Monday, February 21, 2011

School Wellness Policies Are Making a Difference

Valentine’s Day parties looked a bit different this year in New Canaan (Connecticut) Schools. In the past, the party menu would have included cupcakes and brownies, but this year carrot sticks, fruit slices, and other healthful treats were the snacks of choice.

The change in menu is all part of the district’s new Wellness policy, which aims to ensure that students are getting the same messages about nutrition and physically active lifestyles from the lunchroom to the classroom as well as in the gym and at home.

“There's a call in this to everyone who works in the system to be role models," Deputy Superintendent Mary Kolek told the New Canaan Patch. “We made this commitment because experts and experience tell us that sound nutrition and physical fitness are important factors connected to readiness for learning and other school and life activities.” [read more]

Aside from party choices, the cafeteria menus in town have changed, too. Lunch is prepared fresh each day and local produce is used whenever possible. In the gym, elementary students are learning the basics of yoga, and all high school gym classes begin with stretching exercises aimed at improving flexibility and reducing the potential for injury.

Wherever possible, New Canaan’s efforts involve local community groups, businesses, and the town’s recreation department. An “Open Gym” is held each Sunday at the high school.

The state of Connecticut requires all districts to provide student fitness test results on a yearly basis, but New Canaan’s wellness plan calls for those results to be sent home in order to educate parents, too. The FitnessGrams sent home to parents of students in grades 4, 6, 8, and 10 report the child’s fitness in four areas: aerobic capacity, flexibility, muscular strength, and muscular endurance.


FitnessGrams are also sent home to students as part of the wellness program at Friendship Elementary School in Buford, Georgia. Principal Berry Walton hopes his school’s program will eventually become the program of choice in all the district's schools.

The fact that Georgia has the second-highest childhood obesity rate in the country -- about 24 percent of third-graders are obese -- was one of the motivating factors behind the program. “Our goals are to focus on childhood obesity, nutrition, and academic performance,” Walton told the local school board this month. [read more]

Friendship Elementary’s program was developed last summer by a school-wide committee that researched best programs and practices. The program includes opportunities for the staff to get fit; about 20 staff members work out with a fitness trainer twice a week. And Pilates balls have replaced desk chairs in some classrooms. Such “active sitting” helps develop muscles and keep students alert and focused, Walton explained.


  • Principals Launch School-Wide Wellness Programs
  • Schools Where Wellness Is a Way of Life
  • Wellness Policies Promote Healthy Choices
  • Some Schools Replace Desk Chairs With Ball Chairs
  • Teachers Trade Space, Traditional Fixtures for Fitness

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