Fourteen 4-H’ers participated in nutrition lessons at an AgCenter demonstration garden, made smoothies using a bike-powered blender, learned about bike safety and painted exercise stencils at the park.
“It was a beautiful, sunny fall day — the perfect weather for enjoying fresh air and physical activity,” said Karen Jones, LSU AgCenter nutrition agent. “The kids were divided into two small groups, and everyone was required to wear a mask to follow COVID-19 safety guidelines.”
Local nonprofit Bike Easy demonstrated bike safety before taking the kids on a ride through a safety course. The organization provided a variety of bicycles and helmets, taught participants the rules of the road and demonstrated proper signaling while riding.
“It was so great to work with youth on bikes for the first time since before the beginning of the pandemic,” said Laura Harris, education coordinator for Bike Easy. “The skills and understanding of how to share the road that students learn in our bike safety rodeos will stay with them for the rest of their lives, no matter how they’re getting around in the roadways. There’s nothing like seeing joy spread across the face of a new bike rider once they’ve found their balance. We hope that joy can continue to bring biking into their lives in an important way.”
Jones led a nutrition presentation and guided the kids on a tour of the park’s garden with help from some local Master Gardeners.
During the presentation, the groups tasted vegetables growing in the garden, including broccoli, cabbage, mustard greens and various herbs. Participants left with their very own strawberry plants, cookbooks, activity books and calendars with healthy recipes.
After a picnic-style lunch, LSU AgCenter 4-H agent Heather Egger demonstrated a recipe for healthy strawberry yogurt smoothies and let participants take turns pedaling on the smoothie blender bike. Samples of the freshly blended smoothie were served in closed containers with straws.
“People are always very curious and excited about the smoothie bike,” Egger said. “The bike provides a unique opportunity to educate the public about physical activity, healthful snacking, preparing food from a recipe, and even energy conservation. The bike is very portable and easy to use and provides an interactive experience that generates excitement and creates a memorable experience for people of all ages.”
At the end of the day, the groups joined forces to install painted fitness stencils along the walking track at the park.
The track had been cleaned and prepped by the Jefferson Parish Fire Department the day before the event. The brightly colored stencils included exercises like lunges, side jumps, squats and jumping jacks.
Jefferson Parish Parks and Recreation Department placed orange cones around the fresh stencils to ensure that park visitors would not step on the wet paint.
“The junior leaders enjoyed creating the physical activity stations and had the satisfaction of doing community service. One student even commented, ‘I didn’t think we were going to have this much fun today,’ ” Jones said.
This project is part of the LSU AgCenter Healthy Communities Initiative, which aims to improve the physical and social environments that influence health using a community-driven approach.
For more information about the event, contact Jones at email@example.com.
Bike Easy leads 4-H Junior Leaders through a bike safety rodeo. Photo by Heather Egger/LSU AgCenter
LSU AgCenter nutrition extension agent Karen Jones assists a 4-H Junior Leader using the smoothie bike. Photo by Heather Egger/LSU AgCenter
A 4-H Junior Leader tastes broccoli fresh from the garden at LaSalle Park. Photo by Heather Egger/LSU AgCenter