By: Sandy Spin Slade, President and Founder of Skillastics®
After School programs have experienced significant growth in the past 10 years. According to America After 3PM: Kids on the Move, 6.5 million children were enrolled in After School programs. Today, more than 10 million children are in After School programs. As the demand rises, the need for additional strategies to address obesity and inactivity is increasing.
The National After School Association proactively introduced the Healthy Eating and Physical Activity (HEPA) Guidelines in 2011. The HEPA Guidelines were created as a guide to help promote lifelong health and prevent chronic disease. The challenge, however, is that efficient resources need to be implemented to offset the challenge that many programs face – limited access to space needed for increased physical activity.
Another challenge in After School is the lack of knowledge of how to implement quality physical activity. Having over 15 years of experience teaching After School Programmers the benefit of physical activity, we have found that they are definitely in favor of physical activity. The challenge becomes how to introduce quality physical activity that engages all abilities in the most simple, resourceful way.
Skillastics has been a welcome solution to both challenges that After School Programs face, as well as the perfect resource to help promote STEM learning.
First, Skillastics® is a technique of play that can engage up to 100 children at one time in limited space. Skillastics® is a series of oversize board games that develop both children’s fitness and sport skills. Children love the unique system of play that divides groups of children into six teams, with the teams scattered away from the oversize mat. Each team includes a miniature mat that is identical to the large mat in the middle of the playing area. On the signal, one child from each team jogs to his/her assigned color die and beanbag located on the large mat. He/she moves his/her beanbag the amount rolled and jogs back to his/her team, explaining the activity, or pointing it out on the miniature mat. The team does the activity together based on the number of repetitions stated on the mat. The play then repeats with another member of the team. Every team is moving simultaneously, but independently of one another.
Skillastics® can be played indoors or out, on stages, in multi-purpose rooms, and even in hallways. An efficient, simplistic and FUN way to engage a large group of children.
Second, After School Programmers have found their line staff enjoying the simplicity of introducing Skillastics® to their children. The supplemental resources included (instructional DVD and manual) makes it easy to understand and implement. You don’t have to be a physical activity expert to implement Skillastics®.
Finally, Skillastics® has recently introduced the integration of STEM into the technique of play. Mounting evidence has revealed an increase in physical activity reduces stress, improves concentration, and enhances academic performance. Introducing resources like STEM Skillastics® into your After School Program combines movement with STEM questioning to create a balance of learning in an atmosphere of fun. STEM Skillastics® includes 720 STEM question cards, (30 questions for each category, 120 questions total for each team) that are integrated into the Skillastics® technique. This powerful resource for grades 3-6 can actively engage up to 100 students at one time! The simplicity in play allows line staff to easily involve a large group of children of varying ages and abilities, while simultaneously igniting an interest in STEM.
Resources like Skillastics® will continue to help After School Programs throughout the country increase physical activity, which will increase and promote health and active living that will last a lifetime.