Students teach good health |

Students teach good health

Middle schoolers become health conscious, teach their peers

Brent Boyer

Alyssa Walter is going to think twice about what she eats.

Walter, a 13-year-old Steamboat Springs Middle School eighth-grader, was one of 13 middle school students who coordinated and conducted a 9Health Fair held at the school Thursday.

And after spending the entire day at the “What’s for lunch?” food information booth showing her peers vials of fat extracted from foods such as french fries and doughnuts, Walter said she gained useful knowledge of nutritional facts.

“I think ‘What’s for lunch?’ is pretty cool because you think what you’re eating doesn’t have any calories in it, but it can have a lot,” Walter said. “It’s pretty interesting stuff.”

The middle school is one of about 70 schools across the state that will host a 9Health Fair. Basic life skills teacher Ann Keating, who applied on behalf of the school to host the fair, accompanied two of the 13 volunteer students to Denver earlier this fall for an all-day health fair training. Representatives from 9Health Fair also came to Steamboat for a one-day training for the fair, which was run by the students.

The emphasis of Thursday’s fair was slanted toward tobacco use prevention, but a variety of community groups and professionals attended the fair to provide expertise in a variety of areas. The city’s Parks, Open Space and Recreational Services Department, Steamboat Springs Fire Department, Routt County Tobacco Education and Prevention Partnership and Dr. Lisa Harner operated several stations at the fair, where students could have their blood pressure taken, blood-oxygen levels and heart rates monitored and heads fitted for sports helmets. The fire department even gave away several sports helmets for students.

“You’ve always got to wear a helmet, they’re so important for preventing head injuries,” fire department public education coordinator Jacqui Campbell said.

A mix of health-related activities and games circled the school’s gymnasium on Thursday, where every middle school student had to participate in at least nine activities to earn credit. Keating said the school’s first-ever 9Health Fair was a huge success.

“It’s a fun event that brings into focus issues around health,” Keating said. “We tried to pick (activities and stations) that were age-appropriate for the middle school.”

Many of the educational tools, such as “fatal vision goggles” that, when worn, alter the user’s visual orientation, were on loan from 9Health Fair. Others, such as a Jeopardy game, were created by the 13 coordinating students.

Jeopardy topics included nutrition, smoking, blood, heart and mental health. Eighth-grader Tara Conlin said there was an important message to the questions and answers in the game.

“I hope it teaches other kids to not even start smoking, and to learn what all kinds of things it can do to your (health),” Conlin said.

Conlin, Walter and the 11 other students who put the fair together earned community service hours, which the school’s office tracks. Middle school students are required to accumulate eight hours of community service before they can obtain their eighth-grade diplomas.

The Lowell Whiteman School will host a 9Health Fair for teenagers Nov. 18. That fair is open to all teens in Routt County regardless of which school they attend.

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