Time for a SWITCH

NEH program is designed to develop healthy lifestyles

— Daily Freeman-Journal photo by Teresa Wood On Monday afternoon, Northeast Hamilton Second and Third Grade students learned that the Hokey Pokey on scooter boards is what it's all about during gym class conducted by PE instructor Matt Vagts . The school is taking part in the Iowa State University SWITCH program that helps students learn to balance technology use, good nutrition and physical education.

BLAIRSBURG – It’s time for SWITCH at Northeast Hamilton Elementary School.

SWITCH stands for School Wellness Integration Targeting Child Health and is aimed to help students develop healthy lifestyles in the age of technology. The program is sponsored by Iowa State University and was introduced to the school by the NEH Wellness Committee on Monday, Feb. 5.

The program is designed to show students ways to incorporate physical activity in their daily schedules, how to balance technology screen time and practice good nutrition, said NEH School Nurse Cindi Sweedler.

“It’s a twelve week program that promotes healthy lifestyles for today’s youth and families,” said Sweedler.

NEH is one of 25 Iowa schools chosen by ISU for the SWITCH program, explained Sweedler. The school took part in the ISU Wellness program last year so when ISU offered the 2018 SWITCH program, Sweedler submitted an application for the school to participate.

Assisting in the school’s SWITCH program will be Leah Feltz of the ISU Extension Service, said Sweedler.

“She will help in the administration as well as coordinating and teaching,” said Sweedler.

Webster City grocery stores and area Lions Club chapters will also help in the program, she said.

The three goals of the SWITCH program are “Do, View, Chew”. Each week the program will focus on one aspect of SWITCH and then rotate throughout the duration of the 12 weeks, she said.

The program is designed for students in grades 3-6, but students in Pre-K through second grade will have special activities, too, said Sweedler.

SWITCH hopes to help students recognize and learn healthy habits, said Sweedler. There will be taste-testing of new foods, learning how to read food labels, making nutritious snacks and learning portion control. Students will be encouraged to take mental and physical activity breaks throughout their day and they will learn ways to get up and move at home.

With the completion of the school greenhouse, students will plant lettuce seeds and learn the growing process from start to finish, said Sweedler. It is hoped that the harvested produce will become part of the school lunch menu.

Organizers hope students will recruit family members to participate in activities at home, said Sweedler.

“Maybe kids will encourage families to join in on stretching exercises and live a more active lifestyle,” said Sweedler, who suggests that instead of watching television or spending time online, families would enjoy a game night or outside activities.

With so much academic and business work geared toward technology, it is hard for students and adults to separate the two, said Sweedler.

“Technology is good but we want people to put it down and get involved in life – For people to get active and be more engaged,” said Sweedler.

The program will be monitored by ISU and the school will receive goal findings in May, she said.

SWITCH also ties into the NEH “Get Fit, Don’t Sit” walking program that was kicked off last fall with a school walk-fest. Students are encouraged to walk daily and post their miles. Each month students are awarded for their efforts, said Sweedler.

SWITCH and the walking program were developed by the Northeast Hamilton SWITCH Core Team and the NEH Wellness Committee. Committee members include Sweedler, Kacey Pruismann, Matt Vagts, Sherri Olson, Dani Kohl, Alison Keane, Pam Swenson, Lanette Willems, Principal Mike Kruger, Janelle Oakland and Joni Smith.