At-home Movement Kits Keep Kids Active During Pandemic
In 2019, Jeffco Public Schools, the second largest district in Colorado, took the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey to identify their biggest needs and set goals around child health. The results showed that compared to the rest of the state, they were not faring well on physical activity—specifically in middle and high school. When the COVID-19 pandemic came along soon after and reduced the opportunity for movement even more, Kristina Kain, Healthy Schools Coordinator for the district, knew they had to accelerate their plans.
Kristina and Fran Taffer, the other Healthy Schools Coordinator, developed a plan to create and deliver 2,400 physical activity kits to students across the district. Thanks to support from Medicaid funding, enthusiastic school staff, and an incredible drive to make change happen, Kristina and Fran packed and personally delivered over 2,900 kits. The kits, which contain jump ropes, resistance bands, balls, and frisbees, also come with instructions and activity ideas for using the equipment. In the 2020-2021 school year, 38 schools offered kits to their students in 4th-8th grade. After each semester, kids bring the kits back so that they can be passed on to other students for the next semester.
Students who receive kits are able to track their weekly activity and provide feedback on the program, and turning in their tracker enters them into weekly drawings to win prizes such as water bottles and other equipment. Based on these trackers, kids have reported using the kits for a cumulative total of 19,116 minutes as of early March 2021. In their feedback form, one child wrote, “I love jump roping, but I didn’t have a jump rope. Once I got the kit I was able to do the thing I love!” Parents and teachers alike have also been very grateful for the physical activity kits. Said one parent of the program, “[My daughter] loved the kit, and she was really excited to enter the contest. Thank you for taking the time to read her comments; she couldn’t believe her luck when she received sidewalk chalk as her prize. We all need a little pick me up right now, and that kind gift was just what she needed to lift her spirits and make her feel special today.” PE teachers noted to Kristina that the kits provided more of an equitable and even playing field for students during virtual PE classes.
Kristina also hopes the kits help families incorporate more daily physical activity at home. In February 2021, she and Fran worked with the district mental health team on a campaign aimed at families to promote physical activity for overall well-being. They created a family activity calendar featuring a different activity per day with a video on the benefits of physical activity to accompany it. The campaign also featured a speaker, Dr. Peg Dawson, who presented on executive functioning and taught families about the mind-body connection.
To achieve the goals created after getting the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey results, Kristina is also helping teachers bring more physical activity to the classroom. With a “Just Add Movement” training to help teachers incorporate movement into their lessons and elementary and secondary versions of a classroom brain breaks calendar (view the secondary version here), teachers are better able to build an environment that fosters much-needed activity.
Thanks to the resourcefulness and dedication of Kristina and other Jeffco school and district staff, students are adding much-needed minutes of physical activity to their days, which sets them up for improved physical and emotional health during a time when they need it most.