In February, elementary physical education teachers challenged 5,000-plus fifth-graders in Mesa Public School District to make healthy food choices and get more exercise for 28 consecutive days as part of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona’s Walk On! Challenge. Every fifth-grade student in the Mesa district had the opportunity to participate in the Walk On! Challenge, which was facilitated by the physical education teachers in each of the elementary schools in Mesa.
I’d like to congratulate Daniel Velazquez, physical education teacher at Wilson Elementary School, for winning one of five $5,000 grants from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona for his outstanding participation in the Walk On! Challenge with his students at Wilson Elementary.
As a district, we’re always looking for motivating ways to teach healthy lifestyle concepts to our students.
The Walk On! program challenges students to meet the 5-2-1-0 goal every day in February: eat five fruits and vegetables, spend less than two hours on screen time, exercise for one hour and drink zero sweetened drinks.
The students at Wilson Elementary participate in physical education twice a week for 30 minutes each lesson and the Walk On! Challenge was integrated into every lesson. Prior to the lesson, tips and a discussion about goals, certain foods and proper healthy activities were discussed for success. During our lesson we discussed healthy concepts such as:
- Why we need to be active, exercise and be educated on a healthy diet and lifestyle
- Certain foods such as fruits, vegetables and protein items
- Tying activities in the lesson to home activities such as, soccer, basketball, jump rope
- How to set personal goals and achieve those goals with confidence and perseverance
- Always providing the students with help and guidance on becoming healthier and more active
The entire Wilson community (teachers, students, parents) became involved in the Walk On! Challenge:
- Along with students, staff charted their personal activity time as well as their daily diet
- Our school sent newsletters announcing the program and motivating families to participate in the Challenge
- The cafeteria staff helped to promote the program during lunch as well as posted a healthy food plate poster
- The Walk On! Challenge was heavily promoted around the school with educational and inspiring Walk On! posters
These lessons offer an opportunity for families to set healthy lifestyle goals together. There is abundant research indicating that active and healthy students grow into active and healthy adults who are more likely to raise children who adopt active lifestyles as well.
With the $5,000 Walk On! grant funding, the school will purchase the latest in pedometer technology: uploadable pedometers. These pedometers, and the software, were designed specifically for quick and easy printable analysis, class tracking and organization.
The fifth and sixth-graders (and their teachers) at Wilson will wear the pedometers all day every day and will be able to accurately assess their “true” daily number of steps and “actual” total daily physical activity time. Their personal information will be uploaded into their own computer file. Parents will be invited to share their child’s pedometer to assess their physical activity as well. We hope to motivate the entire Wilson community to Walk On! and increase their daily activity.
MPS appreciates Blue Cross Blue Shield’s efforts to combat childhood obesity, and the positive impact the Walk On! Challenge has made to enhance the healthy lifestyle skills of more than 40,000 students during the eight years we have participated in the Challenge.
Deb Pangrazi is Elementary Physical Education Coordinator for Mesa Public School District and oversees the implementation of the Walk On! Challenge at all of the elementary schools in the district, including Wilson Elementary School, which was awarded a $5,000 grant from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona to support programs that combat childhood obesity. The grant award was based on the execution of the Walk On! Challenge, a free health and fitness education program available to schools across the state. This year was the eighth annual Walk On! Challenge, which has now reached more than 235,000 fifth-graders throughout Arizona. For more information about the Walk On! Challenge, visit www.azblue.com/WalkOn.