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Scheurer Hospital teaches students to live healthy lives

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Scheurer Health is making its way to classrooms across the Upper Thumb to help fight childhood obesity. Through games and activities, Scheurer staff members are teaching first-, third- and fifth-graders how to take better care of themselves.

“The kids really love it when we come in, and they get super excited because it helps break up their day,” said Scheurer Health and Wellness Advocate Ben Zaleski, who recently taught an eight-week class at Owendale-Gagetown Area Schools.

Zaleski and his colleagues teach a “5210” program, which stands for the amount of time people should spend doing certain activities. According to this model, people should have five servings of fruits and vegetables, spend only two hours or less of their free time in front of a screen, get one hour of exercise and have zero sugary drinks per day.

The goal of the program is to improve student health or students’ knowledge of health by 80% when the course is complete. Thanks to their pre- and post-testing, as well as community health needs assessments conducted every few years, Scheurer has seen that the program has been helpful in achieving the desired improvement.

“It definitely introduced them to topics they might not really learn about otherwise from their traditional teachers,” Zaleski said.

He added that the guidelines for bidding sugary drinks and limiting screen time are new to older kids, who will usually drink all they want and play video games for long hours after school.

Zaleski attributes the success of the program in part to the activity- and game-based approach, intended to make learning enjoyable for students. Games include Headbanz with a fruit and vegetable theme, a matching game of activities considered free time and fitness bingo.

It also helps that he and other “teachers” in the program are from outside the school and break up the regular school day, so the students don’t really think of it as learning.

The 5210 model was originally created by Let’s Go!, a community-engagement initiative in Portland, Maine. The initiative works with communities to create environments that are supportive of healthy life choices. Scheurer adapts this model into lessons and games suitable for its program.

Zaleski and his colleagues kicked off programs at North Huron, USA and Caseville Schools the week of March 20.