Teacher Jared Carlson reported 100 percent participation by his 57 students in elementary and middle school for the month of September. He’s planning for 100 percent participation for October, too.
Carlson, the physical education teacher in Galena, taught in Unalakleet last year and watched the students there participate in the physical activity challenge, which encourages young students to be active at least 60 minutes a day for 15 days each month. If students log that activity and turn their log sheets into their schools, they can win prizes and the school can be eligible for grants that support buying physical activity equipment.
“I wanted to find a way to encourage the kids to move every day,” Carlson said. “All of them did it.”
One student moved to Galena after the Challenge had started this fall. Carlson said he had forgotten to tell the student about the Challenge, but no matter: The other classmates made sure the new student knew about it and gave him a log sheet to fill out.
The Fall Challenge will run through November in schools throughout the state. Though the Challenge started in mainly urban school districts in Alaska like Anchorage and Juneau, it has spread to communities small and large in 35 school districts during the past four years.
This year, the nonprofit program Healthy Futures and the state-run Play Every Day campaign partnered with the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium to promote daily physical activity and increased Healthy Futures participation in schools in rural, and often remote, areas of the state. As a result, new schools signed up from communities on the Aleutians Islands all the way to villages above the Arctic Circle. About 185 Alaska elementary schools have signed up for the Fall Challenge.
About 11,000 elementary students across Alaska have already been logging their physical activity this fall. Elementary schools in Savoonga and Kiana participated for the first time this fall, with about a third of students in both schools turning in physical activity logs. Ketchikan Charter School reported high participation, with 95 of 128 students turning in physical activity logs, said Alyse Loran, who oversees the Challenge for the Healthy Futures program.
In Galena, Carlson makes participation in the Healthy Futures Challenge a part of the students’ physical education grade. His elementary students get the nationally recommended amount of physical education of 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. Students also get 15 minutes of daily recess. After that, students find their own way to put in the remaining minutes of activity to meet the 60-minute daily goal for good health. Carlson said they’ve logged their time hiking, fishing, playing soccer, playing hide and seek, even moose hunting.
“Basketball is huge,” he said. Galena also has an indoor swimming pool, which helps the kids stay active throughout the year.
To show support, Carlson fills out a Healthy Futures log and puts it on his classroom door. He writes down his time participating in physical education class, playing volleyball, and walking to and from school – a 2 ½ mile trek each way.
Play Every Day is a campaign with the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services to increase awareness about childhood obesity in Alaska, give tips for raising healthy kids in Alaska, and encourage children and their families to be physically active and choose healthy drinks. For more information, visit www.playeveryday.alaska.gov.