Success Stories

Bringing Physical Activity to the Classroom

School Wellness
Mississippi

Clinton Public School District | Clinton, Mississippi

Setting the Stage: Establishing the Local School Wellness Policy  

When Dr. Phillip G. Burchfield became superintendent of the Clinton Public School District, the administration received more than just an academic leader—they received a wellness champion. Dr. Burchfield took it upon himself to ensure that the district had a wellness policy that could empower students, staff, and the community to live healthier lives. In 2008, Dr. Burchfield formed and led a district health council that included principals, teachers, parents, and community partners such as police officers, members of the clergy, and health professionals. The council used CDC’s School Health Index, which is a self-assessment and planning tool, to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the district’s current wellness policy and practices. The results were used to develop an action plan for improvement.

The district’s school board adopted the revised wellness policy and action plan, which were based on CDC’s coordinated school health framework. This framework helped the district create a district health council that included parents and community members. The district health council continues to meet 3 times a year to review the wellness policy and make improvements to programs and activities as needed.

The new wellness policy requires each school to set up a health council to coordinate and implement its wellness activities. At the beginning of each school year, these councils look at school club and athletic calendars to find ways to make health and wellness activities a part of upcoming events. Principals work with event coordinators to add activities such as health screenings and cooking demonstrations to fundraisers and other school events.

The school health councils reported on the progress of their action plans to the district health council, which then reported to the school board annually. The district health council created a schedule for following up on key results from the School Health Index assessment as part of ongoing monitoring and evaluation activities.

Taking Action: Activities to Meet Local School Wellness Policy Goals

School Meals

To meet the goal of improving school meals, the district provided several training sessions for cafeteria staff to get their support and prepare them for the upcoming changes. Training topics included how to reduce salt and sugar in recipes and how to use herbs and spices to make school meals more flavorful. Staff also learned different ways to cut, prepare, and arrange foods to make them more appealing to students. The trainings included cooking demonstrations and gave staff opportunities to prepare new recipes.

School officials conducted taste tests of new recipes with students and used student feedback to choose menu items. New foods were also featured during National School Lunch Week. School officials reported that students were more accepting of the changes when they were part of the decision-making process, and that they liked the healthy recipes and the increased amounts of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

District officials also hosted a student recipe contest to get students excited about healthy eating. Students were encouraged to submit low-fat, low-sodium recipes that could be added to school lunch menus. The contest generated many new ideas, including chicken roll-ups, barbecue chicken pizza, and Mexicali soup. The top recipes from each school were featured on the menu during National School Lunch Week.

Physical Education and Physical Activity

To improve the district’s PE curriculum, students were surveyed to find out what physical activities most appealed to them and what they would enjoy doing every week. A committee of PE instructors, parents, and principals was set up to review the existing curriculum. District officials used the survey data and curriculum analysis, along with information about best practices for teaching PE, to revise their curriculum. They also encouraged PE teachers to seek professional certifications and improve their skills.

Several schools also added extra programs to increase students’ physical activity levels throughout the day. For example, students in fourth and fifth grade at one elementary school participated in a program called Fuel Up to Play 60. This program is designed to empower students to take charge of their health and fitness by getting 60 minutes of activity every day.

In addition, students and teachers throughout the district participated in the Move to Learn initiative, which is designed to help teachers increase physical activity in the classroom. Teachers were given easy-to-use tools and resources, such as short videos that promote physical activity in the classroom. The videos have catchy music and are easy for students to follow.

Accomplishments

The Move to Learn initiative was so successful that elementary school students in the district were featured in a video project that showcased how schools in Mississippi have added physical activity to their classrooms.

Sourced from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Putting Local School Wellness Policies into Action. Atlanta, GA: US Dept of Health and Human Services; 2014. Available at http://www.cdc.gov/NCCDPHP/dph.