AUGUST 24, 2021 — A lot of Alaska kids have challenged themselves to get out and play during the past 10 years: Tens of thousands of kids.
Play Every Day and the Healthy Futures program began working together in 2011. The Play Every Day communication campaign with the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services was brand new at that time. The staff running it wanted to offer a free program that helped children get closer to the daily recommendation of 60 minutes of physical activity — or play every day. It turns out, that program already existed in a nonprofit Alaska-based organization called Healthy Futures.
Still in its early years, Healthy Futures was small, but growing. During the 2003-04 school year, the program offered a free physical activity challenge in about 30 elementary schools. About 2,300 students participated in this early challenge, tracking their daily physical activity. By 2011, 35 schools had signed up to participate. The short-term goal for students was turning in a completed physical activity log for prizes. The long-term goal was — and still is — building the daily healthy habit of physical activity for a lifetime.
Fast forward 10 years to 2021. The Fall Healthy Futures Challenge will begin Sept. 1, 2021, through a continued partnership between Play Every Day and Healthy Futures. This Healthy Futures Challenge is a three-month challenge that takes place each spring and fall for students in kindergarten through sixth grade. Participating elementary-age students will keep a log of their daily physical activity with the goal of being active at least 60 minutes a day for 15 days each month. They can count active time in gym class and during recess.
More schools, students participate over the decade
Over the past 10 years, participation in this challenge multiplied, both among schools and students. By fall 2016, 175 elementary schools across the state registered to participate. About 15,000 individual students tracked their activity and turned in logs. Since then, more than 100 elementary schools signed up during most challenge periods in school districts that serve large communities like Anchorage and Fairbanks and small ones like Aniak, Utqiagvik and Petersburg.
During the 2020-21 school year — taught entirely during the pandemic — almost 100 schools found ways to keep participating, even though students were learning at home during some or most of that year.
“We learned over this past 18 months that our program provides value, no matter what mode of education a school is using,” said Harlow Robinson, executive director for Healthy Futures. “Pandemic or not, children benefit from learning to build lifetime habits around being physically active. Regardless of what the future has in store, Healthy Futures and our great partners will be dedicated to helping Alaska kids make activity a fun, healthy part of every day.”
Sign up for the free physical activity challenge
Over the years, Healthy Futures has continued to offer the challenge for free to schools and students. That’s due to multiple partnerships, including teachers in participating schools who volunteer their time to collect activity logs and hand out prizes to students who meet their activity goals.
Students earn monthly incentives for successfully completing an activity log, and one student from each participating school will be selected to win a grand prize at the end of the school year. Choices for grand prizes have included active games, like Spikeball and Cornhole. Students who complete more months of the challenge will have increased chances of winning a grand prize. Participating schools can earn gym banners for high participation rates and longevity with the program.
Is your child’s school signed up for the Fall Healthy Futures Challenge? It’s not too late for schools to sign up online, making the challenge available to more students across Alaska. To find out more about the Healthy Futures Challenge or to sign up your school or home school program, contact Healthy Futures Coordinator Matias Saari at email@example.com. Support your child to get out and play this year.
Play Every Day is a campaign with the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services to help Alaska children grow up at a healthy weight and encourage families to be physically active and choose healthy foods and drinks. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/playeverydayak or www.playeveryday.alaska.gov.