Make it An Active Summer! Cards Encourage Accessible Physical Activity in Wisconsin

When out of school and without teachers’ encouragement for structured physical activity, students and parents find movement and outdoor time significantly reduced. Partnering with public libraries, spaces where families may already frequent, FoodWIse Dane County Healthy Communities Coordinator Claire Mance modified and expanded a 2021 ‘Make it An Active Summer! Cards’ pilot program to increase physical activity for youth and families.

Situation & Approach

Prior to the pandemic, many children enjoyed access to physical activities such as structured PE classes during school hours, park playground time, and organized sports outside the school-day. COVID-19 left a significant number of those children without the same access to these energetic movement opportunities. In Dane County’s UW-Madison Division of Extension office, SNAP-Ed-funded FoodWIse Healthy Communities Coordinator Claire Mance heard from school partners that they had some students who had not left their homes for weeks at a time for fear of catching the COVID-19 virus. These concerns heightened during summer when students were not in school with planned movement breaks.

In response to this community need, Mance looked to meet potential participants through the Dane County Bookmobile Summer Reading Program, which was a space where youth and families were already gathering. FoodWIse and the county library service partnered to develop Active Summer Bingo in 2021, including promotional materials that encourage youth to participate in accessible physical activity. The movement bingo card depicted young people representing a diversity of races, ethnicities and physical abilities engaged in a variety of physical activities such as dancing and stretching. Participants picked up a card from The Dream Bus, one of the Bookmobiles that partners specifically with Madison Public Library and serves areas with FoodWIse-eligible sites. Once participants completed the bingo card, they returned it to the mobile library and claimed a nutrition-related bookmark. 

Outcomes & Continued Opportunities

Make It an Active Summer! Cards
in English and Spanish

Although the 2021 pilot program saw successes, the Madison Public Library staff shared that families felt fatigue from program rules and regulations. Returning to the Bookmobile once completing the bingo card could be a barrier, and the rules encouraged youth to participate for a prize rather than the fun of physical activity. Wanting to continue growing the program in 2022, Mance and library partners took this feedback as guidance for revising materials.

The 2022 version of the “Make it an Active Summer!” card focused on access and representation to encourage physical activity. Mance and partners decided to remove prize-based rewards for completing the card. This encouraged physical activity for the joy of movement and play, without pressure of missing out on a reward if families could not return to the Bookmobile for proof of completion. The reward was the play itself. 

Removing rules and regulations opened up space to consider the content on the card as well. To increase access for participants with low literacy, wording was significantly reduced. Working with Extension’s Office of Access, Inclusion and Compliance for translation services, Mance offered cards translated to Spanish and Hmong to expand community access.

The Sun Prairie Library became a new partner in 2022, initially requesting 1,000 copies in English, 100 copies in Spanish, and a file to print Hmong copies on-demand. Library staff included cards in summer reading packets that families picked up throughout the season. With over 3,000 children from early elementary to high school participating in Sun Prairie’s 2022 summer reading program, families had the opportunity to engage with both literacy and physical activity. 

Public institutions like the local library are valuable collaborators as trusted messengers. The partnership with FoodWIse helps raise visibility around community health and wellness. Informed by the pilot with the Madison Public Library, Mance worked to expand access in Sun Prairie so children and families could spend long summer days engaging in imagination and movement alike. 

Find your local FoodWIse Coordinator in our directory and reach out to learn more about opportunities to incorporate physical activity as part of your approach to health and wellbeing!

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