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Middle school challenges students, staff to go 'screen free'

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news Ellsworth, 54011
Pierce County Herald
715-273-4335 customer support
Ellsworth Wisconsin 126 S. Chestnut St. 54011

WOODBURY -- In today's society, students and adults alike are frequently "plugged in" -- whether that's on their phones, tablets, video games or computers.

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However, Lake Middle School is challenging its students and staff to unplug next week during the school's first-ever "Screen Free Week," sponsored by the school's newly formed wellness committee, Change4Life.

"Kids in middle school in particular tend to spend a lot of time behind screens," school psychologist and Change4Life adviser Camille Johnson said. "I know how difficult it can be to kind of fight that."

The goal of "Screen Free Week" is to refrain from using screens for entertainment to enjoy the rest of the world, school counselor and Change4Life adviser Emily Frankfurth May said.

"I see students at lunch who are playing games on their phones during their social break time," she said. "It's important for kids to have other outlets and connect with other students, so this will be a good way to build community in our school by doing some healthy things."

During "Screen Free Week," April 29 to May 3, students and staff members will pledge to remain electronic free, for entertainment purposes, in lieu of other activities.

"We don't realize just how dependent we've gotten looking at screens all week," Johnson said.

"I didn't know how much I needed my iPhone until I got it," Frankfurth May said.

After-school activities throughout the week include: planting a garden Monday, an obstacle course Tuesday, physical education games Wednesday, art projects Thursday and Zumba with an instructor from the YMCA on Friday.

"Middle school is just a traditional age for trying to figure out social skills," Johnson said, "so, this is one way we're trying to get kids out to meet with each other and be physically with each other doing fun things."

Frankfurth May said they decided to offer the activities after school since that's when most students are on their devices.

"After school is when many kids go home and either sit in front of the TV or the computer or they get on their phone," she said.

Change4Life is able to offer "Screen Free Week" activities thanks to a $5,000 Living Healthy grant through Washington County Local Public Health.

Johnson and Frankfurth May said they decided to adopt the national campaign because technology continues to preoccupy everyone's time, and not always in a positive way.

"They spend so much time on that, that doing homework and doing other things in their lives goes by the wayside," Johnson said.

Addressing student wellness

Frankfurth May and Johnson said Change4Life was formed this month because they felt wellness of the whole student wasn't adequately being addressed.

"We spend so much time now on academics that some of the other things we used to spend time on in school we don't anymore," Johnson said. "We are trying to focus on the whole child and recognize that we are trying to help develop them in the other areas."

In addition to "Screen Free Week," Change4Life, which has six student members, also hopes to organize other wellness-themed events such as a bike or walk to school campaign.

Frankfurth May said she hopes Change4Life continues to grow.

"We feel that having a healthier student all around is going to make for a happier person who is ready to learn and make connections with their friends while feeling safe and happy," she said. "We're promoting the all-around health of students to help build their resiliency."

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