Nebraska Kids Fitness and Nutrition Day at UNK continues to make impact 20 years later
KEARNEY, Neb. — The rainbow-colored parachute never fails to put a smile on a kids face. The PE-class staple worked its magic again on Thursday as part of an event celebrating two decades of impact.
“Our overall approach is to just get kids excited about moving their body and fueling themselves in a healthy way,” organizer Kaiti George said.
The parachute game was just one fitness station out of 16 at the University of Nebraska-Kearney’s Cope Stadium. There were another five nutrition stations indoors. It was all part of the university’s Nebraska Kids Fitness and Nutrition Day. Lecturer and Registered Dietician Kaiti George helped start the event 20 years ago.
“If you can do anything in a fun and engaging way, kids are most likely going to go home and talk about it and then want to do it as well at home,” George said.
The stations help educate nearly 700 fourth graders from across the region. They’re run by 150 university students who are future PE teachers and health professionals.
“This is what they want to do when they grow up, so this is a great way for them to just get some hands on experience,” George said.
Kearney Public Schools PE teacher Trey Schlender was there with his students. It was a full-circle moment for the Kearney High and UNK grad.
“Being a fourth grader when I came and did it, and then setting it up and running it, and then now I’m a teacher at a school and I can pass that down to them," Schlender said. "It’s a great experience and a great opportunity for me.”
For the educators involved, days like Thursday are why you get into teaching.
“You teach for the experiences with kids and giving them opportunities to come out, play some games and have a good fitness day like this,” Schlender said.
“Clearly, it is a very memorable experience. You can teach a lot by textbook and lecturing, but you can teach a lot by being involved and engaged,” George said.
The curriculum developed for Nebraska Kids Fitness and Nutrition Day is used to host similar events in Alliance, Chadron, Hastings, Imperial, McCook, Ogallala, Scottsbluff and Sidney, reaching more than 3,000 fourth graders in total.