GetHealthyHarlem.org

NYC Strategic Alliance for Health

What Excellence in School Wellness Looks Like

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Since late December we've been interviewing professionals who'll soon lead their schools to reapply for our annual Excellence in School Wellness award. As this first anonymous sampler of their thoughts shows, these leaders see students who need guidance toward healthy living and then take joy when students come to cherish it. Four professionals here reflect on conditions that promote obesity, interventions that can reverse patterns, and practical plans for the future. We'll update this post early next week.

 

WHAT WE FOUND AND WHAT WE CHANGED

When I got here, there was a Health Clinic but it was very basic. I said: we have to expand. Now we do open airways classes and asthma treatment on site, and it has improved attendance. When I came on board there was only one phys-ed teacher. Now we have two, and I grew to three at some point.

When I first got here I was shocked to see some of the food choices kids made- eating chips and soda. We had Mighty Milers here - kids ran for 20 minutes and all the teachers said they were so focused afterward. We have a basketball team now, kids love it.

The more time I spend here I see it’s more than putting Band-Aids on. Here, you have to be careful what you say- so you start teaching nutrition, you start saying well, in kindergarten kids are 165 pounds. I went to the administration:. “I want to go to an orientation...” “Oh, we can’t refund you...” So we formed the Wellness Committee. We got an institution lending out people doing education for parents, for free. And so... ‘would you like to be involved?’ ‘Sure, why not?’ Works for me...
Getting the certificate in school wellness got us the school garden program. We’re going to have 6 beds, involving parents. So life is sweet.

We were able to get a playstreet, ie we have two lunch hours and two days a week some children go out and the others stay in and we flip every other week. We try to remember who’s in and who’s out. That was in lieu of a playground.
The running program has changed kids- they log in. Right before the marathon our kids usually go to Central Park for the pre-Marathon. I’ve had several teachers participate in the marathon so they have promoted it in their classrooms. Last year Robert Jackson was here- he’s also a runner- he went off [in the lead]. Children are much more interested now in keeping fit, participating in different programs. We just started an afterschool program this year. They do outdoor running, swimming, hiking, bicycle riding and they do this in all sorts of weather. And I wasn’t sure parents would go for this and some do not but there’s a core group of 10 kids who do this.

 


BUT
I only have 10 classes out of 40- it’s been part of my upbringing to take care of yourself, of course we had treats but you exercise, you play until it gets dark.Here I see worse than soda, these bright blue things...

Although standards for the school are going up, the community around the school is still not being invested in. There will continue to be a cycle of failure unless someone invests in kids. I don’t want to be known as an oasis. We need to be known as a rainforest. Urban design around here- it’s not good. There’s no health clinic, our health clinic is the hospital. Kids wait until Monday morning to report a broken finger [rather than go to the ER].

WHAT WE’RE ADDING

I get frustrated a lot, and I beat myself up a lot, but when I talk to my friends they say look at this- he ate raw broccoli! Some kids told me that I’m a reward- if they earn extra credit they get to make hummus with me.
Nobody has balked at anything we’ve done. We try (for instance) to get parents to go away from white food (white bread, white rice.)
At lunch you say, let’s play a game- I’ll eat one [piece of fruit] and then you eat one. So with little kids it’s easy to change.
We want to create a virtual gym using five Wiis and five TV screens where kids can go into a classroom and work out. We don’t have a real gym.
Children always want to be involved and to be involved you have to do the right thing academically, have good behavior- we’re going to send some children to Vermont for five days and we’re not going to invite someone who is absent a lot.

2 Comments

We let this post stand because we learned more deeply that the ESW award reflects individual schools and so has no formula beyond dedication, teamwork and persistent fundraising. We want to hear from applicants for this year's award and from winners of prior year awards about what changed in the school community when parents, teachers and other professionals united to seek new paths to physical education.

I like that idea of promoting good health in schools and keeping both students and teachers fit.

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