Sqord and Gear Up & Go! mentioned on Seattle’s NBC News

This post originally appeared on King5.com here with video included.

Wearable technology is exploding in popularity because more people want to use fitness trackers to keep them motivated. A number of products are developed here in Western Washington, like the Nike FuelBand, which was developed by Seattle company Synapse.

Redmond-based Sensoria makes shirts, socks and bras with sensors that are sewn into the clothing. The sensors in the socks send signals to a smartphone or smartwatch and coaches you on proper foot position. The fitness bra can track your heart rate. Because the heart rate monitor is built into the bra, you don’t have to worry about it moving around or getting loose.

Thousands of fifth graders in Snohomish County are wearing the Sqord PowerPod. As the student moves, the wristwatch translates that activity into digital points. They’re using the fitness trackers as part of the “Gear Up & Go” campaign. The more they move, the more points they earn. It’s turned into a friendly social competition for the kids.

Other fitness trackers can also track your sleep patterns and remind you to keep moving.

Synapse says wearable technology has come a long way in just a few short years.

“Well I think a funny fact is in 2004, McDonalds was giving away free pedometers in their salad meal, so today’s wearables are definitely smarter and a little bit more expensive. And a lot of them you see are on your wrist, but where they’re going is in your shoes, shirt and in your jewelry,” said Russel Stromberg, account director for Synapse.

Stromberg is working on way to use wearable technology to make your life easier. By using biometrics, the technology will allow you to someday start your car, help you order at restaurants or tell you when to stand up from your computer at work.

“The thing about wearables is, if I know what you are doing, I just do those things for you without you having to reach out to do them,” said Stromberg.

 

 

Columbia sweeps field in Gear Up & Go competition

This article originally appeared in the Mukilteo Beacon here

The students at Columbia Elementary are the school district champions in a friendly competition this year called Gear Up & Go, a county-wide initiative to get students active.

A large number of fifth graders throughout Snohomish County have been wearing a device on their wrists that looks something like a watch with a milky-white band. The device, called a Sqord PowerPod, has been measuring the activity of the students as they run, jump and play games.

In weekly head-to-head competition between Mukilteo elementary schools during the past eight weeks, Columbia swept the field with the highest percentage of students to sync their PowerPod, the highest average points earned during the week, and the greatest improvement in physical activity levels compared with the previous week.

Columbia was one of only two schools in Snohomish County to sweep all three categories within a school district and was the only school in the county to be undefeated in each of its eight match-ups with other schools.

Gear Up & Go was created by the Snohomish County Health Leadership Coalition to encourage healthy habits among fifth graers and to reverse a decline in healthy youth activity by coupling fitness with innovative technology that engages and entertains the students.

More than 95 percent of the elementary schools in Snohomish County are participating in the program.

Students wear the Sqord PowerPod like a wristwatch and, as the student moves, the pod translates that activity into digital points. The students can sync their PowerPods at their school, at any Snohomish County YMCA, or at other sites throughout the county.

With their points uploaded to Sqord’s online game platform, students can compare points and encourage their classmates with virtual High Fives.

Points are easy to earn. One step equals about three points, but there are any number of ways for a student to earn points. Doing the dishes or throwing a ball can earn points.

Students who earn 40,000 points per day are getting the recommended level of daily physical activity.

“The school match-ups provided PE and health teachers with the framework to motivate and energize their students,” said Scott Forslund, executive director of the Snohomish County Health Leadership Coalition. “What’s great about this is that we’re seeing variation in the numbers from district to district. Now we want to dive into the efforts behind those numbers to identify best practices.”

In winning the competition among Mukilteo elementary schools, an average of 71 percent of Columbia students synced their PowerPods. During the competition, they earned an average of 61,781 points per day, and had 49 students improve their points week over week.

 

Getting Your Kids Off the iPad Is Worth the Fight

This article first appeared on yahoo.com

Any parent who knows the particular hell of child tantrums in response to a set of screen-time rules may eventually begin to wonder: Is it really worth the fight? But a new study wants to assure you that yes, it really is. So stand your ground, moms and dads. The research, published Monday in JAMA Pediatrics, found that parents who set limits can count on some seriously positive results for their kids — including improved sleep, better grades, less aggressive behavior, and lower risk of obesity. 

“Parents often feel out of control when it comes to screen time — like they’re either taking a shot in the dark or should just give up,” lead researcher Douglas Gentile, a developmental psychologist and assistant professor of psychology at Iowa State, tells Yahoo Shine. “But what this study shows is that even that shot in the dark is really powerful. Parents have a much more of a profound effect on their child’s wellbeing than they realize.”

For the study, researchers analyzed the media habits of more than 1,300 Iowa and Minnesota schoolchildren already participating in an obesity-prevention program. They collected data from students, parents, teachers, and nurses on topics including screen-time limits, exposure to violent media, bedtimes, behavior, grades, and height and weights data — first at the start of the study and then again seven months later. “What we saw was this kind of ripple effect,” Gentile says, explaining that limits on screen time — specifically, watching shows or movies in any form, and playing video games — improved kids’ sleep, academics, pro-social behavior, and even body mass index. That seven months wound up being a sufficient amount of time to see differences between kids who had screen-time limits and those who did not was a happy surprise to researchers, particularly since the effects were small. 

“It was long enough for us to see the effect and also long enough for parents not to notice it,” Gentile explains, which is why moms and dads can be quick to dismiss the importance of monitoring screen time. “As parents, we don’t even see our children get taller and that’s a really noticeable effect. With media, what we’re often looking for is the absence of a problem, such as a child not gaining weight, making it even more difficult to notice,” Gentile says. But even tiny controls can make an impact, considering that children spend an average of 40-plus hours a week in front of a screen — not even counting time spent on their school computers. Also, according to a recent Common Sense Media study, 72 percent of children under 8 have used a mobile device — while 38 percent of children under 2 have used one — signaling a dramatic uptick since the group’s last such study, in 2012. 

Other recent studies have yielded similar findings regarding links between excessive screen time andobesitysleep, and aggression — but not necessarily all in one fell swoop. The new research also jibes with the recently revised guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics, which suggest less than two hours of passive screen time daily for all kids and teens and no screen time for kids younger than 2 (though, recently a doctor has suggested that active, rather than passive, screen time for kids under 2 might actually be beneficial).

Some tips for parents needing advice on how, exactly, to set limits, include:

Control the content. Let your child watch a DVD that you’re familiar with, for example, rather than something on TV or the computer. “That way, you’re not surprised by the content, and you know exactly how much time they’ll be watching for,” Gentile says.  

Model good behavior. “When kids are around, set an example by using media the way you want them to use it,” suggests Common Sense Media’s vice president of research, Seeta Pai. “If we’re on our phones at dinner, why will our kids listen to us when we tell them to turn theirs off?”

Set up an allowance or token economy system. Allot, say, 10 hours of screen time a week, and let your kids spend it whenever they want. Maybe they’ll use it in small increments, or maybe they’ll save up a binge for the weekend — but either way, they won’t want to waste it. “It helps them learn to manage their screen time, just like with a monetary allowance,” Gentile explains. “Plus it gives them some control and takes the fight away from the parent.”

 

Price tag for Child Obesity: $19K per kid

This article originally appeared in the USA Today

Over a lifetime, the medical costs associated with childhood obesity total about $19,000 per child compared with those for a child of normal weight, a new analysis shows.

The costs are about $12,900 per person for children of normal weight who become overweight or obese in adulthood, according to the analysis by researchers at the Duke Global Health Institute and Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School in Singapore and published online Monday in the journal Pediatrics.

The $19,000 estimate reflects direct medical costs such as doctors’ visits and medication but not indirect costs such as absenteeism and lost productivity into adulthood. The cost is “large, although perhaps not as large as some people would have guessed,” says lead author Eric Finkelstein, a health economist.

“In the case of childhood obesity, the real costs do not occur until decades later when these kids get adult health problems at a greater rate,” he says.

Obesity is a known risk factor for cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, certain cancers and a wide range of other diseases. About one in three adults and nearly one in five children in the United States are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The estimates highlight “the financial consequences of inaction and the potential medical savings from obesity prevention efforts that successfully reduce or delay obesity onset,” Finkelstein says.

The study notes that when multiplied by the number of all obese 10-year-olds in the U.S. today, the lifetime medical costs for this age alone reaches roughly $14 billion. That’s nearly twice the Department of Health and Human Services’ $7.8-billion budget for the Head Start program in fiscal year 2012, the analysis says.

To determine the estimates, researchers evaluated and updated existing research on lifetime costs of childhood obesity, focusing on six published studies.

The per-child estimates are valuable when looking at cost effectiveness, says John Cawley, co-director of the Institute on Health Economics, Health Behaviors and Disparities at Cornell University. He was not involved in the latest study.

If a new school-based intervention program is developed to decrease the probability of childhood obesity by a certain percentage, “you can use the numbers in the study to figure out what kind of savings that applies to the health care system,” Cawley says.

The $19,000 estimate is more than the roughly $16,930 the College Board says one year of college costs at a public four-year institution, including tuition, fees, books, room and board and other expenses.

 

Are Kids Forgetting How to Play?

This article first appeared in The Epoch Times here.

Lack of unstructured outdoor play is affecting children’s development, says expert

Play has been called “the business of childhood,” but with an increasing lack of free, unstructured time outdoors, kids are simply forgetting how to play, says an Ontario teacher consultant.

In the not-too-distant past, it was common to see kids playing outside. These days, however, it seems most children would rather stay indoors and get their entertainment from computers or other electronics.

“There’s a bit of a challenge with electronics these days,” says Sharon Seslija, a health and physical education consultant at Greater Essex County District School Board in Windsor.

“Even in my own neighbourhood, it’s like a desert out there—you just don’t see the kids outside.”

Besides spending an increased amount of time in front of various screens, Seslijia says other reasons why children aren’t getting outside as much include being over-scheduled in after-school activities, a lack of quality outdoor play space in urban areas, and parents’ fear that kids may get abducted or harmed if they play outside.

“We’re starting to see that kids don’t know how to play,” she says, noting that play—particularly unsupervised outdoor play—has an important role in children’s development.

This lack of outdoor playtime may be affecting childhood development, according to experts.

Studies show that in addition to the physical benefits of exercise, outdoor play and exposure to the natural world or “green space” has a number of cognitive, emotional, and social development benefits.

Play has been shown to improve and foster motor function, creativity, decision-making, problem-solving, social skills, control emotions, and helps develop speech in preschoolers. It also allows youngsters to try new things, test boundaries, and learn from their mistakes in a safe environment.

Only 5 percent of kids meet the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines of 60 minutes of physical activity per day, according to Active Healthy Kids Canada. In addition, 46 percent of children get less than three hours of active play per week.

“If one is not outside and moving and exercising, then of course we see rising rates of obesity in our young kids, and increases in mental health issues—anxiety, depression, all that stuff,” says Seslijia.

“Kids are not learning how to use their imaginations, and decision-making, problem-solving skills, and collaborative play are not being developed to their full extent.”

‘Everyone has to contribute’

Schools have started to notice the phenomenon and programs have been popping up to get kids outside, but the problem needs a more proactive, community-wide solution, says Seslijia.

“It’s much bigger than what the schools can do. This is one of those issues where everyone has to contribute,” she said.

“It would be great to see the police department saying, ‘Send your kids outside to play, our streets are safe. Crime statistics are down. It’s OK to go outside and play.’ It would be good for our Department of Health, our health units to promote [outdoor play]—to get that message to the parents.”

According to Active Healthy Kids Canada’s 2013 annual report card, the federal government has started to take note of the need to include active living initiatives in policy and funding.

The report card gave the government’s strategies on active living a “C-” grade for 2013, up from “D” in 2012. Government investments were also ranked “C-,” up from “F” in the last three consecutive years.

Several factors contributed to the improved grades, said the report card. These include greater commitment from provincial and territorial ministers to increase health-enhancing initiatives in their jurisdictions; improved funding for active transportation infrastructure; increased federal funding to Sport Canada and the 2015 Pan American games; and endorsements of the Canadian Sport Policy 2.0.

Active Healthy Kids Canada recommended that the government follow the lead of many other countries and develop a national action plan on physical activity promotion.

“The federal government should continue to increase the priority of physical activity across several government departments including sport, health, transportation, and environment,” the report said.

 

School ditches rules and loses bullies

Ripping up the playground rulebook is having incredible effects on children at an Auckland school.

Chaos may reign at Swanson Primary School with children climbing trees, riding skateboards and playing bullrush during playtime, but surprisingly the students don’t cause bedlam, the principal says.

The school is actually seeing a drop in bullying, serious injuries and vandalism, while concentration levels in class are increasing.

Principal Bruce McLachlan rid the school of playtime rules as part of a successful university experiment.

“We want kids to be safe and to look after them, but we end up wrapping them in cotton wool when in fact they should be able to fall over.”

Letting children test themselves on a scooter during playtime could make them more aware of the dangers when getting behind the wheel of a car in high school, he said.

“When you look at our playground it looks chaotic. From an adult’s perspective, it looks like kids might get hurt, but they don’t.”

Swanson School signed up to the study by AUT and Otago University just over two years ago, with the aim of encouraging active play.

However, the school took the experiment a step further by abandoning the rules completely, much to the horror of some teachers at the time, he said.

When the university study wrapped up at the end of last year the school and researchers were amazed by the results.

Mudslides, skateboarding, bullrush and tree climbing kept the children so occupied the school no longer needed a timeout area or as many teachers on patrol.

Instead of a playground, children used their imagination to play in a “loose parts pit” which contained junk such as wood, tyres and an old fire hose.

“The kids were motivated, busy and engaged. In my experience, the time children get into trouble is when they are not busy, motivated and engaged. It’s during that time they bully other kids, graffiti or wreck things around the school.”

Parents were happy too because their children were happy, he said.

But this wasn’t a playtime revolution, it was just a return to the days before health and safety policies came to rule.

AUT professor of public health Grant Schofield, who worked on the research project, said there are too many rules in modern playgrounds.

“The great paradox of cotton-woolling children is it’s more dangerous in the long-run.”

Society’s obsession with protecting children ignores the benefits of risk-taking, he said.

Children develop the frontal lobe of their brain when taking risks, meaning they work out consequences. “You can’t teach them that. They have to learn risk on their own terms. It doesn’t develop by watching TV, they have to get out there.”

The research project morphed into something bigger when plans to upgrade playgrounds were stopped due to over-zealous safety regulations and costly play equipment.

“There was so many ridiculous health and safety regulations and the kids thought the static structures of playgrounds were boring.”

When researchers – inspired by their own risk-taking childhoods – decided to give children the freedom to create their own play, principals shook their heads but eventually four Dunedin schools and four West Auckland schools agreed to take on the challenge, including Swanson Primary School.

It was expected the children would be more active, but researchers were amazed by all the behavioural pay-offs. The final results of the study will be collated this year.

Schofield urged other schools to embrace risk-taking. “It’s a no brainer. As far as implementation, it’s a zero-cost game in most cases. All you are doing is abandoning rules,” he said.

Source: TVNC OneNEWS
6:31AM Sunday January 26, 2014

With Hopes of Becoming More Active, Patrick Henry Elementary Shot and Sqord!

Early in the 2012 school year I was searching through copy after copy of different PE equipment catalogs for a pedometer I thought would most benefit my students (plastic vs. aluminum, “chip” clip vs. stationary hook, etc.). After what seemed like hours looking at these inferior activity markers, I remembered an interesting product that I thought did something along these lines worn by a principal–and many of his school’s students– in Colorado I had met a few weeks prior.

One thing led to another, and after raising nearly $4,500 in grants, my colleague and I were able to bring the aforementioned Sqord products to our school. All students in grades 3 – 5 were outfitted, along with any of our 95 staff who so desired. An assembly was held to formally launch the product, and we even enjoyed a little related local and national media attention.

From the moment our students strapped on their PowerBands, most were fully on board with this exciting new product. They ran, played, jumped, twirled and tumbled to earn more points and score a victory against the classmate they were paired up with for the week. One student wrote how she rode her bike around the block three extra times each night with hopes of beating her opponent.

More than just anecdotal success, I saw my students’ PACER scores (a test measuring cardiovascular fitness) increase as Sqord participation grew. My students loved this program!

In addition to the added movement in their lives, my students were receiving a safe introduction to online social media. They were able to interact with their peers via the sqord website, sending hi-fives and pre-written squawk messages. Each day they simply had to “swipe” their Bands over one of the several BaseStations we had in the school, and all of their movement was sent away to the protected website.

This program was precisely what my school needed. An external motivation tool that could create some excitement and provide for my students a rich incentive to move and get healthy.

As I write this blog, I am days away form bringing this technology back to my school for a second straight year. Over the summer Sqord has made multiple upgrades to their various products, software and website, and I can’t wait to get them back into my building.

So as my students and I stand on the verge of another great year with this inventive product, we are very thankful for the forward-thinking, innovative minds behind Sqord. Here’s to another great year . . . !

Mike Humphreys, PE Teacher, NBCT

Arlington Public Schools