Fun with a purpose

Glendale News Press

In less than 15 seconds, fourth-grader Abigail Simpson hopped about 40 yards Wednesday during a sack race — one of almost 20 games — at Monte Vista Elementary School.

Her friends said she was a fast runner, but Abigail seemed impressed with her potato-sack racing skills.

"I don't have a secret. I'm just a fast runner," she said.

It was Run & Fun Day, where the school's third-, fourth- and fifth-grade classes maximized three hours of organized play time.

"This is our big culmination of physical education," said P.E. teacher Roger Sondergaard. "I like to camouflage fitness so they are involved in physical activities, but not realizing the fitness side."

The softball catch was a prime example, Sondergaard said. A bazooka shoots softballs, and students make the catch and run the ball back 40 yards.

"They have to hustle back," Sondergaard said. "It adds a bit of fitness to something that may not have been that physical."

That's what makes the games, from hula-hooping, jump-roping and throwing foam javelins, an easy way for families to bring P.E. classes into their homes or a local park, he said.

Jump-rope is physical, but to give kids competitive motivation, organizers arranged a point system for participation, achievement, as well as bonus points for wearing school-spirit shirts and answering trivia questions.

"It's important that both parents and kids get involved in physical activities outside of school," Sondergaard said. "Many of these are easy to set up in a backyard or park."

Two Strike Park is a hub of physical activity, and parents in the community typically emphasize fitness in and out of school, said Missy Ozeas, a parent.

"I notice a lot of kids around here are really fortunate because there's a lot of group activities," she said. "A lot of these kids are on teams and another group is part of dance teams. There are teams of kids from Monte Vista."

Fourth-grade brothers Matt and Kyle Gardner were busy at the hula-hoop ring toss, as Matt tossed three hoops simultaneously, landing all of them around the post.

"It was skill," he said. "Maybe luck."

With celebrity star power from the NFL and NBA, or Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Michelle Obama, families are getting the message that child obesity is an issue, said Harriet Howe, a Monte Vista parent.

Her 15-year-old son Peter Simpson, a freshman at Clark Magnet High, lost 15 pounds on his own, because he wanted to get in shape, Howe said.

"You have to do it on your own," she said. "The key is moderation for our family, and to get some exercise every day."

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