Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Healthy hike

HAWARDEN-Dressed in a blue Iowa Public Television Kids Clubhouse T-shirt and a bright yellow Dantastic cape, Dan Wardell appeared as the quintessential superhero to West Sioux Elementary third-graders Wednesday.

But, as Wardell entered Hawarden Public Library, he was quick to point out that he wasn’t the hero — the third-graders were.

That is why the popular host of IPTV’s “Kids Clubhouse” had nothing but encouraging words to greet the West Sioux students with as they entered the library.

“Congratulations to each and every one of you,” Wardell said. “You did it. You did it.”

Yes, they did.

As part of a new initiative designed by IPTV, Wardell encouraged West Sioux third-graders to become healthy, both physically and mentally, by participating in a statewide “Healthy Hike” competition.

Throughout the month of April, third-graders in both Sharilyn Buryanek and Karen Engleman’s classrooms logged time spent reading and exercising. After each week was over, Buryanek and Engleman recorded their students’ hours and reported the time to Wardell. The information was updated on the Healthy Hike Web site weekly, and West Sioux was able to track its students’ hours compared to the other 98 participating schools in the state.

While exercising and reading was encouraged at home, hours spent doing either at school also could be counted.

Be that reading or motion, the logged hours could take place in the classroom or during physical education. Recess time was the only exception.

Throughout the challenge, Buryanek and Engleman were encouraged to take pictures of their students reading and moving and send them to Wardell, who could decide to feature them on IPTV or his Healthy Hike blog.

Going into the competition, the West Sioux third-graders were motivated to place in the top 10 in the state so they would win Healthy Hike certificates, jump rope activity books, jump ropes for every student at West Sioux Elementary, and a special storytime and celebration at Hawarden Public Library with a visit from Wardell.

But, going into the last week, the third-graders were sitting in 11th place.

“We asked them what they thought we should do,” Buryanek said. “We all decided as a group to do everything we could to get in the top 10.”

The students gave up their three recesses each day to spend time moving and reading in the classroom, they listened to audio books during lunch and they were treated to presentations from guest readers.

Their hard work paid off, and West Sioux finished the competition in fifth place.

“We were just ecstatic when we found out we got fifth,” Buryanek said.

Wednesday morning, Buryanek and Engleman’s third-grade classes hiked from West Sioux Elementary to Hawarden Public Library, where they were greeted with high-fives and encouraging comments from Wardell, before he treated them to a special celebration.

To keep up with the focus of Healthy Hike, Wardell didn’t just read the students a story; he encouraged them to get up and get active while he performed an interactive rendition of “Rumble in the Jungle” by Giles Andreae and David Wojtowycz.

Following his storytime, Wardell encouraged the students to keep up the objectives of Healthy Hike even though the competition is over.

“This shows that you can have fun without the TV. We moved our bodies, we moved our minds and we laughed, even though the grown-ups looked kind of silly at times,” he said. “But we didn’t turn on the TV, so tonight, when you go home, turn your TVs off, go outside and play, use your imagination and read a good book.”

To show Iowa Public Television “Kids Clubhouse” host Dan Wardell their appreciation for his special visit to Hawarden Public Library on Wednesday, West Sioux third-graders performed a variety of poems from “Schoolyard Rhymes” by Judy Sierra.

On the behalf of Sherilyn Buryanek and Karen Engleman’s third-grade classes, Hawarden mayor Ric Porter presented head librarian Valerie Haverhals with a copy of “Schoolyard Rhymes” for Hawarden Public Library.

“We would like to give this book to the library for all the hard work Mrs. Haverhals and her staff have done to work with you to get you to fifth-place,” Porter said. “You guys did a great job.”


To trace the progress of West Sioux third-graders and see pictures of the students reading and moving, visit Sherilyn Buryanek and Karen Engleman’s Healthy Hike blog at


Other N’West Iowa participants in the “Healthy Hike” competition were Hartley-Melvin-Sanborn Elementary second-graders through Hartley Public Library, Ben Franklin Elementary first-graders through Sibley Public Library and Central Lyon Elementary second-graders through Rock Rapids Public Library. One school from each county participated.

This article appeared in the May 23, 2009 edition of The N'West Iowa REVIEW.

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