FWS Keeps We Can!® Activities Running Year-Round
Posted October 5‚ 2010
Even in the winter months, the opportunities for outdoor activities are plentiful. And if you're looking for someone who embodies the spirit of the outdoors—and places a strong emphasis on the importance of outdoor activity for both physical and emotional health—look no further than We Can! partner U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), of the U.S. Department of the Interior.
"Nature plays a huge role in getting us up and moving, helping to curb childhood obesity and a whole host of related health issues such as diabetes and ADHD," said Amanda Patrick, Environmental Education/Outreach Specialist and We Can! leader at FWS's Wolf Creek National Fish Hatchery in Jamestown, Kentucky. "But not only that—nature has a benefit to the soul as well, helping us all to find that sense of place and belonging. There's a multifaceted approach to why we do what we do, and at the core of it is wanting to contribute to creating a healthy and happy community, and helping kids feel empowered and good about themselves."
And the FWS, which has been a We Can! partner since May 2008, is using We Can! as part of their efforts to do just that.
This spring, the hatchery and the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service's Russell County Office, both members of the Russell County Community Health Coalition, formed a partnership to plan and implement a We Can! Parent Program for the local area. Participants in the four-week program attended weekly classes where they learned about easy ways to become more active, how to incorporate better nutrition into meal planning, and, with the hatchery's involvement, how connecting with the outdoors can play a pivotal role in improving health.
Participants in the four-week program
The first series of classes, held in April, was so successful that a second session was organized in July. Wolf Creek has also built a strong partnership with the local library system, another member of the Community Health Coalition, and through that partnership, more classes are planned for late 2010 and early 2011. Patrick also intends to ask families that have already completed the program to return and serve as mentors for new participants in upcoming classes.
But it doesn't stop there.
The Community Health Coalition's activities present lots of great opportunities to disseminate We Can! messages and materials. "We add in new programs and endeavors all the time, and We Can! continues to be an amazing part of the overall picture," explained Patrick.
For example, Wolf Creek is currently exploring ways to incorporate We Can! into the annual Russell County Longest Day of Play event, which offers games and activities designed to encourage children to get outdoors and get moving. The day includes a variety of hands-on stations, many of which have nature-related themes, ranging from fishing to a wetlands exploration to scavenger hunts. For 2011, the hatchery plans to incorporate activities from the We Can! P.E.P. Rally-in-a-Box kit into the Longest Day event.
Additionally, Wolf Creek plans to include We Can! activities in other upcoming events supported by the Coalition, including the October Second Sunday event, which focuses on promoting physical activity within the local community and encouraging people to step away from the screen and get moving, and the Coalition-hosted 5K race scheduled for November.
In addition to special events, the hatchery also makes sure to incorporate We Can! messages and tips into regular programming. For example, the monthly Nature Rocks! Family Nature Club always includes a healthy snack with an outdoor theme. One month, the group encouraged youth participants to create edible "animal tracks" with sliced fruits and veggies on whole-wheat crackers spread with low-fat cream cheese. And at another event, this one with a pollinator theme, the hatchery showcased the many delicious fruits, vegetables, and more that come from pollinators (such as bees and butterflies), using broccoli, cauliflower, grapes, and many other fruits and vegetables to create edible flowers. "I remember hearing one parent remark how her little girl, who faces weight issues, never eats or even touches most veggies and fruits but how much she was enjoying this healthy snack," Patrick recalled.
The hatchery has also made sure to reach out to the local media about We Can!, frequently distributing press releases to radios, newspapers, local TV stations, and local and national lawmakers' offices. This media strategy has met with great success, and the hatchery's We Can! work is regularly covered by the Russell Springs Times Journal and the Russell Register, doing even more to spread We Can! messages to the local community.
"In order to succeed in what we do, people need to feel empowered, healthy, and connected to the outdoors, and We Can! is part of that solution," said Patrick.