entrance fees, the pass will give you free access to all children under 16 years old and up to three adults traveling with the fourth-grader. The pass does not cover camping, boats and special tours.

Now, if you’re in fourth grade, don’t delay. Get online and take just five minutes to get a year’s worth of free fun and adventure in America’s national parks.


Top photo courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; Laubenstein, Ronald.

Bottom photo courtesy of National Park Service.

September 29
Kids tackle sugary drinks in Play Every Day PSA contest

In student-made videos from last year’s Play Every Day PSA contest, kids shared the many ways they like to play – skiing, running, dancing, playing tag, climbing, zig-zagging over the playground, and just goofing off in the snow.

This year’s PSA contest invites students from Alaska public elementary schools to tackle a different message about how sugary drinks like soda, sports drinks and powdered drinks can add up to weight gain, tooth decay and a higher risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease. The main message is simple: drink water instead. 
School-PSA-Poster-2015.jpgMarisa Glieco’s third- and fourth-grade class at Lake Otis Elementary created a video last year. As the class came up with ideas and produced the PSA, she noticed how much kids really do care about their healthy and unhealthy habits, and how they want to share what they’re doing to improve their health.
“I really enjoyed watching the students work together and learn from one another,” she said.  “I believe that this is just a great relatable interactive way to get our students involved with the promotion of healthy habits.”
Her fifth-grade class this year has already narrowed their ideas down to two and will plot them out to see which will work in the 30-second time frame. She pretty much leaves everything from the brainstorming to the editing to the kids.
“They are brilliant and I love how they come up with ideas and piggy back off each other,” she said, “as well as how they start to find out what they would like to do - costume design, set design, directing, acting. It really is something that is difficult to explain - it is just such a passion project for myself and them - that all comes together organically.”
Students from public schools all over the state submitted 11 videos last year, and Play Every Day hopes to see even more this time around.
Creators of the top three videos, along with their schools, will receive gift cards or other prizes that support getting physically active and drinking water. Their PSAs will also appear as public service announcements online and through social media.
The PSA contest is open to all public elementary students and is free to enter. The deadline is 5 p.m., Oct. 30, 2015, and forms and rules are available at Play Every Day.
September 22
Sharing our message with rural Alaska

This fall, the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC) started a new partnership with Play Every Day to get messages about physical activity and healthy drinks to families in rural communities, including some of the most remote communities in the state.

The goal of the Play Every Day campaign is to prevent and reduce childhood obesity — a serious health concern throughout Alaska. About 1 out of 3 children in Alaska is overweight or obese, and 2 out of 3 Alaska adults are overweight or obese. This puts thousands of Alaskans of all ages at risk for weight-related chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Our vision at the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium is that Alaska Native people are the healthiest in the world. Partnering with Play Every Day is a natural fit as we are both working toward the same goal — to prevent serioKeep a Healthy Smile Poster ANTHC. Resized 500x.jpgus chronic health problems like obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular issues that can affect Alaskans from childhood all the way into adulthood,” said Erin Peterson, Wellness Strategies for Health Program Manager with ANTHC. “Play Every Day will be able to share educational materials that promote good health with families from Ketchikan to Unalaska to Point Hope.”
To improve the health of Alaska families, Play Every Day has focused its messages on two key areas: increasing the amount of physical activity that families get each day and reducing the number of sugary drinks they consume (think sodas, sports and energy drinks, powdered drinks and more).
In August and September, ANTHC helped Play Every Day air a TV public service announcement promoting 60 minutes of daily physical activity for the best health. The PSA also encourages children to participate in the free Healthy Futures Challenge.
ANTHC, Play Every Day and Healthy Futures are working together to increase the number of students who take the physical activity challenge that asks students to be active at least 60 minutes a day for 15 days each month. Students can add up all their activity each day — including activity during gym class and recess — to reach the 60-minute goal. Students and schools will win prizes for their participation. Elementary schools throughout Alaska can still sign up for the challenge.  
This month, about 100 schools in rural Alaska and Alaska Native tribal partners will receive Play Every Day posters to hang as reminders for being physically active and choosing water instead of sugary drinks. These posters are all found online here. If you’d like posters to hang in your school, office or business, please email
September 15
Kicking it at the White House with Let’s Move!

Anchorage will get some well-deserved national attention at the White House in a Let’s Move! Cities, Towns and Counties event Sept. 16 that will acknowledge Anchorage and 51 other cities for obtaining five gold medals in five core obesity prevention areas.

Let’s Move! is a comprehensive obesity prevention initiative launched by First Lady Michelle Obama in 2010. Anchorage Assembly Vice-Chair Elvi Gray-Jackson and Chief Fiscal Officer Alden Thern will represent Anchorage at the gathering.
Gray-Jackson will even get the honor of introducing the First Lady.

This recognition of Anchorage’s efforts to reduce obesity results from a task force launched by Gray-Jackson and fellow Assembly member Dick Traini in grayjackson-6839.croppedx500.jpgFebruary 2014. The group included advocates and representatives from nonprofits, the Anchorage School District, community groups, and state and municipal agencies (including Alaska’s Obesity Prevention and Control Program and Play Every Day campaign). The task force documented and helped implement programs that met five Let’s Move! goals:
·         Start Early, Start Smart
·         MyPlate, Your Place
·         Smart Servings for Students
·         Model Food Service
·         Active Kids at Play
“Because of obesity prevention activities already taking place, mostly through efforts of the State and the Anchorage School District, the task force reached its goals in record time,” said Gray-Jackson. “I was impressed to see our community, with such high obesity numbers, taking the lead to improve the situation. Because Anchorage is one of the few cities reaching gold in all five goals, it really puts our community on the map. We are leaders in the Far North.” 
Obesity Prevention has come a long way, said Melanie Sutton, the Curriculum Coordinator for Health & Physical Education with the Anchorage School District. “The recognition of these accomplishments through the Let's Move! Anchorage awards is an affirmation that our efforts have been in the right direction,” she said.
The same day that Gray-Jackson introduces the First Lady, kids in Anchorage and Eagle River will be running in the Beach Lake Area Jamboree at Chugiak High School. The Anchorage School District elementary Jamborees will draw over 6,000 elementary students and even volunteers to cross-country trails across the city this week, according to Sutton.
Allowing kids to do what gives them joy makes all the difference in developing lifetime habits around physical activity, said Dr. Pete Mjos, a physician and advocate who participated in the recent task force. He hopes that national recognition will draw local attention to the 2006 Municipality of Anchorage Ten Year Plan on Obesity and Health.
The plan provides a rigorous strategy for increasing physical activity, improving access to nutritional food, and creating safe and accessible environments for people to get out and play, he said. “For me, the most significant thing is beyond the goal of getting recognized. What has been achieved and recognized should only be the foundation of what still needs to be done and implemented.”
Photo: Assembly Vice-Chair Elvi Gray-Jackson
September 09
Play Every Day kicks off new video contest to promote healthy drinks

Last fall we tried something new. We asked Alaska kids to pick up a video camera and film students choosing fun ways to get out and play.

It was a hit. We received 11 videos from all over the state, so we’re doing it again this year.
With a twist.School-PSA-Poster-2015.jpg
This year, Play Every Day’s video PSA contest challenges elementary school students across Alaska to film a video that motivates kids to put down sugary drinks and choose water or low-fat milk. The contest starts now and the deadline for entries is Friday, October 30.
Play Every Day has been airing PSAs, or public service announcements, on TV for the past year that focus on the large amount of sugar hiding in drinks. It’s not just soda that’s loaded with sugar. Sports and energy drinks, powdered drinks, and vitamin-enhanced drinks come with large amounts of sugar that can lead to serious health problems, like tooth decay, obesity and diabetes. Our PSAs end with our take-home message: Choose healthier drinks. Drink water or low-fat milk.
Our PSAs are all online here. If you held the camera to tell the story, what would your PSA look like?
You have a chance to show us during the next two months. Here’s how it works:
Who: All Alaska public elementary school students in grades K-6. All entries must be supported and sponsored by a teacher or another adult school staff member. Students should take the lead in the creative direction and production, but an adult can advise students and help with the filming.
What: Make a 25-second public service announcement (PSA) video that motivates Alaska kids and families to choose water or low-fat milk instead of sugary drinks like soda, sports drinks and powdered drinks.
When: Start now! Come up with your ideas, film the video and turn it in by 5 p.m. October 30, 2015.
Where: Film at your school or in your communities.
Why: Kids have creative ideas, and we want to see how you would help spread the message about the importance of choosing healthy drinks.
A panel of judges from the Play Every Day campaign will select the top three videos based on overall presentation, creativity, quality and adherence to the contest criteria. The school that films the first-place video will receive a $500 gift card to buy physical activity equipment for the school, plus Play Every Day T-shirts and a reusable Play Every Day water cup for participating students, teachers and the principal. Prizes also are available for the second- and third-place entries.
Want more information about the contest? Please visit our webpage to learn more.
We can’t wait to see what you create!
September 01
Healthy Futures gets kids closer to 60 minutes of Play Every Day

It’s time to lace up those sneakers, zip up that coat and head outside to play. The Healthy Futures Challenge begins this week with a brand new goal for thousands of Alaska kids:

To complete the Challenge, students will do at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day.
HFC photo option 2 Cropped 500x.jpg
This fall, more than 180 Alaska elementary schools — including 61 elementary schools in the Anchorage School District — signed up for the free Healthy Futures Challenge. 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 half the days of the month and log their activity on a simple form, they will win prizes for each month of the Challenge.
“We’re trying to help Alaska kids get closer to the national recommendation of 60 minutes of daily physical activity for the best health,” said Harlow Robinson, executive director of the nonprofit Alaska Sports Hall of Fame. Healthy Futures is the signature program of the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame. 
It’s not too late for Alaska elementary schools to sign up for the Healthy Futures Challenge, which runs September, October and November. Principals or teachers can sign up their schools by visiting the Healthy Futures website this fall.
There are plenty of low-cost and no-cost physical activities around Alaska to help kids hit their 60-minute goal for the Challenge. Families in the Anchorage area can participate in the Tuesday Night Race series, which kicks off on Sept. 8 at Kincaid Park and ends Nov. 3. The series has races for all types of runners, including the youngest participants — called Munchkins — who run and walk a 1-3K course through the woods.
The popular Anchorage School District Elementary Cross-Country Jamborees also count. Many schools prepare for these free fun runs by organizing after-school running clubs; ask your children’s schools how they’re participating.
Here’s the schedule for upcoming Jamborees:
·        Beach Lake Trails (Eagle River) Jamboree – Wednesday, Sept. 16, at the Chugiak High School soccer fields and trails starting at 5 p.m.
·        South Anchorage Jamboree – Saturday, Sept. 19, at Service High School starting at 9:30 a.m.
·        North Anchorage Jamboree – Monday, Sept. 21, at Bartlett High School starting at 5 p.m. 
There are many more physical activity events scheduled all over Alaska. Visit the Healthy Futures calendar to find out what’s happening in your community.
August 26
Bedtime routines help kids sleep, learn and play

Everyone knows the feeling. You can barely keep your eyes open, you keep forgetting things, your energy is low and the minutes take forever to pass — all signs that you didn’t get enough sleep.

With kids, though, inadequate sleep can look a lot different.

“It’s generally the opposite,” said Dr. Ross William Dodge, a pediatric sleep specialist at PEAK Neurology and Sleep Medicine in Anchorage.
“If a 6-year-old misses a nap, they bounce off the walls. The presentation of sleep deprivation is hyperactivity, behavioral opposition — they don’t pay attention, they don’t listen, they don’t do well in school.”GirlHeadInHands350x.jpg

A sleep deficit limits a child’s ability to cope with stress, solve problems and focus on school work, said Rita Kittoe, a public health nurse. An ongoing lack of sleep can lead to weight gain, a reduced ability to fight off colds, and aggressive or inappropriate behavior, she added.
“The body spends 20 to 30 years sleeping over the lifetime,” said Dr. Bill Lucht of the Alaska Sleep Clinic. “It’s not just an accident. Sleep conserves energy. It allows the processing of emotional content. It restores brain function and memory. It allows the body to replenish itself and do reparative work.”
Simply put, a chronic lack of sleep impacts all the body systems, said Dodge, and can create a constant state of inflammation that leads to the digestive system’s poor processing of food and a resulting craving for carbohydrates. The cycle continues when weight gain leads to insufficient sleep, and insufficient sleep to more weight gain.
The amount of sleep people need varies and changes with age, but the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute recommends that school-age children get at least 10 hours a day.
Nationally, between 30 percent and 40 percent of children have some consistent sleep-related complaint, Dodge said, and about 10 to 12 percent have some form of organic or physical sleep problem.
Inadequate sleep in kids can have lifelong health impacts. It affects their response time, as well as their ability to learn and make decisions — increasing the risk of accidents, said Lucht. The metabolic effects can lead to obesity and diabetes, he added, and people who don’t get enough sleep tend to have more social problems and lower incomes than those who do.
What’s a parent to do? Dr.DodgeHeadShot (2013).jpeg

“It’s very, very basic what you do,” said Dodge. “Kids have a hard time when presented with multiple options. That’s where the parents need to set a bedtime routine that doesn’t vary. That doesn’t mean you have to set an alarm clock and have a rigorous schedule, but the general motions need to stay pretty set. Kids will fall into the routine themselves once it becomes a pattern in the household.”
(Photo: Dr. Ross Dodge) 
It can take weeks for everyone in the house to adapt to new routines, but pushing through the hard part will reap great rewards for the entire family. If a child still has problems after following a healthy bedtime routine, talk to a pediatrician or sleep doctor. There could be a medical solution.
Keep in mind that some kids, such as extreme high performers and children with autism, Down syndrome or behavioral disorders, have higher rates of sleep disorders.
Sleep problems are worse now than ever before, said Dr. Lucht, which
“probably reflects the pressures of society, of constantly being in touch with work, of not being able to get away from the office.”
Don’t ignore the symptoms or wait until sleep problems become substantial.  Set a bedtime routine and stick to it; create an environment where noise, light and other factors don’t get in the way of falling to sleep; and see a doctor if sleep problems continue after weeks of following a good routine.
Getting enough sleep doesn’t just make waking up easier; it prepares us for the challenges each day brings.

Learn more about how sleep impacts health at the National Sleep Foundation and the CDC.


Photo courtesy of Dr. Ross William Dodge.

August 18
Making play accessible one ball at a time

Pamela Skogstad of Hope, Alaska, created a special ball. 

She filled it with steel birdshot to give it sound. The weight made the ball roll slower, so it wouldn’t travel too far when kicked.
Just like that, she adapted a ball that shows just how easy and simple it can be to help children of all abilities get physically active.
Skogstad with adapted ball.jpgFor the past 25 years, Skogstad has worked with children in school districts all over Alaska to help physical education teachers and teacher assistants learn how to make physical activity possible for all children, regardless of their physical, emotional or social abilities. Adapting the ball is just one example.  
Growing up in Wisconsin, Skogstad knew from a young age that there was a big demand for professionals to help children with disabilities get physically active. “I realized that — and it was really obvious — that kids with disabilities were excluded from activities and sports,” said Skogstad.  
Why? Because teachers and teaching assistants do not have training in how to include children with disabilities in physical activity, she said, and if they do not have knowledge about disabilities, the expectation and need for play, and activities that should be avoided, it can be difficult and unsettling for them to include children with disabilities.
Skogstad, who has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in adaptive physical education, has partnered with the Alaska Health and Disability Program to visit school districts in Juneau, Fairbanks, Alaska Gateway, Barrow, Kodiak and other regions in Alaska to show PE teachers and teacher assistants how to modify physical activities to include all children. Children of all abilities, she said, benefit from physical activity. It’s all about understanding children’s needs and finding ways to make activity happen for them.
If the whole class is going for a walk, a student who uses a walker can still be involved. He may be able to walk only a quarter of the distance, but he’s still being active with his classmates and friends.
“That’s huge for this student,” Skogstad said.
Skogstad said teachers need to pay special consideration to weather. A child with spina bifida, a birth defect which affects the spinal cord, may have limited sensation of cold temperatures when playing outside.
“You have to really pay attention because they can get frostbite really easy,” Skogstad said.
Kids who struggle with sensory issues, such as children with autism, benefit from partnering with peers during physical activity, she said. Sometimes Skogstad works with children who have many health care needs, such as requiring a wheelchair, suctioning of the airway, and breathing with an oxygen tank.
“This student cannot tell you, ‘Man, it would really be great if I could just stretch my arms,’” she said, but stretching is exactly what that student needs. Skogstad can train PE teachers how to use large balls and other tools to help these children move. 
To learn more about Skogstad’s work, visit

Photo of Pam Skogstad with adapted ball, courtesy of Pam Skogstad.

July 31
Live the Big Wild Life August 13-15

Alaskans learn quickly that summers are short and it’s best to get out and enjoy the glorious days while we have them.

There are so many fun and healthy family activities that we lose count.
August, for example is “running month.” Mosquitoes are almost gone, cottonwoods have seeded, grass is still green and the clover is blooming along running trails.
Anchorage’s Big Wild Life Runs extend over several days from Aug. 13–15 with running events for all levels and ages, including a pasta feed, and inspiring clinics.
If you and your family are already into running, then you’re no doubt aware of the variety of runs available. But, if you are just getting into the occasional jog, and you would like to include your children in a healthy family activity, Big Wild Life Runs is just for you.
 Big.Wild.Life. Marathon 2014-kids-with-medals-960x320.jpg
“Hundreds of kids come out for a chance to get some exercise, meet inspiring athletes in our community and participate in the Family Health and Safety Day on the Delaney Park Strip,” said Race Director Sharron Fisherman.
VIP guests this year are Jeff Galloway and Bart Yasso, and you can do a “run/walk” with them both mornings, Aug. 13 and 14, starting at 7:30 a.m. at the Hotel Captain Cook Lobby, 939 W. Fifth Ave.
Galloway, a 1972 U.S. Olympian (10,000 meters), is a Runner’s World magazine columnist and has run for more than 50 years, over 30 without injury. Yasso is the Chief Running Officer (sounds like a great job!) for Runner’s World and has completed races on all seven continents.
Now for the main event on Aug. 15:
The Kids’ 2K (about 1.2 miles) fun run starts at the Delaney Park Strip near 9th Ave. and G St. at 9:30 a.m., followed by Family Health and Safety Day. Each kid receives a hat and a medal. The event is free, but all participants must register and receive their bibs before the start of the race. Parents may run with their kids and do not need to register. Sign up at ChronoTrack Live. Children must be 12 years of age or younger to participate.

There are too many great events and runs for teens and adults to list here – from the mile run to the 49K ultra – so find the one that fits your family and sign up now.

Photo courtesy Big Wild Life Runs

July 22
A lot to see and do at Creamer's Field in Fairbanks

The forests, wetlands, and fields of Creamer’s Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge in Fairbanks provide a remarkable space for witnessing the diversity of wild lands and wildlife while getting the family outside.

With 2,000 acres, 150 within the city of Fairbanks, the refuge includes accessible trails, bird viewing areas, interpretive materials, and the farmhouse and barns once occupied by the Interior’s largest dairy.
“There is a huge range of habitats in this small area,” said Christine Huff, executive director of Friends of Creamer’s Field, a nonprofit that runs camps, events, nature walks and other eduCreamers-hrm-photobyHerbMelchoir.jpgcational activities in the refuge. “It’s really a pretty unique place. Some people have likened it to Central Park. It’s a chance to feel like you’re getting into the wilderness for a little bit — there’s a whole lot here to see in such a small space.”
Depending on timing, you might see migratory birds, foxes, woodchucks, even a distant moose while wandering through forests with birch, aspen, poplar, tamarack, and spruce. Educational materials cover topics like the role of wildland fire, an explanation of permafrost, and an overview of some of the changes caused by people.
Last week, the refuge reopened the Boreal Forest Trail, which suffered damage during last year’s flooding. “We had so much rain last summer, and parts of our refuge are parts of old riverbed channels, so we have boardwalks that washed out,” explained Huff.
Creamer'sFieldboardwalkrepair.byCraigDorman.jpgThe trails only cover a small portion of the refuge but include an array of habitats from the boreal forest to wetlands and farm roads. Winter snow and ice make much more of the refuge accessible through 40 miles of multi-use trails created by the skijoring and mushing communities. Use of the trails is free.
Nature walks and other activities are free and take place all year, and virtually all activities focus on families and a full range of age groups. 
Daily nature hikes will continue through the summer at 10 a.m. Mondays through Saturdays, and 7 p.m. Wednesdays, and then reduce to twice a week in September. Major events include the upcoming Tanana Valley Sandhill Crane Festival August 28 – 30.

Find out more about the refuge programs and activities by perusing the website or calling (907) 452-5162, where you can also ask about tours of the dairy and current farming operations. You also can visit Friends of Creamer’s Field on Facebook.


Top photo by Herb Melchoir; bottom photo by Craig Dorman.

Courtesy of Friends of Creamer's Field.

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