Kids jump into wellness program


By Sue Cody


Clatsop Kids Go 2Squeals fill the gym as third-graders chase and tag each other in a game of Run Rabbit Run.


Fifth-graders dig in a flower bed and plant bulbs in an outside garden.


Coordinator Sarah Brown bubbles with enthusiasm as she raises three small plastic bags of sugar. “Which one do you think represents the amount of sugar in soda?” she asks kids sitting on the gym floor. Which one for juice? Which one for milk?


Hula hoops, yoga exercises, even mindfulness are all part of Clatsop Kids Go, a program developed by The Way to Wellville to create a culture of positive attitudes, knowledge and behavior around nutrition, physical activity and emotional well-being. Third, fourth and fifth-graders in the Warrenton and Astoria school districts finished the first 12-week pilot program in January.


Brown says she received positive feedback from teachers, principals and parents. And the kids loved it.


US Bank photoHatching a health program


The Way to Wellville saw a need for nutrition education and access to healthy foods for children after learning from a 2014 study that about 18 percent of Clatsop County eighth and 11th graders did not have enough food to eat because they didn’t have enough money.


Now, all Astoria elementary school children can receive a free lunch. Backpack programs, school breakfasts and free summertime meal sites for all children have helped fill the gap.


Studies show that physical activity and better nutrition help prevent and reduce obesity that often leads to other health complications such as diabetes, high blood pressure and other diseases.


Sydney Van Dusen, Way to Wellville coordinator, and Debbie Morrow, Strategic Council member wrote a proposal for a Passport to Wellness program. Providence Community Benefit made a $30,000 grant to fund the program, that is designed as a pathway to developing healthy eating habits; healthy behaviors; healthy body image; healthy emotional development; healthy mind and body symmetry and learning skills such as growing your own food.


Brown was hired as coordinator and designed the curriculum for the in-school program. In the process, she researched federal guidelines, nutrition, education, mindfulness and spoke to community experts in childhood health and education.


Brown has a background of college studies in psychology, sociology, public health and political science. The mother of two also has a keen interest in working with children, from day care to coaching youth volleyball.


“I’ve always known I wanted to be involved in schools, health and the community,” Brown says. “The draw for me is the kids. I just love kiddos.”


Clatsop Kids Go 3About Clatsop Kids Go


Each school is unique. Brown works with the principals, teachers and counselors to find the best time to hold Clatsop Kids Go. At Lewis and Clark Elementary, the session was 35 minutes at recess. At Warrenton, it was one hour after school.


Fifty children were chosen at each school to participate in the program, but when Warrenton parents returned more than 100 permission forms, a second session was planned. Administrators said they had never had that many permission slips returned.


Brown gathers materials and fills a drawstring backpack with goodies to encourage healthy habits and behavior, such as a jump rope, water bottle, Frisbee and a hula hoop. Socks and shoes are available for anyone who needs them.


Each session begins with a game: Kick the Can, Capture the Flag or something active to get the kids moving.


Then there is a lesson. Brown shows the kids portion sizes and how to balance grains, proteins, fruits, vegetables and fats, and how eating colorful foods helps acquire needed vitamins. After that lesson, a PE teacher reported hearing kids challenge each other to eat healthier.


One day the children are given plastic cups with potting soil in which they plant radish seeds. One child returned weeks later saying he had grown two radishes and ate them in a salad. Not everyone was that successful, but they learned about germination and a plant’s need of light, water and the possibility of growing food.


Each child receives a binder with materials for a tool kit. They keep a log or “passport” of their activities, including how much water they drink, how many sodas, what kind and how long they participate in physical activities. They can earn a Fitbit if they keep up their activities and tracking log. Nearly everyone in the first batch of students received Fitbits.


Brown says she doesn’t expect kids to change their habits in 12 weeks, but improving awareness and consciousness about nutrition and activities is a good start toward a healthy lifestyle.


“It was a very successful program,” Brown says.


In the future, she would like to see peer mentoring. Maybe the fifth-graders can mentor the third-graders, she says.


Clatsop Kids Go 1Partners help out


Part of the nutrition lesson is showing children they can grow their own food. Master Gardeners Barbara and Ed Hassan volunteer to teach gardening lessons. They are building raised garden beds at the schools with lumber donated by Hampton Lumber. In the spring, the kids will plant vegetables in the raised beds.


Kristen Tschannen, owner of Seaside Yoga and Way to Wellville Strategic Council member volunteered to teach basic yoga skills to the children at Warrenton. They liked it immediately.


“Kids came in asking when they could do yoga,” Brown says.


“The most active, unfocused, hyper kid could do the yoga tree pose for longer than anyone. Now that takes concentration,” Brown marveled.


US Bank gave Passport to Wellness a $5,000 grant for its focus on play. The bank states “play brings joy. It is beneficial for problem solving, creativity and relationships.”


“Our program aims to provide play opportunities for children to foster confidence as well as resiliency skills,” Way to Wellville council members wrote in the grant proposal. “Giving the children the materials for play, and the incentives for doing so will only enhance the overall well-being of the children and their surroundings.”


Clatsop Kids Go 4Volunteer opportunity


Sydney Van Dusen and Jessica Morrow assisted Brown in the schools, but more volunteers interested in health, wellness or exercise are sought. If you would like to volunteer, contact Sydney Van Dusen at


Cooking classes and cultural outings may be added in the next session. Now that the basic curriculum has been set, it will be easier to implement and expand the program, Brown says. “Every 12 weeks we will get better.


“My focus is building kids up. I want to be a mentor, and offer a positive influence for the children.”