Stories And Inspiration

GO FAR Is Part of California Schools’ Focus on Health

Submitted by Anonymous on Sep 24th 2015 - 6:00PM. | Perma Link


Participants take off at the start of SERRF’s one-mile Fun Run in May at Mendocino National Forest.

For students who no longer have structured PE during the school day, regular classroom teachers and afterschool programs help fill the void. In Tehama County, Calif., Safe Education and Recreation for Rural Families (SERRF) leads afterschool programs dedicated to good health.

GO FAR is one of the programs SERRF uses to boost physical fitness in the students’ daily routines.

“Afterschool programs are looked to to provide physical activity often not happening during the school day,” said Beth Birk, SERRF recreation specialist.

It’s SERRF’s goal to provide an afterschool program that focuses on academics, enrichment, and recreation in a healthy environment. With homework assistance, character education, prevention activities, and more, SERRF serves 22 public schools countywide.

All 1,600 students in the county’s transitional kindergarten through eighth-grade public schools participate in GO FAR. “This is required,” Birk said. “You can’t opt out and do another activity. We are promoting good health by developing healthy nutrition and activity habits. Statistically, students are having more health issues, including diabetes and weight gain.

“There are always students who would rather be sedentary,” Birk said. “We required everyone to walk at a minimum during the 30-minute physical activity time.”

Tehama County Schools are starting their third year with GO FAR after switching from a similar program, which had age restrictions. Birk likes that no one is left out, the easy-to-use curriculum, and the character traits taught by GO FAR.

Debbie Highley, facilitator for the Antelope Elementary SERRF Expanded Learning Program in Tehama County, said her group builds character using the GO FAR lesson plans. The vision at her school is “to choose wisely for their own nutrition as well as enjoying a wide variety of healthy activities to help create a long and healthy life.”

Her school was chosen as a Healthy Behaviors Initiative site for following and meeting certain guidelines about nutrition, physical activity, and food security. GO FAR is one way they implement physical activity.

“[GO FAR] offers children who might otherwise not be able to participate in sports due to lack of money or a parent who would be able to take them,” Highley said. “This gives them a chance to be able to participate in our program in a fun physical activity at their own level of ability at no cost to them.”

Though SERRF covers a wide geographic area and not every family can get to the culminating race, last spring, 149 SERRF kids participated in the area’s GO FAR 5K. St. Elizabeth Hospital, through Dignity Health, helped pay for a bus to bring students and families from 20 miles away, as well as provide healthy food at the race.

SERRF’s efforts for students’ better health also extend beyond programs like GO FAR. Staff members can only drink water at school, no sugary drinks. They encourage reluctant students to be involved in all activities, such as being line judges for games and referees from the sidelines, Birk said.

To increase physical activity, staff also use shorter duration activities more frequently.

“We can’t have a healthier population without starting young,” Birk said.

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