As a National Physical Education and Health Education Advisor for the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, I support thousands of schools across the country to transform their campuses into healthier places for both students and staff. During the school year, kids spend most of their days at school, making it an ideal place to build lifelong healthy habits. Increasingly, we’re seeing the benefits of making health and wellness a priority at school – healthy kids perform better academically, attend school more often and behave better in class.
Nowhere is this progress better exemplified than in the 328 schools named to the Alliance’s list of America’s Healthiest Schools.
These schools hail from 29 states and the District of Columbia and are serving as best-in-class examples of the nationwide movement to create a culture of health at school. Through the Alliance’s Healthy Schools Program, they have found creative ways to get kids eating better and moving more.
The best way to advance this movement is for us to learn from each other and share what’s working. When we brought representatives from the highest-achieving America’s Healthiest Schools together in Washington, D.C. for our 2016 Leaders Summit, leaders from schools and districts across the country shared how they are finding creative ways to improve healthy eating and physical activity before, during and after school. Here are a few of the highlights:
Irving Elementary School, Mesa, AZ
Being physically active each day has become the norm for students at Irving Elementary where students start the school day by participating in a walking, jogging or running club. Throughout the day, teachers provide 15-minute breaks for physical activity, helping students remain energized and focused on academics. After school, Physical Education Teacher J.D. Guerrero leads students in a number of different types of sports.
Mission Consolidated Independent School District, Mission, TX
Wellness policies provide an opportunity for schools and districts to create a healthy school environment by making physical activity, healthy eating and staff wellness practices sustainable. Mission CISD worked with the Alliance’s model wellness policy template to overhaul and strengthen its current policy to ensure the district’s schools were in alignment with national school health standards. With support from district administrators behind them, all Mission schools earned 2016 National Healthy Schools Awards from the Alliance.
Black Diamond High School, Pittsburg, CA
Health Education Teacher Jessica Garay’s students at Black Diamond High know how to get their heart rates up! The school holds a weekly mile run in physical education class, where students monitor their vital signs such as their pulse and respiration before, during and after physical activity. Teaching students these vital skills help them better understand and appreciate the importance of staying fit, not just at school, but throughout their lives.
Eldon School District, Eldon, MO
Starting the day with a nutritious school breakfast helps students achieve success in the classroom and beyond. Student PJ Bledsoe teamed up with wellness leaders in his district to start a breakfast in the classroom program, enabling students to benefit from a healthy start to their day. When students are involved in the process of transforming into a healthy school, they are more likely to engage with and support healthy changes.
Bunnell Elementary School, Bunnell, FL
Healthy employees are just as important as healthy students, especially in their ability to model healthy habits for students. At Bunnell Elementary, Health Education Teacher Cathie Zanella knows how to keep staff excited and motivated. She helped her school designate a room for staff to get fit together through activities such as yoga or following high-intensity fitness videos. Bunnell Elementary also measured the distance around a field on the school’s campus so staff could track their mileage toward meeting walking or running goals.
These are just a few of the many success stories from schools across the country working to build environments that help children thrive. By sharing our successes and challenges with one another, we can ensure that our next generation is a healthier one.
Ready to write your own success story? Join the movement and get started on your path to becoming one of America’s Healthiest Schools today!