Outdoor Education Center

Happy and Healthy New Year!


December brought the Health and Nutrition Unit to a close for the WV Leaders in Action students, but not before some final lessons about the body’s need for a well-rounded approach to fitness.  Not only does health and fitness include cardio and strength activities, but stretching and flexibility activities as well.  They’re not just for gymnasts and cheerleaders, martial artists or dancers. Stretching is how a person maintains normal flexibility throughout life.

A person may not be able to function normally if a joint lacks normal movement. The ability to move a joint through an adequate range of movement (ROM) is important for daily activities in general.  Tightness or loss of ROM happens quite readily in our culture with much of our education and work happening in the sitting position at a desk.  The major areas of our hamstrings, hip-flexors, back, and neck are most commonly affected.  With losses of ROM, simple activities such as walking, biking, and playing can be restricted, more difficult, or even just less enjoyable.  As a point of remedy and wellness, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends that Adults should do flexibility exercises at least two or three days each week to improve range of motion.1


So with all of this in mind, of course we headed outside with our students to learn some simple and easy active and static stretches to help them maintain and improve their capacity and ability to play and enjoy life.  How much they take care of their bodies is a decision that our students will have to make. But how might their health affect their education, I wondered?  After a bit a research, I came across this article2 which gives input into that very question.  Although complex, the answer is in short… of course their educational experience is impacted by their health.

As the semester came to a close, I wondered if there’s a larger lesson embedded in all of this as well.  Maintaining physical flexibility can be helpful to enjoy life and potentially take on new types of movements and activities more readily.  Can this be a metaphor for other aspects of who we are?  Mental flexibility can help us to think in new ways, adapt to different situations, or understand new concepts.  Emotional flexibility can help us cope with a variety of experiences or be less judgmental toward our peers. These skills can be important aspects on the path towards post-secondary education success.

So here’s to a brand new start filled with resolutions of all kinds that help us to loosen up in many ways. Wishing you, and all of our students, a happy and healthy new year.


  1. http://www.acsm.org/about-acsm/media-room/news-releases/2011/08/01/acsm-issues-new-recommendations-on-quantity-and-quality-of-exercise
  2. http://hubpages.com/health/Does-health-affect-education

(Josh Evans is the Program Assistant for FLOC’s Outdoor Education Center in WV) 

Outdoor Education Center

Empowerment and Health

Students today are faced with many decisions in their life. FLOC aims to help students understand that they constantly have many choices, even when it comes to their health and the health of their community. Part of the youth empowerment programming adopted by FLOC’s West Virginia Leaders in Action program includes the self-awareness and knowledge that they do have power to make good decisions and affect change.


Here in WV, the statistics for childhood obesity rates reached close to 18.5% in 2011 placing the state high on the list at number 13 compared with the 50 other states. For the same year, DC youth obesity rates were just above 21% putting the district at 4th highest among other states.   Poor health and nutrition and lack of activity can also be major determining factors in a person’s ability to focus, to sleep well, and have energy and motivation. The link between education and health is well documented, but it would not be surprising that students’ health could affect their education as well.

For the second half of the fall semester, our Leaders in Action programs have been immersed in the Health and Nutrition unit. Students looked at the consequences of added sugars with the enhanced visuals of actually measuring out the numbers of teaspoons of sugar in a variety of familiar foods and products. They also discussed standard dental hygiene practices and strategies for caring for our protective tooth enamel such as avoiding sugary acidic beverages. Everyone was surprised to learn that most fruit juices and sports drinks are comparable to sodas when it comes to acidity and sugar content.

The focus this month is on the importance of movement and activity in our lives.  Learning or developing unhealthy habits as a child can set a person up for a lifetime of difficulties and disease.  Play and movement can be fun, and implementing healthy habits can increase a child’s energy and confidence.  So last week, in honor of the First Lady’s Let’s Move campaign, we visited a local county park’s indoor playground and got active for one hour.  After learning how to measure their heart rates and get them up to beneficial levels, with the help of a moon bounce and some fun games like clothes pin tag, all those present got the recommended 60 minutes of activity in for that day.

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The health of a population is affected not just by education and awareness, but also by economic inequalities, and access to healthy food and safe, active, appropriate spaces to play, among other things.  We don’t want our young people to be limited in life by preventable health issues.  Their potential is at stake, so let’s move towards a more healthy and just society together.

(Josh Evans is the Program Assistant for FLOC’s Outdoor Education Center in WV)

News, Outdoor Education Center

Leaders In Action Students Learn about Physical Wellness

LIA students participate of the agility section of the physical fitness test.
Leaders In Action (LIA) students participate on the agility section of a physical fitness test.

The Leaders In Action (LIA) students from West Virginia recently completed their first lesson from the curriculum on the seven dimensions of health. While involved in this unit, focused on physical wellness, the students participated in many interactive and educational activities to reinforce the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Students craft a heart pump with straws, water, and a jar
Students work together to create a heart pump with straws, water, and a jar.

Students learned about the risks of cardiovascular disease by crafting a heart pump with straws, water, and a jar. Students were also able to witness the effects that poor health has on the heart by developing clogged arteries using water, straws, and Crisco oil. During a meeting in October, we focused on testing our taste buds, learning about carbohydrates and proteins, trying healthy food options, experimenting with portion sizes, and examining a human body energy simulation. To get the students moving, during every meeting we played an active game such as ultimate frisbee and tag.

This fall we had two guest speakers: Dr. Mark Cucuzella and Dr. Josh Miller. Dr. Mark Cucuzzella, a local family doctor, marathon runner and owner of a minimalist footwear store, provided our students with a running clinic and lesson on simple nutrition prior to the Freedom’s Run. Our second guest speaker, a local physical therapist, Dr. Josh Miller, administered one of the three rounds of physical fitness tests based on five activities. Students’ results were documented and will be used to compare their improvement in January and May.

Another addition to LIA this year has been our monthly weekend programs. Students visited the Outdoor Education Center (OEC) in October to focus on the basics of gardening. While learning about our new 4-season greenhouse and grow lab, students planted vegetables and made their own biodegradable starter pots.

Students play "Pin the Bone".
Students play “Pin the Bone on the Body” while learning about human anatomy.

To celebrate the fall season, students celebrated with a “Leaders In Action Fall Party” based on anatomy. Students learned about the human body by playing “Simon Says- Muscle Edition” and “Pin the Bone on the Body.” Students also learned about organs and other body parts by blindly guessing which food represented the correct body part.  Our next unit will be social wellness. As the year progresses, students will continue to participate in activities to learn more about the seven dimensions of health.

(Sarah Nowicki is an AmeriCorps Vista at FLOC’s Outdoor Education Center).