Three Chain Lake Elementary School 5th graders cleaned up awards in the first-ever Gear Up & Go! Winter Games this year.
The Gear Up & Go! Winter Games were a special competition for Snohomish County 5th graders who participated in a year-long program called Gear Up & Go! Through this program, students track their physical activity and turn it into rewards and friendly social competition. 5th graders from all of Monroe’s public elementary schools are involved.
Monroe winners of the Winter Games are:
• 1st Place – Kai Johanson
• 2nd Place – Parker Butterfield
• 3rd Place – Brianna Fish
• 1st Place – Kai Johanson
• 2nd Place – Brianna Fish
• 3rd Place – Parker Butterfield
Gear Up & Go! is a local initiative created by the Snohomish County Health Leadership Coalition together with school district superintendents and a county-wide working group of district teachers, health and physical education professionals. YMCA of Snohomish County is providing each fifth-grade student with a free school-year membership, as well as unique programming for Gear Up& Go! participants and passes for their families. Snohomish Health District is also a partner and will evaluate the impact of the program on physical activity levels.
Each student wears a PowerPod that looks like a watch to measure all of their activity, whether it’s exercise during PE class or doing the dishes. They track their progress at sync stations at school and YMCAs. A special social media application called Squord allows the students to create an avatar and compete against each other. All students are encouraged to participate, and materials are available to help students with disabilities be involved.
“People as a whole need to remember that an active lifestyle doesn’t have to be a sports lifestyle,” says Sandie Ely, PE teacher at Salem Woods Elementary. “It could be getting your family out for a walk after a dinner, or dancing. Little things over time make the difference.”
Students really enjoy the program. “I think it’s really cool,” says Kai. “Sometimes my friends and I run around the fields just to get points.” Kai’s kindergarten-age brother received his own membership for Christmas, and the boys are enjoying a mild competition.
“It makes us get up,” says Brianna. “It makes me do random things like running up and down the stairs.”
The program was started because data from the Washington State Healthy Youth Survey has shown a steep decline in activity between the sixth grade and high school. The hope of project leaders is that introducing fifth graders to a fun and active lifestyle will encourage the development of lifelong healthy habits.
And there is a strong tie to student learning. “Research shows an association between kids who are physically active and those who are able to be focused and engaged in the classroom,” says Mary Myers, Assistant Director of Health Services for Monroe Public Schools.
Conversation is already taking place on how to expand the program.
“I love this kind of collaborative endeavor across the county,” says Myers. “It’s the first of its kind I’m aware of where there has been not only school district participation but active involvement and support from health care, private enterprise, and youth-serving organizations such as the YMCA and Boys & Girls Clubs.