Healthy Schools

Brighter Students, Brighter Faces

As adults, we know we do better when we get fit, stay well rested, and eat right. These factors are every bit as important for our kids. Healthy schools are ones that include physical activity, improve nutrition, and find creative ways to reduce stress. Kids get healthier and learn better.

Active Classrooms

With required instructional time on the rise, keeping kids active in schools has become more challenging—but even more necessary. Numerous studies show links between regular physical activity and student attention. And programs to prevent childhood obesity, like 5-2-1-0, recommend children get one hour or more of physical activity per day.

Experts recommend incorporating activity throughout the entire school day in order to meet physical activity goals and increase student engagement. Here are some ideas for the primary and the secondary grades:

Primary:

  • Start the day with a school-wide morning activity via classroom media
  • Integrate movement into academic activities
  • Take advantage of opportunities for daily walks
  • Participate in teacher-led games or rhythmic experiences
  • Engage in brief (3-5 minutes) “movement breaks” between classroom tasks

Secondary:

  • Start the day with a school-wide morning activity via classroom media
  • Integrate movement into academic activities
  • Extend lunchtime to allow for “drop in” physical activity sessions organized in the gymnasium and/or outdoors
  • Form physical activity clubs that meet during scheduled “club meeting days”
  • Provide the option to walk during lunch and study hall time
  • Provide opportunities for intramural sports during lunchtime

Healthy School Lunches

Many school lunch programs are high in saturated fat and cholesterol, and low in the fiber and nutrients one gets from fruits, vegetables, beans and nuts, and whole grains.

Simple steps can greatly increase healthy eating at school. Hiring a chef to plan meals or train meal preparers has been shown to be very effective in helping students to make healthier lunch choices. If that’s not in the budget, apply strategy: Place the healthiest entrées first in line, come up with more exciting and delicious-sounding entrée names, and create attractive displays of fresh fruit where students can easily choose them.

Resources

There are many online resources aimed at creating healthier schools. Here are some to start with:

  • Jump IN for Healthy Kids. A community-wide effort to give children and families in Indiana the opportunity to make healthy choices.
  • CDC Healthy Schools. Resources for educators, parents, and school communities to improve student health, health services, and health education in schools.
  • Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. The Healthy School Lunch Campaign is dedicated to improving the food served to children in schools.
  • Chef Ann Foundation. Provides tools that help schools serve children healthy and delicious scratch-cooked meals made with fresh, whole food.