New Albany Elementary School | New Albany, Mississippi
Setting the Stage: Establishing the Local School Wellness Policy
In 2007, the state legislature passed the Mississippi Healthy Students Act, which required schools to provide 150 minutes a week of activity-based instruction and 45 minutes a week of health education for students in kindergarten through grade 8.
This law helped New Albany Elementary School get support and resources to improve the school’s health policies and practices. For example, the school received a Healthy Lifestyles grant and mini-grants from the Mississippi State Department of Health’s Bureau of Community and School Health and the Mississippi Office of Healthy Schools. This funding was used to enhance the school’s physical activity building and to buy physical activity equipment and nutrition education materials.
Officials at the school set up a school health council whose members represented each component of CDC’s coordinated school health framework. The council included parents, school administrators, teachers, the food service director, community leaders, local business owners, and students. The council used CDC’s School Health Index, which is a self-assessment and planning tool, to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the school’s current policies and practices. The assessment helped the council identify which areas had been overlooked or lacked resources and how the school could best meet state requirements for physical activity and health education.
The council revised the wellness policy and presented the new policy to school leaders to gain their support. The policy called for specific programs and activities, which were to be overseen by the health services coordinator and the school health council. The council continued to meet 3 times a year to share successes and address any problems with implementing the policy.
Taking Action: Activities to Meet Local School Wellness Policy Goals
New Albany Elementary School added a comprehensive nutrition education curriculum to its health education classes to encourage students to make healthy food choices. The curriculum was based on the results of the School Health Index assessment, which was used to define what type of nutrition education students needed. The health services coordinator, school administrators, and the health education teacher worked together to develop the curriculum and decide how to add it to existing classes.
Each week, teachers provided at least one nutrition education lesson. For example, during National Nutrition Month, students learned the importance of eating a healthy breakfast and how eating breakfast provides energy and improves memory throughout the day. They received fun work sheets and watched a video called The OrganWise Guys: Breakfast Skipping Blues. The school also sent information to parents to emphasize the connection between eating a healthy breakfast and doing better in school.
These efforts were supported by activities planned by food service staff, school nurses, and health and PE teachers, such as daily menu announcements, weekly school newspaper articles, and monthly posts on the school’s website.
Physical Activity and Physical Education
In 2010, the health services coordinator and several teachers at New Albany Elementary found that students did not have enough time in the school day to be physically active and that the school’s PE curriculum needed to be improved. The school applied for and received a Carol M. White Physical Education Program grant from the US Department of Education. This grant was used to hire a full-time, certified PE teacher to increase physical activity during PE class and introduce activity breaks in the classroom.
To help students get 150 minutes a week of activitybased instruction, teachers attended a professional development workshop led by Mike Kuczala, coauthor of The Kinesthetic Classroom. In this workshop, teachers learned how to motivate their students to be active and move more in the classroom. They learned activities that could be easily adjusted to any subject area or unit of study.
As a result, teachers better understood the link between academic achievement and movement and the ways movement enhances brain function, refocuses attention, reduces sitting time, and keeps students engaged.
To improve the school’s PE curriculum, New Albany Elementary implemented the SPARK PE program. This program provides resources that include a highly active curriculum, on-site training for teachers, and equipment that matches the curriculum.
The percentage of New Albany Elementary School students eating breakfast increased from 43% during the 2008–2009 school year to 48% in the fall of 2012. The percentage eating lunch increased from 76% in the 2008–2009 school year to 79% in the fall of 2012. The school also received the USDA’s HealthierUS School Challenge Silver Award.
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.