West Liberty University partnered with West Liberty Elementary School and other local organizations to celebrate Every Kid Healthy Week and encouraged families to take the Screen-Free Week Challenge.
Launched by Action for Healthy Kids (AFHK) in 2013, Every Kid Healthy Week is an annual observance in April that promotes the importance of sound nutrition, regular physical activity, and health-promoting programs in schools. Why? Because healthy kids learn better!
West Liberty Elementary School Principal Stacy Greer reports, “Each night this week, students will have the opportunity to participate in free events that promote physical activity, health, and family interaction. We are also celebrating Every Kid Healthy Week by encouraging families to take part in the Screen-Free Week Challenge.”
Promoted by Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood since 1994, this is highlighted as “a week to turn off televisions, smartphones, tablets, and gaming consoles for seven days and turn on the world around them. Screen-Free Week is a chance for children to read, play, think, create, be more physically active, and to spend more time with friends and family.”
Every child that participates in the challenge will receive a free ticket to a minor league baseball or softball game at CONSOL Energy Park, courtesy of the Washington Wild Things. Austin Snodgrass and the Washington Wild Things Mascot kicked off the celebration at an assembly at West Liberty Elementary School this week. Participating students also received raffle tickets to win other prizes.
This celebration is the end of a year-long implementation of an initiative called “Eagles Move to Improve” at West Liberty Elementary School. With grants funded by Action for Healthy Kids and the Highmark Foundation, the school purchased curriculum and materials to promote physical activity and to integrate math, science, reading, and social studies lessons with movement. They also purchased more physical education and recess equipment.
Diana Rice, West Liberty Elementary School Wellness Team leader and certified Physical Activity Leader by Let’s Move Active Schools, has partnered with Kathleen Wack, Assistant Professor of Health and Physical Education to lead the initiative. In fact, it’s not unusual to see Rice’s students dancing through the hallways when moving to art or music class instead of walking in a line, or jumping up for a quick 5-minute brain energizer in between math and reading. “I have seen such a positive difference in my classroom after I add some movement. Students are more focused, get along better, and stay on-task longer.”
She stated, “We have worked hard to change the culture of our school to be healthy and physically active. This includes providing before- and after-school physical activity programs, promoting active recess strategies, integrating movement in the classroom, and giving physical activity rewards for good behavior. We also encouraged our parents and community members to become more active with exercise programs like Zumba and Yoga. Special events for families like Every Kid Healthy Week and the Lion’s Club Mobile Eye Screening Unit also helped us promote adult wellness. The partnership with West Liberty University and other community organizations has helped in the success of these programs.”
Every Kid Healthy Week activities were meant to bring families together and were held each night this week. Chelsea Coleman, WLU Community Health intern who helped to organize the events, stated, “We have so much planned for kids and families this week so that they can do something fun besides watch screens.”
On Monday, Melissa Hudson, Assistant Professor of Health and Physical Education, and her School Health Instruction and Legalities class students organized the “West Liberty Taste Test Challenge.” Children had five tasks: taste new food at Vibrant Veggies, Fabulous Fruit, Marvelous Milk, Hydration Station, and Fuel up for Fitness stations. Students tried exotic fruits like dragon fruit, papaya, mango, rambutan, coconut, kiwi, kumquat, and pepino melons. Vegetables in every color of the rainbow were presented, all with healthy dips. Students could try drinks like coconut milk, almond milk, as well as vitamin water and coconut water. Students could also compare energy bars and energy drinks. Hudson stated, “It was a great night—children loved the adventure of trying something new. I think everyone who attended tried something that they had never tasted before, and the college students gained good experience in health education and in working with families.”
A Health Fair organized by Courtney Huffman, Professor of Dental Hygiene, was planned for Tuesday night. Dental Hygiene students provided oral health screenings, BMI and blood pressure testing, “Rethink your Drink,” tobacco awareness, and yoga. Free toothbrushes and toothpaste were provided. Huffman commented, “There is a link between oral health and overall health. Our students emphasized this and encouraged children to make healthy choices.”
Wednesday night was “West Liberty on Wheels!” West Liberty University closed down the parking lot by the Myers Maintenance Building from 5:30 to 7:00 pm to make a course where students could ride bicycles, scooters, skateboards, or rollerblade.
Kathleen Wack, Assistant Professor of Physical Education and Health organized the event with the now deceased Captain Tom Hostutler from the WLU Campus Police. Deborah Dague, Campus Minister and West Liberty Volunteer Fire Department member, led the group in a moment of silence in memory of Captain Hostutler. In addition, Health and Physical Education students donated money to present a child with a new bicycle from Wheelcraft Bicycles, LTD in Hostutler’s memory.
Members of the West Liberty Volunteer Fire Department, led by Chief Bill Cox, brought the fire trucks and ambulances for students to explore. They also led students through the fire safety house, provided by the Brooke County Fire Department, to teach children about fire safety. Trained specialists from the Northern Regional Highway Safety Program provided free car seat safety inspections. Deputy Matthew Hronek from the Ohio County Sheriff’s Office discussed bicycle safety and rules of the road, along with Officer J.R. Olejasz from WLU Campus Police. Wheelcraft Bicycle had technicians on hand to service bicycles and perform helmet safety checks.
On Thursday night, families celebrated the arts. Children, college students, parents, and grandparents all came together for a Dance through the Decades Family Dance Night at the elementary school from 5:30 to 7:00 PM. Wack’s Health and Physical Education majors and community education majors had been teaching elementary students dances all week long in physical education class. Students from each grade level, dressed in period costume, led the entire group in popular dances from the 1950s to the 2000s. Students also showed off their art work in the school art show, organized by art teacher Ashley Mazzella.
Friday night concluded the week with a 1-mile fun run and the Team MoJo 5K Walk/Run race throughout the WLU campus. The Exercise Physiology Club, organized by Brandon Bolduc, Instructor of Exercise Physiology, hosted the event. The fun run was free, but the 5K race costed $15 per person. Registration started at 3 PM. The 5K Race begined at 3:30 PM and the Fun Run followed at approximately 4 PM. All proceeds benefit the local Team MoJo Foundation.
The mission of the Team MoJo Foundation is to create opportunities for underprivileged young people in the areas of education, art, music, sports, life skills, and other worthwhile endeavors by providing support, guidance, and financial assistance. Candidates for Team MoJo Foundation support are identified by networking with school administrators, teachers, counselors and coaches, as well as churches, government officials, community leaders, and others who share the foundation’s vision.
Wack summed up the festivities by stating, “Celebrating Every Kid Healthy Week is a way to highlight not only the importance of health and physical activity in youth; it’s a great chance to reflect on how screens tend to dominate our lives. Unfortunately, West Virginia is the unhealthiest state in the nation according to multiple health indicators, so it’s important that we help children to discover the joys of physical activity, turn off screens, and establish healthy habits to keep ‘Every Kid Healthy.’ We are thrilled to partner with West Liberty Elementary School and so many university departments and community organizations. It gives our college students valuable experience in working with children, and is a great opportunity to give back and make a difference in our community.”