Wake County Public Schools Superintendent Tony Tata joined Advocates for Health in Action (AHA) on May 30 in announcing the 2012 Brains and Bodies Award recipients for Wake County elementary and middle schools striving to improve the health of students and staff. Two Apex schools and a school in Fuquay-Varina are among the top award winners.
Laurel Park Elementary and St. Mary Magdalene Catholic School, both in Apex, won awards at the Gold level, earning $500 each from AHA, and Lincoln Heights Elementary in Fuquay-Varina won an award at the Silver level, earning $250 for future wellness initiatives at the school. Holly Grove Elementary in Holly Springs earned an Honorable Mention and $50.
“We hope that all schools across Wake County will be inspired by what these award-winning schools are doing—often at little or no expense—to make a difference in their schools and win next year’s awards,” said Sheree Vodicka, director of AHA and WakeMed Community Outreach.
“We are so impressed with the innovative ways these schools are creating a culture of wellness,” Vodicka continued. “What really set the Gold Award winners apart is that they each have a Wellness Committee involving staff and parents—and in some cases students—who are working together to implement their school wellness policy. This type of committee is essential to maintaining and sustaining a comprehensive approach to health and wellness in schools.”
“I congratulate the winning schools and applaud their outstanding efforts to emphasize healthy habits and to create a healthier school environment for staff and students,” said Supt. Tata.
AHA created the awards program in 2010 to celebrate schools’ efforts to create a healthier school environment and help students create lifelong healthy habits. Two other schools won Gold awards: Davis Drive Elementary in Cary and Underwood Elementary in Raleigh.
Other award winners include Hunter Elementary and West Lake Elementary at the Silver level; Brier Creek Elementary, Oak Grove Elementary, Sterling Montessori & Charter School, Wake Forest Elementary and Wiley Elementary at the Bronze level, and Rolesville Elementary at the Honorable Mention level.
AHA created the award program in 2010 to celebrate and recognize schools that are making an effort in this area. The application process is also intended to be educational. All schools that apply for the award receive feedback from AHA about the positive impact the school is making as well as recommendations for further improvement.
“Our Brains and Bodies award winners are making a real difference in their schools by offering free walking and/or running clubs, opting for school fundraisers that focus on fitness rather than unhealthy foods, highlighting healthy choices and shifting the way schools celebrate birthdays,” Vodicka said.
Profiles of the Apex schools are as follows:
Laurel Park Elementary
Led by students, the Healthy Idea Team is a great resource for the entire school. This energetic group of students is sharing healthy lifestyles messages with their classmates on a regular basis, which is so effective in getting their attention and keeping them interested.
These students and other health champions at the school are doing a great job of using technology to engage students. In addition to video on morning announcements to promote healthy choices, the school has an entire Healthy Ideas section on its web site with a variety of resource, including the Snack Neutralizer created by teacher Jeff Schwartz. This tool allows students to see learn how much physical activity (with a huge range of choices) is needed to burn off a snack (or other foods), and again, a wide range of choices is offered.
Laurel Park’s PTA has supported a garden and Garden Club at the school; students are involved year-round in planning, planting, maintaining and harvesting their school garden, which is located next to the playground so all can enjoy and participate in watering!The young garden is a great tool for educating students about healthy choices and exposing them to a variety of fruits and vegetables. The Garden Club hosted an Eat the Rainbow tasting activity in the cafeteria during National Nutrition Month, and more than 700 students tried a variety of veggies the color of the rainbow with many asking for second helpings.
In addition to the garden and the health food choices the Healthy Idea Team promotes, students participated in the Fuel Up to Play 60 program this year and voluntarily tracked their healthy habits. Laurel Park was featured as an NBC Cool School for its healthy initiatives, particularly its 10 minutes of aerobics each morning.
Penguin Power and its Family Marathon, where students, staff and families logged 25 miles of walking, jogging or running at home and joined together at school to finish the last 1.2 miles at school to celebrate together.
A P.E. teacher also organized an “Active Families” campaign where students wrote about how they were active outside of school, and these posters were hung throughout the building, along with other posters students created about healthy habits.
St. Mary Magdalene
A 2011 Gold winner, STMM had two major events this year which highlighted healthy habits; the fall Steps to a Healthy Future walk a thon fundraiser and the National Nutrition Month celebration in March. The Wellness Committee worked closely with the PTO and administration to plan these events.
The walk-a-thon fundraiser was very successful financially and students enjoyed a fun day; in addition to the walk itself, they visited different fitness stations, sampled some healthy foods and played interactive games about nutrition and where food comes from as community partners came together for this special event.
A pep rally with a viral dance got students fired up and moving. STMM works to ensure that its fundraisers do not have a negative health impact, and the addition of this year’s walk-a-thon is a great way to increase awareness about the important of physical activity.
For National Nutrition Month, students tasted a variety of vegetables each Friday of the month (edamame, sweet potatoes, green smoothies with spinach and kale chips), visited physical activity and nutrition stations in the cafeteria and logged their vegetables on a veggie tracker sheet. Plus teachers enjoyed a fruit salad!
Information went home weekly to let parents know about what the students were doing, tasting and learning.
In addition to these special events, STMM teachers at a variety of grade levels include discussion of healthy choices regularly. Some participated in the NC Farm Bureau’s teacher training “The Farmer Grows a Rainbow,” promote and educate about the USDA’s My Plate plan, what a healthy plate looks like, and more.
Profiles of each of the award winners are featured on www.AdvocatesForHealthInAction.org.