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GADSDEN, Ala. — Gadsden and Abbeville students reaped the rewards of completing Move Alabama challenges with a bright display of physical activity and fun. Move Alabama is a community-driven initiative aimed to inspire Alabamians to exercise alongside their friends and family in their hometown. To celebrate the culmination of the challenge, two Alabama Cooperative Extension System Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program-Education (SNAP-Ed) regional Extension agents (REA) hosted a color run and a field day at two elementary schools in their communities.
Torie Ennis, the SNAP-Ed REA in Etowah County, hosted the event at Highland Elementary. Meanwhile, Michelle Puckett, the SNAP-Ed REA in Barbour and Henry counties, coordinated her second color run in two years at Abbeville Elementary Schools during a school-wide field day.
Ennis said the color run at Highland Elementary School in Gadsden was a culmination of an entire year of movement challenges throughout the school year. The journey started with Body Quest, a childhood obesity prevention initiative that empowers third graders and their parents to make healthier choices. Within Body Quest, students learn about nutrition and physical activity.
Move Alabama kicks off in the spring—toward the end of the school year. The weather is typically warmer and Alabamians of all ages are eager to get outside.
Students can take home challenge flyers with 25 physical activity challenges to complete individually or with their families. This year the challenge was from March 1 to April 30.
At Highland, students also participated in a month-long Move Alabama challenge in their classroom, using a daily physical activity tracker. Each classroom received a poster that allowed them to track and check off their daily movement. For 30 days, students had fun completing a variety of brain breaks. These breaks included physical activity videos, games and circuits that included multiple simple movements combined to make one challenge.
When the students completed the break, they were able to move their tracker toward their goal. After 30 days, if the class participated in a break each day, they celebrated with the color run.
Every class at Highland Elementary participated in the run.
“We are doing direct education through Body Quest as well as changing the way we write our policies by encouraging brain breaks and promoting physical activity as a reward,” Ennis said. “I believe we need to have this multi-layer approach to achieve a bigger impact in the schools we are engaged in.”
The grand finale is the color run. Prior to the run, Ennis led a warmup session to avoid any injuries. She led the students in simple activities like jumping jacks, toe touches and push-ups to get the students’ heart rates up.
During the run, students passed several stations where multi-colored powder was tossed onto their shirts, resulting in a vibrant display.
After the run, students cooled down with water and moved on to the field day portion of the schools event. Students were divided by grade and participated in hula-hoop races, sack jumping races, a football kicking competition and tug-of-war.
“To make a lasting impact, kids need things to click for them,” Ennis said. “Learning about nutrition and exercise in the classroom and then applying it into a fun field day makes it click. It’s the ultimate hands-on experience, one they will hopefully never forget.”
Jana Lipscomb, an Expanded Food & Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) educator, who was also an integral part of Move Alabama in the community and at Highland Elementary School, said creating positive outdoor experiences for children is vital.
“We teach that we should be getting 60 minutes of activity a day, but we want them to have fun while doing their chosen activities,” Lipscomb said. “Some kids love kicking and tossing a football, some love to run and some just want to dance.”
The color run at Abbeville Elementary was part of the school’s field day celebration. Puckett said SNAP-Ed’s color run was a station and classrooms that completed challenges throughout Move Alabama were eligible to participate.
Puckett said students ran for 30 minutes while having colored powder thrown onto their white shirts. During a water break, Puckett reminded students to continue being active throughout the summer with friends and family. She discussed the importance of at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day to help your mind, body and overall health.
“We want to keep the lessons from Body Quest and physical activity at the front of their minds,” Puckett said. “We took the time to also challenge kids to keep moving throughout the summer.”
Puckett said the color run at Abbeville Elementary could be replicated because it serves many purposes. She said it’s a great way to reward students in a healthy way for completing challenges. It can also connect the community to the school by bringing in volunteers to be partners in the effort.
Ennis chose Highland Elementary as the location for the color run and field day because Alabama Extension already has a strong presence within the school’s walls. SNAP-Ed, EFNEP and Alabama 4-H all provide programming for students.
Lipscomb said Alabama Extension’s reach at Highland Elementary was a big factor in making it the right place for the color run and field day.
“Doing activities where many areas of Extension collaborate and are represented helps raise awareness in the community for our programs, which I am always happy to do,” Lipscomb said.
Ennis wanted to make sure that the event at Highland Elementary was the best it could be. She believed that by focusing on one school and being successful there, she could create a model for other schools.
“I could make a small change, but my goal is to make a lasting impact,” Ennis said. “Every place I go deserves 100% of me. I want to give Highland Elementary the best Extension has to offer.”
For more information about Alabama Extension SNAP-Ed programming, visit www.LiveWellAlabama.com or visit Live Well Alabama on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.