Timberline Elementary fifth-grader, Kassiah Khountham, is an energetic “5th Gear kid” who brought her whole family to the 5th Gear Kids Fitness Celebration on March 14.
“She really wanted to come,” said her mother, Nicole. “It’s free fun for the whole family.”
While Kassiah and her friend Lily Cajigas walked, crawled and climbed on the Railyard obstacle course, her father Ket and 6-year-old brother Jaren played catch with bean bags; her mother Nicole watched her 16-month-old brother Rithavy smile and laugh as carried hoops across the grass; and her 12-year-old brother Jesiah tried a variety of the more challenging activities available in the Family Sports Center Sports Dome – everything from hitting golf balls to walking on stilts to kicking a soccer ball into a Colorado Rapids goal. Across the parking lot in the main Family Sports Center building, there were more activities to enjoy, including rock climbing, laser tag and ice skating.
The 5th Gear Kids health and fitness program is taught to all fifth graders in Cherry Creek Schools and Aurora Public Schools. The Fitness Celebration marked the program’s third successful year. More than 1,000 people took part in the free event, which featured a wide variety of physical and educational activities that reinforce the 5th Gear Kids message of energy balance.
“We help students understand the relationship between a body’s activity level and the amount of calories required to keep that body healthy, energized and ready to learn” said Dr. Megan Mistler-Jackson, the 5th Gear Kids Grant Coordinator for Cherry Creek Schools.
“Research shows that fifth-graders are at the perfect age to understand and have an opinion about health-related issues and they can impact family decisions,” Mistler-Jackson said. “They are also leaders in their schools and can positively influence younger students and siblings.”
That’s certainly the case in the Alexander family. As parents Eric and Meredith watched their daughter Leona, a fifth-grader at Polton Elementary, and twin, third-grade sons, glide around the ice rink, they said Leona is setting a good example for her younger brothers.
“She’s definitely been talking about healthy eating and paying attention to what we order in restaurants,” said Meredith Alexander. “She’s taught the boys about energy balance and about earning points; she’s totally motivated by the points!”
5th Gear Kids can earn points by tracking their physical activity and healthy eating choices. Then they can use their points to earn prizes. Participating fifth-graders also get a 5th Gear Kids card that they can use for discounts at participating restaurants and recreation facilities.
The innovative 5th Gear Kids program was developed by researchers at the University of Colorado Anschutz Health and Wellness Center in collaboration with the Children’s Hospital Foundation, Cherry Creek Schools and Aurora Public Schools to help combat the growing obesity epidemic. It was originally funded by a grant from the Colorado Health Foundation and is now supported by business and community sponsors, including King Soopers, Anthem Wellpoint Foundation and Children’s Hospital Colorado.
For more information about the 5th Gear Kids program, visit www.5thgearkids.org.