Archive for the ‘SPARK Blog’ Category


SPARKecademy Movie Posters – Get a glimpse of the SPARKecademy stars!

Wednesday, May 27th, 2015

SPARKecademy is an online professional development resource for K-12 Physical Educators, Elementary Classroom Teachers, Early Childhood Educators, After School Program Providers, and School Health Professionals.

Click Here to learn more about SPARKecademy – coming end of June!

Each week leading up to the SPARKecademy launch we will release a movie poster featuring the SPARKecademy stars! Follow SPARK on Facebook and Twitter to see the posters first!

SPARKecademy Movie Posters   Get a glimpse of the SPARKecademy stars!SPARKecademy Movie Posters   Get a glimpse of the SPARKecademy stars!SPARKecademy Movie Posters   Get a glimpse of the SPARKecademy stars!SPARKecademy Movie Posters   Get a glimpse of the SPARKecademy stars!Three-Stooges FBSPARKecademy Movie Posters   Get a glimpse of the SPARKecademy stars!SPARKecademy Movie Posters   Get a glimpse of the SPARKecademy stars!

The Best Apps for Keeping Kids Active

Wednesday, May 6th, 2015

The Best Apps for Keeping Kids Active

It’s safe to say that the world around us is becoming increasingly mobile and tech-oriented. People of every age are falling in love with their smartphones, tablets, and laptops, which can result in a more lethargic lifestyle and shortened attention spans. Having a healthy approach to life prevents your children from packing on the pounds during adolescence and also gives them the tools they need to set up a life of choices catered to their enhanced wellbeing. According to a study published by the New England Journal of Medicine, the fate of a child’s weight can be determined by the time they turn five.

We all know that raising a healthy child is important, but that task can become more trying when you can’t pry them away from their smartphones. Perhaps the best way to deal with the issue is to use technology to your advantage.

Although too much screen time can be unhealthy for your children, innovative new concepts are emerging to help parents prompt their kids into physical activity. Health, nutrition, and fitness applications provide an education into how the body works, what makes it run better, and more, while feeding your child’s technology addiction.

Following are some of our favorite apps for keeping kids active.

Super Stretch Yoga HD

Super Stretch Yoga HD is a free application for the Apple iPad that works to teach children fun and easy yoga moves that they can try out themselves. Instead of simply watching cartoons on their iPad, your child can start trying out poses modeled by children of their own age, letting them stretch out their limbs and show off their skills. The application includes a total of twelve different yoga poses for your child to perfect, each with its own description and accompanying video.

Yoga is a great hobby to get your child interested in physical wellbeing and fitness. Not only does it improve strength and flexibility, but it’s also likely to be something that they continue to enjoy as they grow to later life. The videos included with this application offer reassurance to keep beginners trying time and after time, as well as advice on the best time of day to try out certain poses. You can even play the videos on your television with an Apple TV.

Strava

Are you the kind of parent that regularly walks their child to school or goes for small adventures on the weekend? Strava is an application that allows you to map your walks, bike rides, and hikes and time each journey, so you can show your children how much they’ve accomplished in a certain scope of time.

Typically, this application doesn’t market directly to children, but it is a great way to make walking to school and traveling to new places more fun. The further you go and the more you do, the more of an excuse your child has to be proud of themselves. You even get little notifications when you create a new personal best in your time, allowing you and your little one to celebrate each milestone together.

Iron Kids

Iron Kids is an application lovingly developed by the American Academy of Pediatrics to help children eight years and up get more exercise as they grow. In 2013, the Iron Kids application won it’s very own Web Health Award for providing young athletes with everything they need to safely and effectively improve their fitness, balance, and strength.

The app centers around nine exercises that involve the lower body, upper body, and core. Videos are included to help your kids understand how they can do the exercises and how those exercises benefit them.

Smash Your Food HD

An interactive and informative game intended to teach your children important real-life skills, such as how to read nutrition labels and what they should be eating, Smash Your Food HD is an impressive application for kids. Your child will enter their age and how much exercise they regularly get so that the app can calculate how much salt, sugar, and oil they should be consuming.

With the nutritional labels given for common fast foods as a guide, your kids will then need to estimate how much oil, sugar and salt is in each item. After they’ve submitted their answers, they’ll be able to find out whether the food they’re looking at is healthy for them. Finally, your young ones will get the opportunity to smash the food to pieces, watching a can of soda rip apart or a jelly donut burst!

Fitness Kids

Fitness Kids is an application designed by experts in the fields of pedagogy, physical education, and health. Packed with interesting exercises for children between the ages of 6 and eight, this app teaches children each movement through the use of colorful, engaging videos.

What makes Fitness Kids a little different from other applications is that it offers funky music and colorful backgrounds for a stimulating experience, and the exercises themselves are fun to do. Your kids will keep coming back for more as they figure out their favorite movements, such as the Conga or the Crab. Your children can also engage in competition with their friends, and their skill levels will improve as they continue to progress.

Keep Moving!

Getting your child to give up on technology might be an impossible task, but using that technology to your advantage could provide a safe and easy way to invest in their health. Think about how much time your child currently spends in front of a computer screen and ask yourself if you’d feel better knowing that they were playing a game designed to get them learning and moving.

The earlier your child starts to get in shape, the more chance they have of reducing their risk of certain illnesses. Kids who are frequently active experience:

  • A lower chance of becoming overweight
  • Stronger bones and muscles
  • Reduced risk of type 2 diabetes
  • Potentially lower cholesterol and blood pressure levels
  • Leaner physiques
  • Improved confidence

On top of this, the more active a child is, the better he or she will sleep, deal with emotional challenges, and manage physical strain.

Let us know if you’ve discovered any great applications tailored to children that get your young ones moving more often.

Resources:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/brad-spirrison/kids-health-fitness-apps_b_3580013.html
http://www.parents.com/fun/sports/exercise/10-benefits-of-physical-activity/
http://www.pcadvisor.co.uk/features/digital-home/3520917/how-much-screen-time-is-healthy-for-children/
http://www.naturalnews.com/043761_weight_fate_childhood_obesity_healthy_eating.html
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/super-stretch-yoga-hd/id456108738?mt=8
http://www.parents.com/fun/sports/exercise/the-benefits-of-yoga-for-kids/
http://www.strava.com/
https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/iron-kids/id552037626?mt=8
http://www.foodnme.com/smash-your-food/
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/fitnesskids/id534467673?mt=8

10 Ways to Promote Safe Biking for National Bike Month

Friday, May 1st, 2015

bike riding

Around the country, bicyclers have been supporting National Bike Month every May since 1956. Sponsored by the League of American Bicyclists, May gives experienced and novice cyclists a chance to participate in bicycling events, try out biking for the first time, and promote safe bicycling practices. Want to participate in the fun? Here are 10 ways you can promote safe biking during National Bike Month.

Know and Follow Bike Safety Rules

Before you start having too much fun, you’ll want to review what safe biking actually entails. BikeLeague.org shares a list of safety tips and advice on how to maintain your bike. A few tips from their list to keep in mind include:

  • Keep your tires inflated to the pressure listed on your tire.
  • Inspect your brakes frequently to ensure they work properly.
  • In addition to always wearing a helmet, make sure your helmet fits properly.
  • If riding at night, be sure to wear bright and reflective colors.
  • When riding on a trail, stay to the right, pass on the left, and ensure you use a signal—such as a horn or your voice—to let other riders know when you’re about to pass.

Once you’ve reviewed these safety rules, be sure you’re following them at all times. Not only will it set an example for young riders, but it will ensure your safety along with the safety of others around you.

Help Educate Fellow Bikers and Non-Bikers About Rules and Etiquette

Now that you’re aware of common bike safety rules, you can share your knowledge with others. As you gear up for riding this May, make sure anyone else riding with you understands these safety rules. For instance, it might be a no-brainer to wear a helmet, but some riders—especially those who don’t bike often—may not know to call out “On your left” when passing other riders.

It’s also worth discussing these rules and etiquette with non-bicyclers as well. While they may never go riding, they’re likely to encounter other riders, and it’s worth knowing what “On your left” means before a biker passes you.

Print Out Promotional Materials to Share With Friends

If you’re not sure how you can help this National Bike Month, it’s as simple as printing out promotional materials and sharing them with family and friends or on promotional bulletin boards. These materials can cover anything from promoting biking events to sharing infographics covering safe biking practices. If you’re not sure where to get this material, check out BikeLeague.org’s promotional materials for National Bike Month.

Wear a Helmet

It’s one thing to know you should wear a helmet. It’s another to actually put it on. The Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute reports that bicycle helmet use can reduce head injury risk by 85 percent. While it may seem like you don’t need one since you don’t reach high speeds while biking, accidents between cars and bicyclists are a real possibility.

As the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute reports, “During the past few years, no more than 17 percent of fatally injured bicyclists were wearing helmets.” This again highlights the importance of helmet use among riders of all ages.

Use Reflectors

PedBikeInfo.org reports that the most common source of injury for bikers is being hit by a car. On average, 69 percent of biker fatalities are in urban areas where there’s a lot of traffic. One way to add an extra layer of safety to your biking practices is to use reflectors. This will help drivers see you more clearly, especially at times of low visibility.

Most bicycles already come with reflectors, but it’s worth testing them out to ensure they function properly. You can also add reflector tape to your pedals and other areas of your bike to ensure a higher level of visibility. You might also consider an electric flashing reflector that will help drivers see you from a distance at night and in fog.

Keep Your Bike in Shape

Not only do you need to protect your body with a helmet and biking gear, but you’ll also want to protect your bicycle. A worn out bike can lead to faulty brakes, broken chains, and other problems that can cause wipeouts and crashes. A few tips to keep in mind:

  • Keep bolts, bearings, and chains greased.
  • Test your tire pressure frequently, and pump your tires if needed.
  • Before taking off, test your brakes. Replace your pads once there’s about a ¼ of the pad left.
  • Store your bike in a clean, dry place during the off-season to reduce rust and wear.

If all else fails, take your bicycle into a bike mechanic regularly to ensure everything is in working order. Check out more maintenance tips at REI.com.

Reach Out to Your Government for Better Biking Conditions

If there are a lot of people in your town who bike, it’s important that they’re biking under safe conditions. Oftentimes riders are left to share the road with cars, which can lead to accidents. Other times, sidewalks aren’t wide enough for bikers and pedestrians to share.

If you really want to make a difference this National Bike Month, talk with your local government about creating better biking conditions in your town, such as by adding a bike lane in areas of high traffic. Petitioning for bike lanes close to schools is a good way to encourage students to ride their bikes to school while providing a safe environment to do so.

Volunteer at a National Bike Month Event

National Bike Month is packed with fun events for bikers of all ages. May 15, for instance, is National Bike to Work Day this year, and May 6 is National Bike to School Day. Even if you can’t find a National Bike Month event in your area, you can always plan one yourself! BikeLeague.org shares a guide to helping you plan an event in your neighborhood. Some ideas include bike safety workshops, training classes, and bike races.

Host a Safety Assembly at Your Local School

Whether you’re a student looking to spread the word of safe bicycling or a concerned parent or teacher, you can reach a lot of potential cyclers by hosting a bicycling safety assembly at your school. See if you can get your local district to agree to a presentation. Share statistics, videos, and stories with students, and try to get both teachers and students actively involved.

Participate in a Ride Smart Class

The League of American Bicyclists has been focused on education since the 70s. Their Ride Smart class teaches bikers more about riding, and it helps connect them with other cyclists in their area. Take a look at BikeLeague.org’s map to find a Ride Smart class in your area.

We’re avid cyclists at SPARK PE and believe that safety is a priority for any physical activity. While bikers should be promoting safety practices all year round, National Bike Month helps raise awareness of these issues, and you can leverage this nationwide event to get the word out. What will you do this May to promote safe cycling practices?

Sources:

http://bikeleague.org/bikemonth

http://www.helmets.org/stats.htm

http://www.pedbikeinfo.org/data/factsheet_crash.cfm

http://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/bike-maintenance.html

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

SPARK Announces Dr. Kymm Ballard as New Executive Director

Tuesday, April 28th, 2015

SPARK is pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Kymm Ballard as next Executive Director of SPARK!  As the world’s most researched and field-tested physical and health education program, SPARK is a key component of School Specialty’s Physical Education offering. Kymm assumes her new role as Executive Director, following her distinguished leadership in the program as Partnership Development Specialist since 2009.  Kymm succeeds Paul Rosengard, the SPARK “Godfather”, who recently retired.

“I would like to congratulate Kymm on her well-deserved promotion and have every bit of confidence in her ability to continue to enhance SPARK programs and our overall growth in the Physical Education (PE) category,” stated Ed Carr, Executive Vice President and Chief Sales Officer. “Kymm has been a strong advocate for physical and health education for decades and brings tremendous operational and managerial experience that serves SPARK and School Specialty well.  I would also like to take the opportunity to thank Paul for his outstanding service to the program over the years.  We have a strong team in place and together, are committed to building upon SPARK’s leadership position in research-based physical education and advancing our wide assortment of physical education solutions.”

Dr. Ballard’s professional experiences include more than a decade as a PE teacher and athletic director, several years as an administrator and the co-developer of North Carolina’s first high school demonstration school.  She is the former PE, Athletics and Sports Medicine Consultant with the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction; and has drafted, advocated and promoted the Healthy Active Children Policy of the NC State Board of Education and the state’s Essential Standards for Physical Education. Dr. Ballard also supported the North Carolina Alliance for Athletics, Health, Physical Education, Recreation, Dance, and Sport Management (NCAAHPERD-SM) to retool the physical education teachers with SPARK statewide training the trainer model, more currently known as “IsPod” (In School Prevention of Diabetes).

In providing guidance to schools and other national organizations to help secure resources for quality PE programs, she served as the President of the Society of State Directors for Health, Physical Education and Recreation, as well as the Chair for the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) Public Relations Committee, among other committees. In addition, Dr. Ballard currently serves as the Coordinator of Health and Physical Education at Campbell University.  In her Partnership Development role at SPARK, she has also been successful in helping to initiate and facilitate millions of dollars to schools to address obesity prevention.

Among the many awards that Dr. Ballard has received are the National P.E. 4 Life Advocate of the Year award for her work in North Carolina and Washington, D.C.; the Physical Education Teacher of the Year and Health Education Teacher of the Year Awards in North Carolina; the North Carolina Coach of the Year; the highest Honor Awards from NCAAHPERD and Society of State Directors for Health, Physical Education and Recreation; the Channing Mann, National Administrator of the Year from NASPE; and lifetime membership to the North Carolina PTA.  She continues to be recognized by her industry peers, health organizations and her SPARK colleagues for her commitment to advancing physical fitness for children.

“I am honored for this opportunity to serve the SPARK program and School Specialty in an even greater capacity and will continue my focus on advancing our physical education solutions for educators and children. With the achievements that SPARK has made over the last 25 years in motivating students to engage in a lifelong love of activity and healthy lifestyle choices, I firmly believe we are well-positioned for future success.  I look forward to working more closely with the team to drive advancements in quality research-based physical education in schools and organizations around the country and world – with the goal of keeping our children and communities strong and productive.”

“I couldn’t be more pleased that Kymm is following in my footsteps and becoming SPARK’s 2nd E.D.!  Placing a physical educator at the wheel demonstrates SPARK’s commitment to developing the best PE resources and doing things the right way; for kids, for teachers, and for public health. I’m excited for our worldwide SPARK family and know SPARK will be bigger and better than ever in the months and years to come,” stated Paul Rosengard.

Please join us in welcoming Kymm as the new SPARK Executive Director!  Follow Kymm on Twitter @KymmBallard and stay up to date with all of the news from SPARK @SPARK_Programs.

Kymm and Annika

Kymm Ballard and women's professional golf icon Annika Sorenstam work together to promote healthy, active lifestyles for children

[INFOGRAPHIC] Youth & Yoga

Thursday, March 12th, 2015

Yoga isn’t just for grown ups anymore. It serves as another fun, physical activity for kids and it has mental and physical benefits. Check out some of these yoga poses in this infographic!

Youth & Yoga - Kids Yoga Poses

Share This Infographic On Your Site

SPARK Teams Up with ICAN Foundation

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014

SPARK Teams Up with ICAN Foundation to Rush Past Childhood Obesity with New Orleans Saints Running Back Pierre Thomas

Partnership aims to decrease “screen-time” and increase physical activity both during school and after school with quality PE programming and community events

SPARK™, provider of the world’s most-researched physical education programs, is partnering with ICAN Foundation to make an immediate impact on the lives of students in Illinois, Louisiana and Mississippi. SPARK and ICAN Foundation will work together to help schools and community centers raise funds or apply for and win grants in order to implement SPARK’s high-quality physical education curricula or afterschool program.

SHAPE America recommends that school-aged children receive at least 60-minutes of physical activity per day. This is hard to achieve if students spend most of the eight-hour school day sitting behind desks. SPARK fights this sedentary school model by making classroom instruction, PE classes and after school programs more physically active. Similarly, the increased amount of time youth spend using electronics is impeding on physical activity after school and on the weekends. Through its community programs and initiatives, ICAN Foundation is helping create more active lifestyles to demonstrate how being active can be fun and rewarding.

“After learning about the similarities of our organizations and the fact that SPARK is the number-one research-based health organization in our country, I knew a partnership was necessary,” said Pierre Thomas, New Orleans Saints running back and founder of ICAN Foundation. “This will be a great opportunity for everyone involved, especially the students.”

“Working with ICAN Foundation is the perfect marriage of ideas for SPARK,” said Paul Rosengard, executive director of SPARK. “With the foundation’s deep community connections in Illinois, Louisiana and Mississippi, and SPARK’s 25 years of experience in schools nationwide, we make a great team. With a joint goal of increasing the amount of physical activity youth receive every day, we know that together we can make an impact on those communities.”

How Can You Help?
Together, ICAN and SPARK will implement research-based programing to help combat childhood obesity in Illinois, Louisiana and Mississippi. Your support, partnership, or donation can assist us in our efforts. Please contact us to learn more and support the effort to combat childhood obesity.

Dr. Kymm Ballard
SPARK Partnership Development Manager
(336) 263-3646
kymm.ballard@sparkpe.org

Vincent Calabrese
ICAN Foundation
(312) 285-9384
calabresevm@gmail.com

About ICAN Foundation
ICAN Foundation was founded by Pierre Thomas, New Orleans Saints running back, in response to the ongoing problem with childhood obesity. ICAN Foundation was established to prevent and educate the children and their parents about the seriousness of childhood obesity in the United States. www.believeican.org

About SPARK
SPARK is a collection of research-based Physical Education, After School, Early Childhood, and Coordinated School Health programs for educators serving Pre-K through 12th grade students. Since 1989, SPARK has provided curriculum materials, teacher training, and consultation to over 100,000 teachers and youth leaders, representing many thousands of schools, organizations, and agencies worldwide. SPARK also helps educators find physical education grants. For more information on SPARK, visit www.sparkpe.org or email spark@sparkpe.org or call 1-800-SPARK-PE.

ICAN Foundation-1

Healthy Back to School Lunches

Friday, October 3rd, 2014

Beyond PB & J: 5 Healthy Back-to-School Lunch Ideas

Packing a lunch for your child can feel monotonous at times, and by the second month of school, you may feel like you are out of fun, healthy, and creative ideas. Still, sending your child off to school with a homemade lunch ensures that his or her belly will be filled up with good-for-you ingredients to fuel all the learning and playing that happens in class and in physical education.kids_lunch

If you feel stuck in the peanut-butter-and-jelly school lunch rut, take a look at these healthy options instead.

Homemade “Lunchables”

Think outside the typical fare and let your kids create their own mini sandwiches with a variety of goodies, including:

  • Lean protein, like turkey pepperoni or even strips of baked chicken from dinner the night before
  • Low-fat cheese, like mozzarella
  • 100% whole grain crackers
  • A healthy dip, like hummus

You can even add in some veggies, like lettuce and tomato, to give their lunch some added flavor. Add in some apple slices with peanut butter and a few chocolate chips for dessert. The awesome thing about homemade “Lunchables” is that the combinations and ingredient options are endless!

Chicken Noodle Soup

Make a wise one-time purchase of a high-quality thermos that will keep soup nice and warm until the lunch bell rings, and now healthy, convenient soup can be a regular lunchtime favorite! You can make homemade soup ahead of time on the stovetop or in the crock pot and have plenty of leftovers to last throughout the week. Use wholesome ingredients, like:

  • Low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • Chicken breast
  • Lots of veggies, like carrots, broccoli, celery, garlic, peas, and tomatoes
  • 100% whole grain noodles in fun shapes

Add some whole grain crackers or a whole grain roll for dipping. Really, any soup that your child enjoys can be put inside a thermos and carted off to school.

Burritos and Wraps

If it can fit between two slices of bread, it can fit in a wrap! Try a burrito made with brown rice, black beans, fresh salsa, and a little low-fat cheese wrapped up in a whole wheat tortilla. Or go for a creative wrap with chicken, lettuce, hummus, and veggies. So many flavor combos work well wrapped up in a convenient hand-held meal. Choose the flavors your child loves the most and get creative!

Chicken “Nuggets”

Chicken nuggets: as much as kids (and let’s face it, adults) love them, their ingredients and preparation are often questionable. Even pre-made frozen nuggets are not always better than the fast-food version. Why not make some delicious homemade chicken nuggets that are far more wholesome than either of these options—and still pretty easy? We like this recipe from PBS Parents. Simply slice chicken breasts into bite-sized chunks, cover them in a yummy, crunchy mixture, and bake to perfection. In about 20 minutes, you’ll have chicken nuggets that can be munched hot or cold, for snack or lunch.

Pizza

Whether you make mini pizzas specifically for lunch time or make pizza for dinner and use the leftovers for a yummy lunch, homemade pizza can be nutritious and wholesome. Try a whole wheat pizza crust topped with homemade sauce (or store-bought, but look for wholesome brands without added sugar or excess sodium), low-fat mozzarella cheese, and turkey sausage or pepperoni. Infuse your pizza sauce with chopped carrots, peas, and spinach to squeeze in extra veggies that will hardly be detected.

Do you have any creative lunch ideas to share?

September is Childhood Obesity Awareness Month

Friday, September 19th, 2014

September is Childhood Obesity Awareness MonthSeptember is known for back-to-school festivities and the transition into fall, but did you know that it’s also Childhood Obesity Awareness Month?

National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, initiated by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) four years ago, brings awareness and recognition to this devastating epidemic among the American youth in the hopes of ending a very real threat to the future health of millions of American children. Let’s look at some facts and some ways you can get involved.

Childhood Obesity Awareness Facts

We are grateful for this month-long promotion of awareness and action for childhood obesity, but this pressing issue should really take the spotlight all 12 months of the year.

Check out the facts:

  • More than 23 million American children between the ages of 2 and 19 are obese or overweight.
  • More than 1/3 of American children are at risk for Type 2 diabetes.
  • Other obesity-related risks include heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure.
  • Childhood obesity is a completely preventable disease!

Childhood Obesity Awareness Month was created to educate and inspire the public to take action against the childhood obesity epidemic.

How to Get Involved

Whether you’re a parent, educator, or part of the community, there’s something you can do to help. Check out these ideas:

  • It all starts at home:
    • Educate yourself about the food and drink you consume. Encourage your own family to become more physically active and to develop better eating habits.
    • Expand at the community level:
      • Host an event where families can engage in fun active activities and learn about both the dangers of childhood obesity and how to prevent it.
      • Post flyers in public areas.
      • Tweet and use Facebook to promote activities and awareness.
      • Write a letter to the editor of your local paper encouraging community leaders to become involved.
      • Volunteer to host a presentation on childhood obesity and ways to prevent it at a local school or community center.
      • Approach community groups like scouts, 4H, boys and girls clubs, churches, and other religious communities about hosting an event, presentation, or activity to spread awareness of childhood obesity.
      • Encourage PSAs on local television and radio.
      • Sponsor ads in local media—newspapers, magazines, radio, and television.
      • Partner with other agencies and organizations to hold a large, free to the public event.
      • Get involved with the government
        • Lobby your state legislature, surgeon general, school boards, governor, other state leaders, and even the First Lady/First Gentleman to host events, presentations, activities, and to make childhood health a priority.
        • Lobby for better, healthier school lunch and snack programs.
        • Petition for better funding for physical education programs in schools, improved community recreational facilities, and public health programs to end obesity at all ages.
        • Lobby for better and more funding for state parks and museums to encourage families to become more active.
        • Lobby for changes in state-funded food aid programs to eliminate access to processed foods, foods high in sugar and fat, and soft drinks.

Childhood Obesity need not rob millions of Americans of good health and good living. It can be stopped. It can be reversed. But it will take interested individuals to take action and become involved. The future of our country is at stake. The children of America need you, and while Childhood Obesity Awareness only lasts through September, it is a cause we all need to rally behind every month of the year.

8 Essential Back-to-School Tips for Parents

Friday, August 29th, 2014

8 Essential Back to School Tips for Parents

With a well-rounded summer vacation ending, parents spend a lot of time getting their kids ready for school. New school supplies, haircuts, and special end-of-summer outings all play into the back-to-school routine. There are some other things that parents can do for themselves and their kids to ensure a smooth transition into the school year, too. Take a look below at few ways to get this year off to a great start in your house.

Set up a bedtime and wake-up routine in advance. If possible, it’s best to establish bedtimes and wake-up times two weeks in advance of the start of school. By the time the first school bell rings, kids will already be on the right sleeping schedule and it will be one less worry for your family.

Get to know new teachers. There will be open houses, orientations, and other meet-and-greet options at the beginning of the school year, but none will give you the chance to spend some quality time getting to know your kids’ teachers. Try to find a few minutes before or after school to connect one-on-one with the teachers. At the very least, send an introductory email that includes how you can help during the school year, however big or small.

Plan healthy lunches and snacks. The better you plan out the meals in your home, the healthier choices you will make for your kids. When you pack protein-rich snacks and lunches, balanced with fruits, vegetables, and other wholesome items, you ensure that your children will have the energy and brainpower to make it through their school days.

Organize clothing. Of course you will need to donate or otherwise get rid of the clothing that your kids have outgrown, but you should also take the time to carefully organize what is left. From there, decide what items you may need more of before school begins.

Set up a staging area. Find a central spot to store everything related to school, including backpacks, upcoming outfits, and a dry erase calendar with family schedules. Try to keep this area free of clutter and other non-school items so that you can find what you need, when you need it—and quickly. Have the kids help you stock it with school-related items and keep it clean and functional. Find some inspiration here.

Update medical records. Most schools will let you know if your shot records are out of date, but why not go beyond that? Make sure teachers and administrators have a complete list of any medical concerns regarding your kids, including allergies. You will also want to be sure that all emergency contacts are up to date.

Talk to your kids about bullying. Research shows that one in three kids experience bullying at some point in their school career—and in the increasingly digital world, the consequences can be extreme. Make sure your kids understand the right way to treat their peers, and when to speak up if they see someone else being bullied. Also make sure they know when to come to you if they feel they are being bullied.

Ask your kids about their concerns. The start of school is exciting, but can also bring some anxiety—especially when it comes to the unknown. Take a few minutes to ask your kids what they are most looking forward to during the school year, and what things may be worrying them. By giving them a forum to express their concerns, you can help them work through any worries in advance of school starting and clear up any issues that could lead to a bumpy start to the year.

SPARK celebrates 25! Reflection from Dr. Jim Sallis

Monday, July 21st, 2014

SPARK celebrates 25!

By Jim Sallis

It’s exhilarating to celebrate the 25th year of SPARK. In 1989 we had big ambitions for our new NIH grant. We wanted to define what health-related physical education is, comprehensively evaluate a program that we designed to meet that vision, and then encourage schools to adopt the program so kids could be healthier. I could not have imagined where those ideas have led by 2014. I am very proud to be part of the SPARK story, because SPARK has improved the physical activity, health, and quality of life for millions children and adolescents over the past 25 years.

The research teams worked hard on the SPARK and M-SPAN studies that produced the original curricula, training, and support model and materials. But there are numerous successful research programs that never have any impact in people’s lives. What makes SPARK different is the staff, led by Paul Rosengard. Paul and the staff not only share the vision of improving children’s health through physical activity, but they have built an organization that brings the joy of SPARK to about 1.5 million young people every day. I use “joy” of SPARK deliberately, because the first data we collected in a pilot study were enjoyment ratings of SPARK PE classes. We were pleased that the fifth graders chose “smiley faces” almost all the time for all the class activities. Delivering fun has been our job at SPARK ever since.

At 25, SPARK as an organization is now an adult. The staff have high level skills and are dedicated to doing a great job at customer service. We have created a national network of trainers, and the feedback from staff development sessions continues to be consistently enthusiastic. We take responsibility for updating, expanding, and improving programs and products. Like most young adults, SPARK is a sophisticated user of technology. Our video group has produced hundreds of videos that help instructors deliver great physical activity programs. All materials are now available online. I am amazed that teachers now can take all of SPARK out on the field with iPads. That is a real revolution in physical education. SPARK is even doing some traveling, growing rapidly in India and China. I’m confident SPARK will continue to evolve and innovate so we can get better at delivering great instruction to teachers and great physical activity to students.

As long as our schools want children to be active and healthier, we will keep delivering the joy of SPARK.

Jim Sallis

http://sallis.ucsd.edu

James F. Sallis, Ph.D.

Distinguished Professor of Family and Preventive Medicine Chief,

Division of Behavioral Medicine. http://behavioralmedicine.ucsd.edu/

University of California, San Diego

SPARK Staff at ATM Dinner

SPARK staff celebrates 25 years at the Annual Trainers Meeting in June 2014