Cottonwood Elementary health fair is all about healthy living

Cottonwood Elementary students Marissa Quitevis and Emalee Kylben participate in a bike rodeo during a Community Health Fair on Saturday. The rodeo was held by members of the West Sound Cycling Club. - Seraine Page
Cottonwood Elementary students Marissa Quitevis and Emalee Kylben participate in a bike rodeo during a Community Health Fair on Saturday. The rodeo was held by members of the West Sound Cycling Club.
— image credit: Seraine Page

Despite the fat raindrops falling all around them, third graders Marissa Quitevis and Emalee Kylben were determined to have a good time while completing a bike rodeo event last Saturday morning.

The bike rodeo was just one of several activities at Cottonwood Elementary for students to partake in during the school’s second annual Community Health Fair. The event is part of a countywide 5210 initiative designed to encourage healthy eating and physical activity to reduce the obesity rates in Kitsap County.

Both Quitevis and Kylben -- who are active in the school’s unicycle club -- weren’t scared of a little rain while participating in the rodeo which was set up to teach students about proper hand signals, stopping at intersections and yielding when needed. Orange cones and stop signs dotted the basketball court behind the school where students could get fitted for helmets and hop on a bike for some exercise.

Quitevis noted that it’s important to follow all the road rules to avoid injuries. The third grader remarked that she wants to stay healthy as well, and that the event taught her quite a bit.

“You can do more things if you are healthy and active,” she said.

Ultimately, the goal of the event was to share easy strategies to lead a healthier lifestyle, said Gail Smith, Cottonwood’s physical education teacher. Smith was approached by PTSA member Lalaine Diaz about hosting a fair at the school. When Smith heard the idea, she fell in love with it, she said.

“It’s wonderful because I can preach this to the kids and they get it,” she said of her daily work. “I’ve got pedometers on the kindergarten students so they can see how many steps they take (throughout the day).”

Smith said that while she teaches the basics of healthy eating at school, sometimes the message is lost by the time students make it home. By hosting the fair, the parents are able to make the connection to what their child is learning, which is a huge benefit, Smith said.

“I feel like I want to get this message out to adults,” she said. “Because the kids go home and it stops. This is my outreach to the community.”

While the bike rodeo took place outside, vendors packed the school’s gymnasium and filled attendees grocery bags with information about healthy living. Speakers offered advice on gardening in small areas like apartment patios or a corner of a flower bed.

Snacks like carrots and celery were available for students to munch on, and parents could take home a bag of fresh cranberries for baking. Massage therapists, dentists and farmers were available to answer questions from parents and students alike.

For energetic students, hip hop,tennis and kickboxing and toning classes were available to burn off some energy. All vendors volunteered their time to come to the event.

“It’s a really good program for the community and Cottonwood,” said Diaz, who brought the idea to Smith. “We’re adopting this concept. It’s not really just for the children. It’s for the adults as well. All of us can benefit from this.”

The 5210 Kitsap concept is an overall lifestyle change meant to impact various parts of Kitsap County. The 5210 stands for eating at least 5 servings of veggies and fruits per day; cutting down on screentime to less than two hours per day, participating in at least an hour of moderate to vigorous exercise, and drinking zero soda and sugary drinks.

Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Childhood Obesity Facts Sheet.


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