By RACHAEL GRAY
Paola Covarrubias threw a large frisbee to a friend and her friend's mother on Saturday afternoon at Garfield Early Childhood Center.
She would have preferred to play outside, but the rain pushed Paola and friends inside the center. The school was participating in Nickelodeon's Worldwide Day of Play, which provides a day designated to get up, get out and get active.
The network went off air Saturday afternoon to encourage children to play.
The day is a day of awareness to combat sedentary lifestyles and childhood obesity, which can lead to heart and health issues in children.
According to Tracy Johnson, USD 457 director of food services, 43 percent of students kindergarten through eighth grade are overweight. Twenty-five percent of students are obese.
In order to address these issues and focus on staff wellness, Garfield Early Childhood Center has a wellness team to promote nutrition and activity in both staff and students.
Lisa Klager, early childhood special education teacher, is a co-coach on the wellness team.
On Tuesdays and Thursday, staff have designated 4:15 p.m. as a time to walk for 30 to 45 minutes.
"It's a routine. People can program it into their schedules. And we start from right here so people don't have to drive to the gym," she said.
As for the kids, Klager said staff try to keep students as active as possible.
She said a healthy student body and staff leads to overall success.
"When you're healthy, you feel happy," she said.
A more healthy and energetic staff can benefit teaching, she said.
"We're able to get down and interact with students because of energy levels. Everyone is benefiting," she said.
Angela Anderson, school nurse, said she's seen childhood obesity slowly climb since she started in 2007.
"This event gives children the opportunity to get out and get active, to increase physical activity and decrease screen time," she said.
The screen time and sedentary lifestyles are two contributors to childhood obesity, she said.
Anderson said being obese as a child can develop into lifelong consequences that lead to heart disease and diabetes.
"We're finding kids at a lot younger ages starting to develop health problems," she said.
Josh Guymon, principal of GECC, said the wellness initiatives and Day of Play may help students develop good habits early in their lives.
"When you have younger students who are willing to try this out, they may be more likely to develop good habits that can turn into lifelong healthy lifestyles," he said.