Let’s Move

Outdoor Activities for Better Grades

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By Lina Younes

As I was watching one of the morning shows covering the Olympics Games this week, I saw a feature story about a primary school in England that had incorporated cooking classes into the curriculum. The intention was not to produce future chefs, although many of the students had become quite skilled in the culinary arts. The objective was to get children outdoors, to teach them about gardening, to make them aware of where food comes from, and how eating fresh food makes them healthier. While their culinary talents were an added bonus, the program pointed out to many positive outcomes. The part that caught my attention was when the reporter asked the schoolmaster if there had been an improvement in their overall grades in traditional classes. The school master answered with an emphatic “yes!”

Many of the issues highlighted in the London school were similar to First Lady Michelle Obama’s initiative Let’s Move which focuses on fighting childhood obesity by improving access to healthy food in schools and in the home and by increasing physical activity. I would take the benefits of this program one step further. How about increasing opportunities for children to have healthy outdoor activities? How about exposing children to nature? What would be the impact on children’s health and knowledge?

In fact, there have been several small studies which show a correlation between environmental education and improved student achievement and success in the sciences. The studies indicate how hands-on learning experiences through outdoor or environmental education enhance problem-solving skills, improved performance in the sciences while fostering overall environmental literacy and stewardship. Sounds like a win-win situation to me.

So, while we still might have time off with the kids during the remaining summer vacation, why not try engaging our kids in some outdoor activities away from the TV? What do you think?

About the author: Lina Younes is the Multilingual Outreach and Communications Liaison for EPA. Among her duties, she’s responsible for outreach to Hispanic organizations and media. She spearheaded the team that recently launched EPA’s new Spanish website, www.epa.gov/espanol . She manages EPA’s social media efforts in Spanish. She’s currently the editor of EPA’s new Spanish blog, Conversando acerca de nuestro medio ambiente. Prior to joining the agency, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and an international radio broadcaster. She has held other positions in and out of the Federal Government.


Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Let Kids Be Active Outside

By Lina Younes

Recently my daughter’s elementary school started a program to encourage students to increase their physical activities outdoors. The program entitled “Fun, Fit and Grow” is largely modeled after the First Lady’s Initiative, Let’s Move. The main objective is to promote healthy bodies and a lifetime full of fun and fitness. To be successful, the school is asking students to keep a log of their daily activities outside of the school in order to earn points for their class. Students are encouraged to elicit the participation of their family members in the program to earn additional points. Parents have to sign the log weekly to attest that the recorded hours of activities for children and family members are accurate.

It was interesting to see that the guidelines clearly state that virtual games are not allowed as a substitute for physical activities and sports. While technology is helping many to get up and move through numerous interactive games, there is no doubt that electronic gadgets are not the ideal replacement for a brisk walk outdoors.

So, what did we identify as our family outdoor activity?  Well, first, we took a family walk around the neighborhood. As our second activity, we decided to rake leaves. It was listed as one of the recommended activities and we definitely had a good supply of leaves all over the yard. So, through our joint effort, we got some exercise, clean up around the yard, and had fun.  Furthermore, eliminating the dead leaves from the lawn also has an environmental benefit.  It allows the lawn to “breathe” plus it enables sunlight, nutrients and water to revitalize the grass and their root systems.  What did we do with the raked leaves?  Well, we made a leaf pile for composting.  I say it was a win-win for all.  I guess we have our work cut out for us for next weekend.  There is still a good supply still on the trees that will need to be raked soon.

What do you do to enjoy a beautiful fall day? We would like to hear from you.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves as acting associate director for environmental education. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Ayudemos a los niños a hacer ejercicios al aire libre

Por Lina Younes

Recientemente la escuela elemental de mi hija inició un programa para alentar a los estudiantes a practicar deportes y actividades al aire libre.  El programa se asemeja a la iniciativa de la Primera Dama de Estados Unidos, “Movámonos”.  El motivo principal consiste en fomentar el desarrollo saludable y un compromiso de por vida a favor de la diversión y ejercicio físico saludable.  Para ser exitoso, la escuela está pidiendo que los niños mantengan una lista de sus actividades físicas fuera de la escuela a fin de adquirir puntos para su clase.  Además, instan a los niños a obtener la participación de sus familiares en el programa para conseguir puntos adicionales. Los padres deben firmar semanalmente la lista para asegurar la veracidad de las actividades registradas de los niños y sus familiares.

Es interesante ver que las normas del programa estipulan que los juegos virtuales no están permitidos como sustitutos al ejercicio físico o deportes al aire libre. Mientras la tecnología está ayudando a muchos a emprender actividades físicas mediante juegos interactivos en el hogar, no hay duda de que los aparatos electrónicos no son las mejores alternativas deportivas en lugar de un paseo rápido al aire libre.

¿Cuál fue nuestra actividad familiar? Bueno, primero caminamos por el vecindario por unos treinta minutos. La segunda actividad consistió en barrer las hojas alrededor de nuestra casa. El barrer las hojas estaba identificado como una de las actividades recomendadas y definitivamente teníamos un buen suministro de hojas secas en el jardín. En este esfuerzo conjunto, logramos hacer ejercicio, limpiar el jardín y divertirnos.  Además, el eliminar las hojas muertas del césped también tiene un beneficio medioambiental. Permite que el césped “respire.” También da paso a que la luz solar, los nutrientes y el agua revitalicen el césped y sus raíces.  ¿Qué hicimos con las hojas secas? Las amontonamos para hacer composta. Fue una actividad beneficiosa para todos. Supongo que tendremos otra oportunidad el fin de semana próximo ya que todavía hay muchas hojas en los árboles.

¿Cuál es su actividad predilecta para disfrutar de un día otoñal? Nos encantaría escuchar su opinión.

Acerca de la autora: Lina M. F. Younes ha trabajado en la EPA desde el 2002 y se desempeña, en la actualidad, como directora asociada interina para educación ambiental. Como periodista, dirigió la oficina en Washington de dos periódicos puertorriqueños y ha laborado en varias agencias gubernamentales.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.