Success Stories

Involving the Community to Create a Strong Wellness Culture

School Wellness
Colorado

High Point Academy | Aurora, Colorado

Setting the Stage: Establishing the Local School Wellness Policy

In 2012, High Point Academy formed a coordinated school health team to assess and implement the school’s wellness practices. This team included eight staff members, six parents, and three community members who worked in food service or health services.

Team members used CDC’s School Health Index, a self-assessment and planning tool, to identify which of the school’s current practices were working and which needed improvement. For example, they found that students did not have enough time to eat their lunch, so the school lunch period was extended. The team meets monthly to review whether the school is implementing the wellness policy.

Parent involvement in shaping and supporting wellness activities at the school was an important part of ensuring successful implementation of the wellness policy. Parents received weekly updates through the school newsletter and from a monthly newsletter that goes to the entire school community. Parents were encouraged to provide feedback and recommendations on improving the school’s wellness activities.

Taking Action: Activities to Meet Local School Wellness Policy Goals

Nutrition Education

All students attended wellness classes with a nutrition education component 2 days a week. The curriculum taught students how to make healthy choices in many areas of their lives by focusing on healthy eating, cooking, and nutrition education. For example, students in kindergarten through grade 5 learned about portion size through the USDA’s MyPlate tool, which shows the five food groups that make up a healthy diet. The wellness teacher used homemade play dough to show students how to make plates with a variety of healthy food items.

The school also built a school garden where students could plant seeds, watch plants grow, and learn about fruits and vegetables. Students had their own work stations in the garden, and they participated in physical, hands-on learning in different parts of the garden.

The school partnered with Slow Food Denver to organize youth farmers’ markets each fall to teach students how to set up a market stand and sell produce from the school garden and local farms. The wellness teacher coordinated the markets, and parent and student volunteers ran the stands. Students in grade 6 practiced math and customer service skills by guiding customers through the stands and recording what they bought. Students also learned about marketing, business and financial management, and which foods are in season at different times of the year.

The farmers’ markets gave High Point Academy families a chance to buy fresh, affordable produce at their child’s school. All profits were reinvested in the school garden.

Physical Activity and Physical Education

All students attended physical education classes 3 times a week. Elementary school students participated in the SPARK PE program, which was designed to make PE classes inclusive, active, and fun. The middle school curriculum rotated different lessons each quarter, focusing on lifetime fitness, personal fitness, team sports, and adventure sports. Students were also encouraged to be physically active during daily recess.

In 2012, the school installed an indoor climbing wall that is 20 feet wide and 10 feet tall and features 125 handholds and a 3-inch cordless mat locking system. The wall was paid for by the school’s parent teacher organization. During PE class, students could climb the wall horizontally rather than vertically, which eliminated the need for ropes or harnesses. Climbing walls can help students improve physical skills like strength, balance, and coordination; interpersonal skills like communication, teamwork, and conflict resolution; and cognitive skills like planning, problem solving, and decision making.

High Point Academy offered yoga classes to students as a way to reduce stress and increase physical fitness. A nonprofit organization called the Wellness Initiative provided an instructor to teach yoga classes to students in kindergarten and grades 1, 4, and 6 throughout the week.

Accomplishments

The involvement of parents and community members on the wellness committee created a strong wellness culture at High Point Academy, and the school won several local awards for its activities. It also received the USDA’s HealthierUS School Challenge Bronze Award. Parents have reported that the school’s initiatives are helping their children make healthier choices at home. Parents also reported changes in their own behaviors, such as parking farther away from the school and walking to meet their children after school.

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.