WASILLA — Christa Hayes can hardly contain how much she likes to see the kids she teaches stay active.
“Being physically active makes you feel good, you have fun,” the Machetanz Elementary physical education teacher said Monday morning. “There’s so many benefits.”
Machetanz is one of six Valley schools — the others are Goose Bay, Trapper Creek and Meadow Lakes elementary schools, Midnight Sun Family Learning Center and Academy Charter School — participating in a statewide program called Healthy Futures. The state reports that 100 schools in Alaska are onboard. It’s essentially a program to incentivize exercise before, during and after school hours. Kids use calendars to keep track of their physical activity each day.
Those activities run the gamut, from snowshoeing to sports practice. Hayes said kids have no trouble coming up with activities, though sometimes they fall into gray areas. Snowmachining is a good example. Digging out a stuck machine is certainly work, but the activity isn’t always so grueling.
“Are you working the snowmobile’s engine or your engine?” is how Hayes puts it to the kids.
Students win a hacky sack for the first activity log turned in, a boomerang for the second and a fancy jump rope for the third.
Hayes said Machetanz has taken it a couple steps farther. Recess has been extended 10 minutes, time kids use to walk around the track as part of Mileage Club. When a club member records 100 miles walked, Hayes said, she takes the student out for a field trip to do something active like ice skating or swimming.
Teachers have even joined in. Blown-up versions of the activity logs are posted in classrooms to keep track of teachers’ activity.
“The kids can be like, ‘ooh, Mrs. Walker, you need to get busy,’” Hayes said.
She said she’s gotten some feedback from the kids and it’s all been positive.
“I think they love it. I sure hope they do,” Hayes said.
Laura Wick’s class of physically active third-graders seems to enjoy it.
Amaya Hervey said she plays in the snow with her siblings.
“Normally we clear off the trampoline and jump,” she said.
She’s earned a hacky sack already and has put in the paperwork to get the boomerang. Asked if she planned on scoring a jump rope as well her eyes lit up. It’s not just a jump rope, she said.
“It counts how many jumps you do.”
Dennis Little said he keeps active by playing football with his dad, who, he joked, isn’t actually that tough a competitor.
“He’s very slow,” he said.
Little also is a fan of a game someone he knows made up called “over the line” the details of which were kind of murky but which seem to involve — exactly what it sounds like — getting a ball over a line.
Trey Whitehead said that since he started playing hockey his activity log has been pretty easy to fill out. Sometimes, though, he logs in time spent playing the video game Just Dance with his 2-year-old sister.
The game — one beloved by Whitehead’s sister and President Barack Obama alike — has players mimic the movements of onscreen characters dancing to popular songs. Healthy Futures says active video games like that can be used on activity logs.
Whitehead is heading to Hawaii this week, but doesn’t plan on taking a vacation from the logs.
“My dad was talking about throwing the football, throwing the baseball,” he said.
Keirsten Doss said she gets a lot of exercise indoors as well as outdoors.
“I chase my sister around the house,” she said. “We chase the cat, too, but she goes where we can’t get her.”
As for outside, that can get kind of tricky in the snow. “We’re climbing the hill in my backyard and you keep sliding,” Doss said. Though, she admits, it’s not always an accidental slide. “Sometimes we mean to because it’s a really good sliding hill.”