Physical activity is important for everyone, but it is especially important for children. When schools provide opportunities for recess, classroom brain breaks and physical education, the whole school benefits. Test scores improve, students get along better, self-confidence is higher and attendance improves.
As a teacher at Union High School, I sit on our wellness committee with other district personnel, teachers, parents, community members and local businesses. We work hard to ensure students throughout our district have the opportunity to be physically active throughout the school day. This year, we focused on revising our wellness policy—which acts as a guide for all our district’s schools to implement healthier practices—to comply with the latest state fitness standards that promote increased physical activity for students.
Our hard work paid off! We leveraged our wellness policy to achieve national recognition as one of America’s Healthiest Schools, a distinction earned through our work with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Healthy Schools Program. Here are some of our greatest achievements:
Implementing a New Walking Curriculum: Our physical education program integrated more walking into the curriculum after a successful pilot year, where one class walked approximately two miles every day. We now have eight classes that walk on the average of two miles every day, while being taught exercise and nutrition concepts. Since implementing the walking class, we have seen an increase in enrollment in physical education and an increase in student self-confidence.
Expanding Access to Active Spaces: We opened up our gym for students to participate in physical activity during lunchtime. It has given students a place to socialize, burn off energy, exercise and return to class refreshed and ready to learn. Since opening the gym at lunch, we’ve noticed a decrease in behavioral issues.
- Enabling Staff as Healthy Role Models: The healthy changes have not only affected students, but staff as well. Throughout the year, we tracked activity and encouraged staff to be active and participate in special events, such as a local fun run. With staff modeling healthy behaviors, too, it helps reinforce the consistent message of health we strive to project at every turn.
The impact of our wellness policy and commitment to health is evident across the district. When schools show students how to eat healthy foods, exercise often, have good sportsmanship and take care of their bodies, we can teach lifelong healthy habits that will positively impact their future.
If you are just starting your wellness journey, know that you are not alone! The Healthy Schools Program can help you identify small changes you can make today that will have a big impact on your students tomorrow.
Ready to help your school make lasting changes and become one of America’s Healthiest Schools? Enroll the school in the Healthy Schools Program – or join its existing wellness team – to access free guidance, tools and trainings today!
About the author
Leslie Robb is the Physical Education Teacher at Union High School in Evergreen Public School District, WA, which was recently named to the 2017 list of America’s Healthiest Schools by the Alliance for a Healthier Generation.