By Josette Keelor - firstname.lastname@example.org
WINCHESTER -- The mission: Find a way to solve the problem of childhood obesity in the area. The solution: Offer information sessions and a Fitness Fun Fair for local families to help spread the word about the importance of healthy eating and regular exercise.
The members of the D.I.Namite Destination ImagiNation Team in Frederick County might have their work cut out for them in tackling a national health issue, but the team members -- all middle school students -- are up for the challenge.
The idea behind the national organization Destination ImagiNation is to promote mind-provoking and team-building activities for adolescents and teens, said local team leader Tiffani Utz. Children from elementary age to high school age are invited to participate.
The goal of the group is "to identify a community need and do things to help that need," said Jennie Cuddeback, 13.
After weighing their options for a topic for "Project Outreach," the six children settled on addressing the problem of childhood obesity. Their topic is health, nutrition and fitness for children.
The initiative is especially relevant in light of First Lady Michelle Obama recently announcing her intention to help tackle the nationwide problem of childhood obesity. On its Web site, www.obesity.org, the Obesity Society estimates that one in five children in the U.S. is overweight.
"I believe it's our society," Utz said. She believes the quick options available to children, lack of support at home and technology contribute to poor food choices and a deficit of time spent exercising.
The group members have spent weeks learning how to address the problem by researching health and nutrition from books and on the Internet, and by meeting with a nutritionist.
The culmination of their research will be a Fitness Fun Fair on Feb. 20 at the Youth Development Center in Winchester.
Children and parents are invited to attend the fair to gain information on health, wellness and fitness.
"We're hoping that they'll learn to eat better and balance their meals using the food pyramid ... [and] exercise at least 30 minutes every day," said Jennie, a seventh-grader at James Wood Middle School.
"We've also been working on an assembly to present to three different schools," she said.
The fair will include games, skits, books about nutrition, an exercise area, an obstacle course, a table with healthy food choices and even a song, written by the group to the tune of "It's a Small World," called "It's a Happy, Healthy World."
The program they will present in the schools involves characters from the five food groups: a banana, a carrot, a loaf of bread, a steak and a milk jug.
"It's nice to see middle school-age kids come up with these solutions," said Utz, a first-grade teacher at Orchard View Elementary School, in Winchester.
"So much of it is built on team building," she said. "I couldn't say more than enough about D.I."
All members of the team are currently students at James Wood Middle and have been with the team for three years. Jennie auditioned for the team in third grade at Orchard View, but she joined two years later. At the time there were three teams at the school; now only one local team exists.
"I was very intrigued by the D.I. in third grade," Jennie said. She likes the D.I. "because it was not only acting, but it was acting with a challenge."
The Fitness Fun Fair will take place on Feb. 20 at the Youth Development Center at 3 Battaile Drive in Winchester. For more information about Destination ImagiNation, visit the Web at www.idodi.org