Healthy Habits Begin Here!

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Childhood Obesity is a major problem in the United States – just ask Michelle Obama.  Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Greater Twin Cities has set out a mission to combat this problem starting right here at home with the youth we serve.  Along with the University of Minnesota Twin Cities School of Nursing, BBBS is set to launch the new Healthy Habits Program. This program, funded by the Clinical and Translational Science Institute, was created to educate local youth on eating healthy and staying active.

There are countless resources in the Twin Cities dedicated to wellness, but many children remain stuck at home due to lack of transportation or the supervision to attend those activities. This is where the Healthy Habits comes in. The program offers both Bigs and Littles a variety of fun, healthy activities where everybody can participate and have a good time, while also ensuring that Littles always have a ride and a chaperone. Along with exercise-based activities, Healthy Habits focuses on making educated food choices. Sessions will be offered to teach matches how to find fresh produce around their community and cook with it at home. To keep active, Healthy Habits will provide sessions at the YMCA to help Littles utilize the programs available in their community. Both types of activities will encourage healthy, long-lasting attitudes toward food and exercise.

This program will kick off October 2016 with events twice a month through October 2017. Matches will be given a “Health Pass” to encourage repeat attendance at Healthy Habits events. When matches attend at least 7 Healthy Habits activities, as noted in their “Health Pass”, they will receive a prize for their efforts. As a part of the Healthy Habits Program, researchers from the UMN School of Nursing will also attend the events and collect valuable data. Their hope is to figure out ways that mentors can better facilitate healthy habits in the lives of their mentees.

We’re looking forward to a very fit and active 2016-2017!

7 outdoor activities you probably haven’t tried

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It looks like the weather is finally warming up (for now) and that means it’s time to get outside with your Little! We’ve rounded up some of our favorite outdoor activities that range from messy to creative to adventurous and everywhere in between:

  • Splatter paint. Eggs aren’t just for Easter. Drain them and fill them with paint, then head outside and throw them at a canvas. Here are some examples made by some creative kids.
  • Bird feeders. If you’re looking for a craft that’s slightly less messy, bird feeders can be made out of almost anything you have lying around the house. Here are some examples made from paper towel rolls, egg cartons, and milk jugs.
  • Celebrate Earth Day. There are lots of events around the Twin Cities designed to help the environment in a fun way. Minneapolis Parks and Rec has an Earth Day Cleanup on Saturday, April 25 at more than 30 sites across the city and St. Paul is hosting the 29th Annual Citywide Spring Cleanup on April 18th. Register for these events with your Little and teach them the importance of volunteering. After all, it is National Volunteer Month!
  • Mini golf course. You can make your own mini golf course out of almost anything. The easiest way to start is to simply dig plastic cups into the ground. Add more challenges as you and your Little practice your put!
  • Explore the universe. The University of Minnesota’s Department of Astronomy invites the community for stargazing events every Friday night. Join them for a short presentation on an astronomical topic, then head to the roof of the physics building to observe the galaxy for yourself. Every event is free.
  • Nature Centers. Visiting a Nature Center is the perfect way to learn about the outdoors. With sites like Eastman Nature Centerin Dayton, and Harriet Alexander Nature Center in Roseville, you never have to leave the cities to experience the wilderness. Dodge Nature Center in West St. Paul even has its own Earth Day Cleanup on April 21.
  • Make a splash. There is so much to do at Minnehaha Regional Park. Bike paths, disc golf courses, and wading pools draw more than 850,000 visitors per year to this majestic spot. And did we mention the 53-foot waterfall?

Big Day at the U

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DSCN9910 (1)On a gorgeous April day, several busloads of Big/Little matches spent a day exploring the East Bank of the University of Minnesota. The 122 Littles included students from six sites: Jefferson, Pratt, Marcy, Sullivan/Anishanabe, FAIR, and PCYC, and ranged in age from K-8th grade. “Big Day at the U” is an annual highlight for school-based Big Brothers and Big Sisters. University of Minnesota students who are volunteer Bigs have a day to host their Littles on campus.

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Wearing their special issue “I Get By With A Little Help From My Big” maroon and gold t-shirts, the Littles got to see what many of their Bigs do during their time in college in a day packed with hands-on activities and demonstrations. Student clubs, academic programs, athletic opportunities, service projects, international travel, the military, and performing arts groups all shared their interests with the students.

DSCN9793Many Littles were particularly taken with the pre-med American Student Association activities. “That was really great because a lot of our Littles are interested in going into medicine,” said Big Brothers Big Sisters School-based Match Coordinator Emily Johnson. Another group got to have some special vocal training with a capella group The Comebacks, who taught the kids the Pharrell Williams’ song “Happy.”

And “HAPPY” is what those busloads of Littles were as they took some great new memories with them back to their schools!

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Big Brothers Big Sisters is very grateful to all the University of Minnesota students who rolled out the maroon carpet for our group, with special thanks to:

Alpha Chi Sigma Chemistry Fraternity
BXO Multi-Cultural Fraternity
The Microbiology Club
Engineers without Borders
The Comebacks
Pre-med American Student Medical Association