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Public health students help Corvallis get outdoors

Kids participate in an obstacles course with Benny Beaver

Under the breezy tree canopy at Peavy Arboretum, public health students and faculty engaged families in health promotion activities as part of Corvallis’ seventh annual Get Outdoors (GO) Day.

Get Outdoors Day is a national event coordinated by government and non-government organizations to promote healthy, outdoor activities. The day is organized by Oregon State University’s Research Forests, OSU Extension Service for Benton and Linn Counties, and the Benton County Health Department. The event reaches 600 individuals annually, and buses from Albany and Corvallis, and bilingual communications improve access for community families.

Public health students and faculty from the OSU College of Public Health and Human Sciences and the OSU Student Public Health Association, a student organization sponsored by the college, supported the event with a fun fitness obstacle course, print-making with vegetables and facilitated exit surveys.

Event participants, volunteers, and even Benny Beaver, challenged each other to obstacle course races. The course, on loan from OSU Extension Benton County’s 4-H Teens as Teachers program, is designed to accommodate for abilities and engage children in a range of fitness movements through play.

Parents, public health students and faculty created art using vegetables and fruits as stamps. Masterpieces created with hearts, stars and flowers from carved apples and potatoes, and cross-sections of bell peppers, okra and broccoli hung to dry between two trees — a display of Corvallis creativity and an impromptu Get Outdoors Day gallery.

Veronica Irvin, assistant professor of health promotion and health behavior, and students from her Evaluation of Health Promotion and Education Programs course provided exit surveys for the event organizers — an outdoor outlet for experiential learning.

The course used Get Outdoors Day as a case study assignment. Students had the opportunity to revise the exit surveys and assisted with the redesign of evaluation tools. They also created an interactive poster used to poll participants on their favorite outdoor activities.

“Working with Veronica and her students to enrich the evaluation questions and collection techniques has been great,” says Maggie Livesay, an Extension 4-H Youth Development specialist and member of the Get Outdoors Day leadership team.They look at the event objectively and their insights have helped us learn even more about the participants that attend.

Maggie says CPHHS student involvement with Get Outdoors Day started with students expressing interest in a service-learning opportunity. After they learned about Get Outdoors Day, they wanted to contribute their own activity — a simple obstacle course. They were thrilled with the results and wanted to do more. The following year, the activities contributed by CPHHS students became more elaborate and more students became involved.

“I think the students have had a positive experience at a community event that aligns well with their area of study,” Maggie says. “Engaging with the community makes what they are learning come alive. Each year has improved and we love having them as a strong community partner for this event.”

The students agree.

“This was my second year helping with Get Outdoors Day and I enjoyed it just as much as I did last year,” says Hannah Tacke, a master of public health graduate. “I love interacting with professors, fellow students and the community while getting to know people outside of the academic setting. It is always fun to see public health in action and apply some of the tools we’ve learned in class.”

Not only was this Hannah’s second year helping with the event, in June she graduated with her second degree from the college — a master’s and bachelor’s degree in public health, both with the health management and health policy option.

Ashley Chan, who has served on the OSU Student Public Health Association (formerly the Public Health Club)executive board for the past two years, was the main contact between the club and Veronica for coordinating student participation in the event.

“The event was a fun way to experience the practical application of community outreach and helped me understand the process of planning and executing large scale events,” says Ashley, a junior in the health promotion and health behavior option. “It was also a fun way of connecting students to faculty in the college in order to collaborate in brainstorming before the event and facilitating it on the day of.”

“I’m glad I was able to play a role in helping people gain more exposure to wildlife, composting, fishing and other fun outdoor activities. It was a nice way to see what the Corvallis community looks like outside of the university bubble. It made me more aware of the diversity — in age, ethnicity and occupation — in Corvallis and promoted critical thought about how to serve populations who speak English as a second language.”