| Willamette Connections Academy
Coronavirus Chronicles: Students struggle to learn with virtual school
Across the country, students are struggling to focus and retain information with online learning, and many feel they are learning less than past years.
Harrison Hill, USA TODAY
Children across Oregon have endured physical and emotional challenges during recent COVID-19 closures, which has led to a lack of exercise and stress eating according to public health experts.
Childhood obesity has increased following COVID-19 restrictions on schools, youth sports, and parks. In Oregon, nearly 30% of teens are overweight or obese according to state figures. Pediatric specialists also note there is an increase in Type 2 diabetes in children during this same time.
While distance learning may be new for most families, providing full-time online public school to students’ homes is what Willamette Connections Academy is all about. I encourage students to use the flexibility of virtual education to take breaks for a healthy snack or physical activity and return to assignments ready to focus. Children can build healthy eating and exercise habits while still learning from home.
Be Role Models
Parents should set a good example for kids with healthy food choices. Stock up on healthy fruits, vegetables, and whole grains for healthy snacking and eat meals together. Research shows youth who eat the same healthful food as their parents tend to have healthier diets. Make it fun by trying out new recipes.
Children are more likely to eat healthier items if parents avoid calling foods “good” or “bad”. Teach kids the benefits of nutritious foods using phrases like, “Eating oranges are great to prevent colds.”
Talk about why sweet treats are great for holidays and birthdays, but parents should emphasize that everyday foods “help us build strong bodies and give us energy”.
Encourage children to have a daily fitness routine, especially those with lots of pent-up energy spending time indoors during the winter months. With the flexibility of online learning, parents can customize an exercise program to their student’s individual needs and work PE into the school day.
Students can do short 5-10 minute drills between lessons, like jump rope, or scale the stairs a few times. I have always loved the outdoors and my favorite exercise is a short afternoon hike in the woods near my house. Oregon offers so many ways for families to explore green spaces, trails, and forests. When children get fresh air out in nature it’s good for their physical and mental well-being.
Staying in shape should be fun, not something kids “have to do”. Try a yoga session in the morning to give young brains and bodies a boost to start the day. Use painter’s tape in the garage for games like hopscotch or Simon Says.
Create a dress-up relay where parents put a set of their clothes on one side of the room then kids run from one side to the other, putting dress-up clothes on top of their regular clothes, and dash back to the starting point.
Play video sports games or check out home exercises on YouTube. Give children balls, skateboards, and other gifts that encourage physical activity. Kids appreciate gadgets and competition so consider getting them a pedometer to count steps and challenge others to meet fitness goals.
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Make exercise a family affair with a neighborhood stroll or bike ride to get everyone moving. Craft an indoor fitness trail resembling a circuit course for the whole family. Post trail signs at fitness stations around the house describing each activity- such as, “jumping jacks”, and “pushups”. Play tunes while children complete exercises at each station, rotating to the next location every time a song ends.
Studies confirm proper nutrition and exercise not only improve overall health for young people but also provide success in the classroom.7 Researchers now believe if children are more physically active and eat healthier, they can be protected from severe impacts of COVID-19.8 Hopefully some of these tips will help children embrace healthy diet and fitness practices during the pandemic, Oregon’s winter weather, and throughout the year. While exercise and wholesome eating habits are admirable New Year’s resolutions, they’re also gifts parents can give their kids that will produce benefits for many years to come.
Rebecca Chitkowski is an assistant principal at Willamette Connections Academy. For more information about Willamette Connections Academy go to WillametteConnectionsAcademy.com or call 888-478-9474.