NORTH KINGSTOWN – In order to help combat a decrease in physical activity during the COVID-19 pandemic, Ocean State Community Wellness (OSCW) announced the launch of a new Active Kids program, focusing on keeping youngsters’ minds and bodies healthy.
Since March, many extracurricular activities for children have been canceled, leading to more and more kids stuck inside, without an outlet. OSCW’s Active Kids program seeks to address this lack of activity, both mentally and physically.
The Active Kids program, which officially kicked off this Monday, features a variety of elements and lessons, including physical education, STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) and nutrition, all led by OSCW’s team of coaches and instructors.
Thirty-minute classes will take place at OSCW on Mondays and Wednesdays, and outdoors when possible. Participants will be separated into two age groups: four to seven-years old at 5 p.m., and eight to 11-years old at 5:30 p.m. (In-person classes will be limited to five participants to adhere to social distancing guidelines, with all equipment being sanitized before and after classes. An online class will be available via Zoom at 4:30 p.m. for both age groups.)
The classes will be ongoing through the end of the year.
Amy Shields, a trainer at OSCW who is managing the program on a day-to-day basis, said that the Monday classes will focus on physical activities like obstacle courses and games, while the Wednesday classes will feature STEAM-related activities, giving the kids a chance to be creative.
Monday classes, called “Active Kids Physical,” are “designed to enrich, educate and motivate providing a foundation for leading a healthy, active lifestyle,” OSCW’s website states, adding that kids will “play, move and engage in ground-based activities which will help strengthen key pillars of their physical education.” The Wednesday classes, “Active Kids S.T.E.A.M,” provide them a chance to “stimulate learning in a fun interactive manner,” with children allowed to be creative and “make a mess,” all while learning about STEAM through “unique challenges and tasks.”
“Our Monday classes are going to be where kids are coming in and we’re going to do physical activities, obstacle courses, games for them to play. We’re going to get them to move, we’re going to get them engaged,” Shields said. “Our Wednesday is going to be more of a STEAM kind of environment. We’re going to do different activities with the kids to be creative and have some fun and make some messes.”
Shields said that the overall intent of the Active Kids program was to keep kids engaged.
“We wanted to do the Active Kids to try to get kids engaged. Everything’s been shut down,” she said. “We’re trying to get kids in, get kids moving and we want them to have a safe and comfortable environment.”
“They don’t have to be athletic, they don’t have to be in sports,” she continued. “We just want them to move and have a good time.”
She also said there would be both individual and team building components in the program.
Kevin Brochu, OSCW’s Executive Director, said that the programs aim to address the “unintended consequences” of life during a pandemic.
“Our Active Kids Programs were developed to combat the unintended consequences of our ‘new normal,’ which finds many kids experiencing their school days behind a screen and their extracurricular activities cancelled,” Brochu said. “Our goal is to provide kids with an exciting and engaging outlet that stimulates their minds and gets them active while having fun so that they build a foundation to be fit for life.”
Brochu said that, since March, kids have been dealing with a lot of stress and anxiety, which has affected them physically, mentally and socially.
“So what Amy’s looking to do with the Active Kids [...] is to give them a half hour out of their day to just kind of decompress,” he said. “To go and do something that allows them to move, to be active, to be physical.”
Brochu said that Shields, who has a background in elementary education, will also be focused on teaching the kids how to live a healthy, active lifestyle.
However, he said that, while the kids will be learning and exercising in both the physical and STEAM-focused classes, the program will be “geared towards play.”
“Amy’s background is elementary education, that’s where we really want to utilize her skill sets there to create these dynamic programs,” he said. “What she’s trying to do is get them moving, get them engaged, to help the kids combat that stress and anxiety, the lack of physical activities that they’re getting.”
Another component of the program, Brochu said, was to address possible overeating issues among kids.
Though the Wednesday courses are focused on STEAM, Brochu said that it would be introduced through physical education.
“We also want to involve a physical component to that too, where we can teach them STEAM but also have a physical activity component,” he said. “We want the kids moving, we want them engaged, we want them to be challenged.”
Brochu reiterated that the classes weren’t for “superstar athletes” or the “most active kids in the world,” but rather for all kids at every fitness level.
“This is for the young student or athlete that might not be the best, physically fit, most active kid in the world,” he said. “This is for everybody.”
On top of giving kids a physical and mental outlet, the program also allows parents to “decompress” for a half hour.
“We have many parents in here who are working full time, who also have to be full time teachers, because they might be doing online learning,” Brochu said. “And that’s stressful.”
While their children are participating in the Active Kids program, parents can “take a class, they can go workout, they can go do whatever,” he added.
“It gives them mom time or dad time, away from the kids,” Brochu said.
Brochu also said that OSCW was partnering with the North Kingstown School District through the Office of Family Learning, allowing fourth and fifth graders to attend the Active Kids classes.
“It will be kids coming after school, they’re bussed here, they participate in the classes,” he said. “Some of these kids, unfortunately, might not have the financial ability to come here, but now we can allow them, through the school department, to participate. At our core that’s our mission. We’re trying to help everybody, regardless of socioeconomic background.”
“So that’s a partnership that we’re excited to start with in the next couple weeks,” he added.
The cost is $10 for each 30-minute class and can be purchased as an eight, 16, or 24-class package. For more information and to register for classes, visit https://oscwellness.org/active-kids/.
The Active Kids programs are available for members and non-members alike.