BREWER, Maine — Third-grade students in Cherrie MacInnes’ class at Brewer Community School used the Internet on Monday to “hang out” with first lady Michelle Obama.
The veteran teacher learned Thursday night that her class had won the Google Hangouts “Let’s Move!” contest and would get to video chat with Obama, who was in Washington, D.C. The 18 elementary school students were seated about 10 a.m. and were connected to the White House shortly after 11:15 a.m.
“Remember to smile and have fun,” MacInnes said to the youngsters just before the video feed to the nation’s capital went live.
Obama was seated in the Blue Room of the White House and the gathering was moderated by Kelly Ripa, co-host of the TV show “LIVE with Kelly and Michael.” The first lady spoke to the Brewer class and five people from around the country about her Let’s Move! initiative, designed to help teach children to live healthy lifestyles.
Three Brewer youngsters got to ask Obama questions.
MacKenzie Gagnon, 8, asked how, when it’s cold and snowing outside, can students be active and get the “wiggle out?”
Ali Willette, 9, showed Obama what the students would be having for lunch — turkey sandwiches on wheat, graham crackers, salad, baked beans, pears and 1 percent low-fat milk — and asked how she would encourage youngsters to eat their fruits and vegetables and not throw them away.
Caleb Garrison, 8, posed the session’s last question when he asked the first lady what her favorite dance move was.
“First of all getting outside, getting moving is about playing, right, that all you want to do,” Obama said, answering the first question. “And what a great way to get active … to go outside on a snowy day, and roll around in the snow, and roll down some hills and have a snowball fight. All of that is activities, guys. You don’t have to be in an organized sport.”
She encouraged the students to participate in winter sports such as hockey, ice skating and skiing and suggested they take up a sport and be active all year round.
“One of the things I like to do with my kids and kids that I meet is to give them the power of information,” Obama said responding to Willette’s question. “Here is the thing guys — the fruits and vegetables are probably one of the most important parts of your lunch. They give you the energy that you need. Lunchtime is not a punishment — it is actually what you need to keep your body moving … to give you the energy that you need to think and do well on your exams.”
Obama asked the students to “take a bite or two of your fruits and vegetables” every day in an effort to train them to eat healthy foods, which sometimes takes time because youngsters often eat a lot of sugary foods, she said.
When Garrison asked his question about her favorite dance move, he started out by telling Obama that the class’s favorite dance floor maneuver was “raising the roof,” as he and the rest of the class danced in their seats with their hands raised.
“It’s obviously, ‘the Dougie,’” the first lady responded as she danced in her chair and used her hands to pretend to go through her hair. “But raise the roof is a good one,” she added, pumping her hands in the air.
Obama has performed the Dougie, a popular hip-hop dance, several times recently at different schools around the nation, and got the other five video-chat panel members to do the dance, which ended the 35-minute long visit.
“We’re Dougieing all over the land,” she said.
Ripa, who noted Monday’s Google Hangout was one of a series of video chats from the White House, said she was impressed with the students in Brewer.
“They’re so good,” she said.
The first lady used the gathering to touch on a couple of new programs — MyPlate and Let’s Move Schools — designed to help children and their parents make better choices and be more physically active.
Obama said she wants children to play and be active for one hour a day.
“Our kids need 60 minutes of activity every single day,” she said. “The kids today are nowhere near to coming close to that number. Most of our kids today are spending an average of 7½ hours a day in front of some kind of screen. Again, we as the adult have to figure out a way to strike that balance and we have to do it in our schools because that is where our kids are spending most of their day.”
The link to Monday’s online hangout session is posted on LetsMove.gov, the Let’s Move! YouTube Channel and the White House Google+ page. The video the Brewer students made to earn the right to hang out with Obama is posted on YouTube.
As the Brewer Community School students left for lunch, Principal Bill Leithiser issued a friendly warning about one exercise suggested by the first lady.
“When Mrs. Obama was telling you to have snowball fights, she was talking about after school,” he said.