(l-r) Isaiah and Isabella Haveman explore Ada Hayden Heritage Park’s lakeshore during Verb Summer Scorecard. Kinesiology students run the free events through July. Photo by Ryan Riley.
(l-r) Isaiah and Isabella Haveman explore Ada Hayden Heritage Park’s lakeshore during Verb Summer Scorecard. Kinesiology students run the free events through July. Photo by Ryan Riley.

Verb Summer Scorecard keeps kids active, builds campus and community partnerships

Verb Summer Scorecard, a free community-based physical activity program led by Iowa State University kinesiology students, is making it easier to keep children active this summer and establish healthy habits for a lifetime of fitness.

The new summer program is part of ExerCYse, a Department of Kinesiology outreach program aimed at increasing visibility about the importance of physical activity and advancing the notion of exercise as a vital sign in the medical community. Iowa State’s program is officially recognized by the American College of Sports Medicine.

“Kids will be active if you give them the time, the place, and the resources,” said Katy Southard, a graduate student in kinesiology and health who leads marketing and communications efforts for the program. “It’s important to start them young and establish habits early.”

Southard’s research focuses on reducing obesity in college students. She said that establishing habits in the younger years is key.

“There are activities for everyone,” she said. “Verb offers at least three activities a week, so there’s a lot of variety with a broad emphasis. Everything is physical-activity-related.”

Establishing strong habits at an early age

Verb Summer Scorecard will include dozens of free activities this summer ranging from walks to bike rides and scavenger hunts in Story County and surrounding areas. Events kicked off in May and run through the end of July. Children earn dots on their scorecard for participating, which can be redeemed for T-shirts and prizes. Grand prizes will be awarded in August.

Many kinesiology and health students volunteer for the program, which gives them service-learning opportunities within the department’s Community Campus Partnership for Health community outreach and service initiative.

“Being in kinesiology’s community and public health option, I know that wellness and exercise can do so much,” said Ashley Ebelsheiser, a senior in kinesiology. “It’s important to get that habit in children.”

Amy Coenen, a senior in kinesiology with a pre-health professions option for physical therapy, already sees the benefits.

“It’s working,” she said. “The kids are having fun and what we do does matter.”

Non-competitive play

Emily Ruth, also a senior in kinesiology with a pre-health professions option for physical therapy, said the program offers a non-competitive venue for kids to explore areas that they might not otherwise check out.

“Often, the kids make their own rules,” she said. “We see them engage in a variety of activities. Our biggest goal is just getting them out there.”

Southard said the program keeps kids connected with their friends throughout the summer.

“The kids have their college role models, but they also have their peers,” she said. “Verb is a fun way for them to keep in touch.”

An individualized approach

While student leaders give kids opportunities for group activity, they also focus on the individual.

“Once, a boy told me he wanted to bowl,” Ruth said. “I found some items that would work, and he had a ball. After that, he was actively playing, and felt like he fit in.”

Ruth said she credits the program with giving her the opportunity to work with children.

“I was leaning toward pediatric physical therapy,” she said. “Verb gave me the chance to work with kids and see what I’d be good at.”

Campus and Community Connections

Greg Welk, a Barbara E. Forker Professor in Kinesiology, said he believes Iowa State’s Verb program has positive effects not only for participants, but also for Iowa State’s campus and the greater Ames community. The program name honors the legacy of the U.S. Department of Health and Human ServicesCenters for Disease Control and Prevention’s now retired initiative to increase and maintain physical activity among youth age 9-13.

“It’s a win, win, win,” Welk said. “There’s a strong partnership with the community, individual sponsors, and families.”

When Ames Public Library staff members planned their summer programming, they wanted to give kids the opportunity to move around — making Verb activity stations a perfect fit. A local soccer club and Story County Conservation also serve as program partners, with Mary Greeley Medical Center providing major funding.

“There are a lot of resources in Ames and the surrounding communities that people don’t utilize enough,” said Ebelsheiser. “They just don’t realize what’s available.”

Registering for the program is easy. Families can visit www.iowaverb.org and create a user account. Walk-ins are also welcome. A complete event schedule is available on the website. Students seeking to volunteer for the program can email exercyse@iastate.edu.   

RELATED STORIES:

First professors named to Barbara E. Forker Professorship in Kinesiology

Student-led initiative promotes physical fitness to campus, community

KEY CONTACTS:

Amy Coenen, senior in kinesiology and health, Iowa State University, ajcoenen@iastate.edu

Ashley Ebelsheiser, senior in kinesiology and health, Iowa State University, ake@iastate.edu

Emily Ruth, senior in kinesiology and health, Iowa State University, esruth@iastate.edu

Katy Southard, graduate student in kinesiology and health, Iowa State University, 515-294-8009, kjsouth@iastate.edu

Greg Welk, Barbara E. Forker Professor in Kinesiology, Department of Kinesiology, Iowa State University, 515-294-3583, gwelk@iastate.edu

Kent Davis, communications specialist, Iowa State University, 515-294-1326, davisk@iastate.edu