In February of 2020, we started our Chill Fitness for Kids (CFFK) program at Martin Luther King Center in St. Paul. We were able to serve 30 youth in a six-week program prior to the closures due to Covid.
CFFK ran four days a week: Monday and Wednesday focused on fitness, while Tuesday and Thursday were for health/nutrition. The program is led by a licensed dietitian with more than 30 years of experience working in hospital settings. Her last position was Director at Mount Saint in St. Louis Park.
During the first week of the program, we went over the importance of washing out hands. We made up a song with the students set to the tune of “Happy Birthday,” which was designed to demonstrate the length of time it should take and the right technique to use to wash hands. Students participated in an exercise showing how many things they touch in a given day with germs on them. This was an eye opener for the children, and they were surprised about the outcome. The goal was to get them to think about what they do with their hands. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect, being just before the country was told about the importance of washing your hands to stop the spread of the virus.
In addition to hand washing, students were also introduced to vitamin A and the benefits of eating food items that have it in them. The children were engaged and intrigued by the benefits of eye health. Part of our health snack that day were carrot sticks with ranch dressing.
Each week a different vitamin was covered and featured in the day’s healthy snack.
Our curriculum for the nutrition program included:
Program Evaluation (Q&A) Post Assessment
Here are some other topics that we introduced during our short six-week time:
Due to Covid-19, a presentative from the Department of Health came in to speak with the children concerning the importance of not vaping in our youth community. A presentation was given with information gathered from sources such as Minnesota for A Smoke-Free Generation, DoSomething.org, a 2019 article by Tim Pugmire titled “Minnesota lawmakers say they’re ready to take on vaping,” and an article titled “Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation Urges Minnesota to Follow Massachusetts’s Lead on Flavored Tobacco.” Also discussed were the dangers of drinking hand sanitizer, as there were reports of that occurring and we felt it prudent to advise our children of the peril.
The children were given journals to use so that we could monitor what they were eating along with keeping track of the physical activities that they were doing outside of class.
The other days were focused on our fitness program with the slogan “Get Moving – Keep Moving,” to make physical activity part of the children’s day. The first two days of this program, we did testing using the National Health Education standards from CDC Healthy Schools as a baseline to compare future results. Students did activities like sit-ups, push-ups, jumping rope, and running. We tested them every Monday to see their progress and used team-building exercises to show the importance of support and encouragement. We were changing their mental motivation from “I can’t do that” to “yes I can.” We were able to show them that exercise can be fun. Some of them lost weight and all of them improved with testing.
Youth participated in group physical activities to help them burn off energy, get their heart rate up and develop team-building skills. Activities included basketball, track, soccer, tennis, football and aerobics.
Unfortunately, we were disappointed that we had to stop our program, since things were going so well. We received a lot of positive feedback from parents; there were many days that we would have a parent or two just stop in to watch.
While we were unable to work with the students due to the shutdown, we kept in touch by sending them an activity kit each week containing fun, age-appropriate worksheets and lessons for families to complete together as a reminder to stay active while at home.
We were fortunate to have one of our fitness instructors develop a YouTube exercise program where the kids could exercise anytime online. It was a great success; there were 257 hits on YouTube videos. We want to continue this program, but are looking for ways to upgrade the equipment, since right now we are using a cell phone to record.
Fortunately, we were also able to start our in-person program again at the Hallie Q Brown Community Center this summer, as they were labelled an essential business. There were 14 students who were able to go through the fitness program.
One of the skills that we taught the students, which has come in handy due to these difficult times, is meditation. It can be used as a self-calming skill when they are feeling stressed and we as adults need to realize that children do feel stress. The other skill that we have told them to do is blowing bubbles, which helps with deep breathing from the lungs and has a calming effect.
We are planning to launch the Minnesota Chill Academy! This program is designed to take youth participants through a 9-month after-school program. We are committed to creating a physically, mentally, emotionally, and socially safe learning and development environment for ALL participants. Our focus is to empower youth (referred to as “scholars”) in areas of math, reading, money management, social/emotional and life skills.
Please consider donating to our foundation to support the growth of this program and youth’s access to enrichment. You can donate here.