MSU Extension and 4-H show off spring programs, health lessons

BALDWIN — On March 19, Michigan State University Extension and 4-H invited kids to Baldwin Elementary to encourage healthy living and introduce them to new spring programs with the annual Promotional Day and Healthy Living Workshop.

Lake County 4-H and MSU Extension coordinator Seth Hopkins said it was a fun and engaging way to inform local youth about active programs and teach some of the lessons they have been trying to impart to the community.

"We, of course, want to promote 4-H, but we also want to make people aware of healthy living alternatives," said Hopkins. "We want to teach people physical activity is fun and a good alternative to always sitting around on the couch."

Organizers wanted the kids to jump in head-first and take an active part in the proceedings. There were several stations set up where kids could try out different physical activities in the gym.

"People think you have to have a gym membership to get healthy, but there are plenty of activities you can do at home," remarked B'onko Sadler, an associate program leader with MSU Extension. "Today we have an obstacle course set up for the youth. We have push-ups, balance exercises, jump rope and many other activities we organized to show how simple things like that can be fun and get their heart rate up. I really want to show people there's a variety of ways to be active."

Sadler travels around the state organizing events like this one, and said he has seen such events make an enormous impact.

"I think programs like this one really make a difference," said Sadler. "Kids do come back and sign up for new programs or return the following year after we first approach them at events like the one we're having today. I've had kids come back to me a year later to show me how many push-ups they can do now, so I've seen the difference."

Hopkins also was signing up kids for a number of upcoming youth programs. The Lake County Tech Wizards program was demonstrated as a non-athletic event in which kids can participate. Baldwin area baseball will be starting up on Saturday, April 30. There will be two local tee ball teams, two coach pitch teams and two Little League teams.

Additionally, a sportsman's club will begin this year in May and will feature archery, rifle and shotgun shooting as well as other activities such as fishing and outdoor survival. Lastly, students age 11 to 18 also could sign up for Precollege Exploration Days in June. Students can explore Michigan State University's campus, check out what classes are like, live in a campus dorm for several days and see what other amenities a campus like MSU's has to offer. Registration for all three programs is still open.

In addition to showing off local programs and teaching positive changes people can make to their health, MSU Extension also set up a smoothie bar, which was a big hit with the kids who attended the event.

"We serve up several kinds of fruit, yogurt, almond milk and our special ingredient: spinach," explained Elizabeth Kurburski, an intern with the MSU's healthy living program. "As we go, we run kids through what is healthy and why. I think the kids are really enjoying this and it's something they can take home with them."

Hopkins and Sadler were both pleased with the results of the event. Each also stressed how important the lessons they were trying to impart can be in the life of a child.

"It has been successful so far," said Sadler. "It's important to teach them these lessons when they're young because it imparts healthy habits with them and becomes second nature to them instead of something you have to re-teach them later."

More information on MSU Extension and 4-H's programs can be found by calling (231) 745-2732.