OLIVE HILL – Life today is a lot more sedentary than it used to be. Technology makes it easier to accomplish a lot of our daily tasks with less effort.
Self-propelled and riding lawn mowers make it easier to cut the grass. Robot vacuum cleaners handle the household tasks we used to do with a broom and dustpan or a push vacuum. Even our play and socializing is more sedentary, with video games and social media giving us the option of interacting with friends without ever leaving our home.
None of this is necessarily bad in and of itself, but kids today are definitely spending more time looking at screens than their parents, and even their older siblings, did. This lack of activity, when combined with poor eating habits, can contribute to issues like childhood obesity and related health problems.
But the Galaxy Club at West Carter Middle School is borrowing a page from the online world to get their peers to log off. Social media gives its users rewards in the form of “likes” and “views” to encourage users to continue logging in. Video games offer trophies or achievements to keep people playing long after they've otherwise “finished” the game. So, Galaxy Club president Ty Stinson wondered, why couldn't the club offer rewards to get students to log off their devices and engage in physical activity? The answer, of course, was that they could, so they did.
The club used a $1000 grant to create, market, and implement a program – Tech Free for You and Me – to encourage their classmates to get up and get active.
The program is deceptively simple. If students participate in at least five hours of physical activity each week, they get entered into a raffle.
In the first week they gave out hula hoops. In the second week, with a total of at least 10 hours, students can be entered into a drawing for $10 gift cards to various local businesses. In the third and final week the group will be giving away a bicycle, of the student’s choice, from Walmart.
They use a worksheet to track their time spent doing chores, hiking, hunting, playing sports, or other physical activities that they must complete without use of a phone or tablet.
Parents or guardians are asked to verify the activity and the time spent on the activity, and to sign the student sheet after recording the start time, end time and activity completed.
It was the students’ idea to purchase gift cards from local businesses, explained Galaxy Project board member Angela Messer-Fultz. The club's faculty sponsor, social studies teacher Kris Becker, said it's an example of one of the things they encourage in students as part of their civics lessons, which is to think of their ability to impact the communities they live in. Becker called it “developing community mindedness.”
“We want them to contribute to whatever community they become a part of,” Becker said.
In addition to thinking of the impact they can have on their communities, he explained, the process helped them understand the nuts and bolts of how those impacts are made, from idea to implementation.
The students, he said, formed their own committees that they were in charge of, and met regularly, outside of school and informally in school. They also communicated with each other outside of school and meetings via an Instagram account that the students set up themselves to discuss the project.
In many ways the year-long process was a lot more work than any of the students realized it would be when they started, they said, but it was also very rewarding to watch it all come together.
Messer-Fultz said one of the things the club tries to instill in students is to think of the impact they can have.
“They're learning how to leave a legacy,” she said. “Not just belonging to something, but leaving something behind.”
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