At the Richardson School District in Texas, health is on the curriculum every day.
More than 3,000 students have pledged to get 60 minutes of exercise daily, drink water instead of sugary drinks, or eat a fruit or vegetable at every meal. And that’s not all: These students are building their emotional well-being by doing a good deed to raise money to fight heart disease.
“Our kids learn how to keep their hearts healthy and they take those messages home to their parents and share with them how to stay healthy,” said Christina Fuller, a physical education teacher at Richardson ISD’s Lake Highlands Elementary in Dallas.
It’s all part of the American Heart Association’s new Kids Heart Challenge, an innovative and fun program that prepares elementary school students for a healthier future at campuses all across the country.
The Kids Heart Challenge, which marks AHA’s 40th year working closely with schools, keeps kids moving with jump rope competitions, basketball, dance and “warrior” obstacle courses. In addition to taking the healthy pledge, students learn how their hearts work and raise money to keep other hearts working.
“It’s a way that the community can all come together and have a sense of something that is bigger than just our school,” said Ashley Pondrom, a physical education teacher for Richardson ISD’s Brentfield Elementary in Dallas.
Developed through a collaboration with educators, the Kids Heart Challenge combines elements from previous AHA programs with new, expanded features.
“In addition to the benefits for students, the Kids Heart Challenge directly helps participating schools through incentives,” said Tanya Edwards, the American Heart Association’s executive vice president for community health and development.
“By reimagining the American Heart Association’s presence in schools, the Kids Heart Challenge teaches valuable heart-health lessons and provides kids the opportunity to make a difference in their community and raise funds for the AHA,” Edwards said.
The program includes cardio-pumping activities that go beyond the simple joy of exercise and has kids pledge to be more physically active, drink more water and do a good deed.
Kids learn about the importance of physical activity and how it helps their bodies. This is an important lifelong lesson; kids understanding heart health early can help prevent myriad health problems, including heart disease and stroke – the two leading causes of death in the world.
Students also learn the importance of teamwork and helping other people, all while building their self-esteem in an exciting and active way.
Program activities include:
- Kids Heart Challenge Jump: Students compete to see who can jump the most times in a minute, while learning about how it burns calories, builds agility and increases bone density.
- Kids Heart Challenge Hoops: A heart-pumping basketball-based activity that challenges students to work as a team.
- Kids Heart Challenge Dance: Students burn calories and build confidence as they collaborate and express their creativity with dance moves to the “Cha Cha Slide” or “Space Jam.”
- Kids Heart Challenge Warrior: Students build strength and confidence as they crawl, run and leap as they navigate the obstacle course’s cones, hurdles and balance beam.
Participating schools are provided with classroom-based physical activity plans and resources that support social and emotional learning and access to OPEN, the Online Physical Education Network providing curriculum resources.
School are also eligible to apply for a new grant program and earn credits to purchase physical education equipment through US Games.
Funds raised by the Kids Heart Challenge support the AHA’s lifesaving mission, including work to keep physical education in schools, to provide access to healthy foods for kids and to pass laws requiring CPR to be taught in schools. More information about Kids Heart Challenge is available online at heart.org/kidsheartchallenge.