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Working in Nebraska - Fitness for Kids

Photo Couresy of Carmen Skare

I’m really excited about the Lincoln Public School district’s new focus on wellness! Thanks to an anonymous donation of $250,000 to the LPS Foundation, a new program entitled the LPS Wellness Challenge kicked off this fall to support efforts of schools to improve the health of students, faculty and families. The donation will fund this new program for five years, and focuses on creating measurable change in the fitness and health of the populations served by LPS. Schools will participate in some friendly competitions for up to $5,000 for their schools by taking part in wellness challenges throughout the school year.

I’m also excited to be a part of the new Wellness Committee at my children’s school, Zeman Elementary. We are creating wellness programs and activities that allow our school to compete for some of the LPS Foundation dollars, as well as qualify for grant money from Fuel Up to Play 60. Zeman has also partnered with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation in the Healthy Schools Program. Our first program, starting in November, is “Play 60” and challenges students to get 60 minutes of activity every day. The classroom with the most minutes at the end of the challenge will win a “Hero’s Breakfast” served at school, along with an extra PE Class/Recess! The winning students will enjoy a great healthy breakfast with some local heros – police officers, firefighters, etc.

The Wellness Committee also has plans to start a morning Fitness Club open to all students, with parent and community volunteers leading the kids in some fun, physical activities in the morning as they arrive at school before the morning bell rings. An after-school Snack Club is also in the works, with a local nutritionist who will teach kids how to make a healthy snack. A Fruit & Veggie challenge is planned for early next semester. To help coordinate our volunteers and keep families informed and motivated, the Wellness Committee created a Shutterfly Classroom site, which we’re excited to launch in the next couple of weeks!

In addition, I’m thrilled that LPS established a new policy this fall that gives K–5 students an extra “physical activity break” each day in additional to their lunch recess. While weather permits, kids are getting outside for a few minutes of teacher-directed movement, followed by a few more minutes of free-play – just as long as they are moving! When cold weather sets in, teachers are planning activities they can do within their classrooms or in the hallways that get the kids up and moving for their physical activity break.

Zeman Elementary has also been working to start official Walking Buses and Biking Trains to school. Unfortunately, due to a devastating fire that burned our district offices to this ground this summer, we are off to a rocky start; but we are pleased to have had record numbers of kids biking and walking to school this fall! We are planning a Bike Safety Night to be held late next winter (before spring weather has us getting our bikes back out!) that will focus on safe biking habits, bike maintenance and tips for specific routes to bike safely to school. We hope to have the timing of a stop light at a major intersection near school adjusted for larger numbers of kids walking and biking to school as well.

We are really off to a great start this fall, working to help our kids become more fit and create healthy habits that last a lifetime. The LPS Wellness Challenge and Alliance for a Healthier Generation will help us track our progress, and I’m anxious to see the difference we are making in these kids lives in just one short school year!

Carmen Skare is the 2011 Mom Congress delegate from Nebraska.  She is passionate about parent involvement in our schools, and making sure that our education system is educating the “whole child”. She's thrilled when she sees kids really loving books, and is proud to be the first Reach Out and Read Volunteer Reader in her community! (She sends thanks to Mom Congress for exposing her to this fantastic organization!)