Dr. Kate Heelan
Building Healthy Families program co-director

The eighth annual Nebraska Kids Fitness and Nutrition Day will bring approximately 700 fourth graders from area Nebraska communities to the University of Nebraska at Kearney campus Friday, Sept. 16, according to Dr. Kate Heelan, event cofounder and director of the UNK Human Performance Laboratory.

Activities will take place from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. at Foster Field, Cushing Coliseum and the Health & Sports Center. When they arrive, students will be divided into two groups with one group focusing on physical activities while the second group works its way through the nutrition stations. After lunch, the groups will switch activities for the afternoon.

Among the physical activities planned are step aerobics, team-building, participating with members of the UNK baseball team, obstacle courses and the parachute. Meanwhile, nutrition stations will teach youth about energy balance, making healthy snacks,  the importance of food safety and washing hands, and MyPlate, the new USDA symbol for proper nutrition.

“The primary purpose of the event is to open the eyes of young people to the ways physical activity and nutrition work together to maintain health,” Dr. Heelan said, adding, “We are dedicated to providing support to help schools achieve their school wellness goals.”         Fourth grade students will come to the campus Friday from Alma, Elm Creek, Franklin, Gibbon, Holdrege, Kearney, Overton, Riverdale and Shelton. Working with the students will be more than 130 UNK students, faculty and staff from the College of Education.

Nebraska Kids Fitness and Nutrition Day, which was created and developed by Dr. Heelan and Kaiti Roeder, director of nutrition education for the Nebraska Beef Council, is funded by the Nebraska Beef Council. The program has now been packaged into a standard curriculum, which other communities are now using.

In 2011, six additional communities will host the event for fourth grade students including events in Hastings, McCook, Scottsbluff, Sidney, Chadron and Alliance. In all, more than 2,400 fourth grade students will be involved in the event.

While the event is supported, in part, by a grant from the Nebraska Beef Council, additional support is provided by Two Rivers Public Health District and UNK.

“The goal is to provide a fun, inspiring day for fourth grade students to interact with college students, staff and faculty to learn about the importance of energy balance in a supportive, exciting environment,” Dr. Heelan concluded.