Planting the Seeds of Health in Your Students
By: Terri Pitts
At Colonial Hills Elementary in North East ISD, we set a goal to ensure that all children have access to a healthy school environment where they can learn and flourish. We hoped that the children would use their gained knowledge in future endeavors.
But positive changes take time. If your school wants to become a “healthy school,” you need to be patient and get the entire school community involved. Henry Ford once said, “Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” Here’s a breakdown of what our school did to achieve healthy school status.
1. Make sure the community is behind you.
We first took a survey to find out if our school community was interested in our goal. We surveyed parents, teachers, students, and other community partners. We received an overwhelmingly positive response.
2. Organize and create a plan.
For us, this meant establishing two committees. The first committee, the Wellness/Garden Committee, had a representative from every grade level, a nurse, nutrition personnel, an administrator, parents, and community partners. The second committee, the Legacy Kids School Health Advisory Council (KSHAC), was made up of 12 third to fifth graders who developed their own ways to promote health and wellness on campus. These students helped organize and maintain the school community garden, participated in fitness and health morning announcements, and assisted with the annual health fair and family fitness nights.
3. Search for partner organizations.
Next, we got involved with several free health and fitness organizations, such as Fuel Up to Play 60; San Antonio Mayor’s Fitness Council; Action for Healthy Kids; Active Schools; Texas Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance; and Jump Rope and Hoops for Heart. These types of organizations are filled with resources to start a journey toward a healthy school.
4. Implement the changes.
While increasing the minutes in physical education from 135 to 150 a week was significant, the most impactful change our school made involved healthy meals, snacks, and beverages.
We sent a letter home to parents and then posted on our school website (on the main page, parent section, and student section), stating that Colonial Hills Elementary School is a “healthy school.”
Another effective change our school made was ensuring all foods served and sold to staff at staff meetings, school-sponsored staff events, and in the staff lounge also met the Smart Snacks in School nutrition standards.
Additionally, we created a school garden. We believe that our garden has had a direct impact on students’ wellness, nutrition, and confidence. Our students are more than test scores. The garden has brought our campus together and allowed our community and stakeholders to be a part of our school. It has always been our intent to create lasting habits that will carry our students through school and beyond.
Terri Pitts has been teaching elementary physical education/health for 14 years. She was the 2010 Judson ISD Educator of the Year; the 2014 Texas Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance Elementary PE Teacher of the Year; the 2015 Trinity Prize (Excellence in Education) Teacher for her campus; and a finalist for ATPE Elementary Teacher of the Year in 2014 and 2015. Read the full article on the ATPE Blog.