Hi! I’m Afterschool Andy, here to help you answer the tough questions that come up for child and youth development professionals. Maybe you’re not sure if you handled a situation with a youth in the best way, or you need career advice, or are confused by Washington State policy. Don’t let my name limit your questions – I’m experienced in out-of-school time, youth development, summer programs and more!
DEAR AFTERSCHOOL ANDY:
I’m worried about the kids in my summer program. We work mostly on their reading skills and play some theater games, but we don’t have space for them to run around or play sports outside. I feel bad keeping them inside when it’s sunny and a lot of my kids are overweight. I wish we could build a playground, but my director says there is no way to afford that. When I drive into work in the morning, I see the elementary school playground just sitting there empty and I’m really jealous. Anyway, can you tell me what are some good ways to get some quick exercise for kids inside?
From: I Need Some Ideas, Dear Educator
Have you tried Zumba? It’s tons of fun! But let’s not give up on getting those kids outside just yet.
Your jealousy of the school playground is leading you on the right track! Why is there an empty playground when there are kids who could use it? If this playground is near your summer program, you could approach the school and ask if your students could use it during certain times of the day. I recommend you look into what are called “shared use agreements” (or “joint use”) with the school district. They may say “sure, no problem” or they may want to enter into a more formal agreement. Before you approach the school or your director, with this idea I HIGHLY recommend you read the Childhood Obesity Prevention Coalition’s toolkit “Shared Use for Washington State.” It walks you through the steps and provides multiple fantastic examples of shared use agreements. It may seem really complicated at first – often times concerns like liability get into the way. The Toolkit will walk you through any concerns you or the school have. It may take a little bit of work up front, but it’s worth it for your students to receive regular outdoor exercise!
It’s no surprise that many of your students are overweight. In Washington, sadly one out of every four tenth grade students is overweight or obese.
Thank you for caring for our children.
P.S. Thank you to Jennifer Trott of the Childhood Obesity Prevention Coalition for her help answering this question.
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