This is the last blog post of a three-part series to tell you about a unique elementary school, nestled in Lawrence: Harrison Hill School. That part of Lawrence is economically depressed, and its residents frequently struggle with poverty and the challenges that go with it. But Harrison Hill is unusual as a community school: services that families need are accessible at the school (part 1), and School Community Liaison Neal Gore has developed an exceptionally robust family engagement program (part 2). The third piece of this work is improving kids' health by creating a healthy environment where making good nutrition and physical activity choices are part of daily life.
This is part two of a three-part series to tell you about a unique elementary school, nestled in Lawrence: Harrison Hill School. That part of Lawrence is economically depressed, and its residents frequently struggle with poverty and the challenges that go with it. Thanks to Community Liaison Neal Gore, family engagement is front and center at Harrison Hill, and that engagement has enabled the school to teach families healthy habits regarding nutrition and physical activity on a collaborative scale that we at Jump IN haven’t seen at any other schools. Neal is interested in not only creating a healthy school, he’s also trying to create a healthier neighborhood.
He’s doing it by opening up the school outside of school hours and invited families to participate in dozens of different activities for Family Engagement Nights. He calls this part of his job, “my most fun thing!” Family Engagement nights are six-week-long sessions that happen four times a year. The school is in its fourth year of offering them and on any given Family Engagement night as many as a hundred people might be participating. These are free, and they include a sit-down dinner with the other families, sponsored by Chef Suzanne (Neal has calculated that she has donated more than 10,000 meals over the last four years – wow!).
This is part one of a three-part series to tell you about a unique elementary school, nestled in Lawrence: Harrison Hill School. That part of Lawrence is economically depressed, and its residents frequently struggle with poverty and the challenges that go with it. Family engagement is front and center at Harrison Hill, and that engagement has enabled the school to teach families healthy habits regarding nutrition and physical activity on a collaborative scale that we at Jump IN haven’t seen at any other schools. The driver of this engagement is Neal Gore, the school’s Community Liaison. Neal’s wife has been a teacher at the school for a long time, and their family has a strong belief in “being present,” meaning that they live in the neighborhood where the school is, send their kids to the school, and are committed to engaging as community members - as Neal puts it, “living where you’re making a difference, not outside of it.” Neal joined Harrison Hill four years ago, when the school was applying to the United Way of Central Indiana for a Student Success grant to model the school as a “community school.” Neal was part of the group working on the grant, and when the school got the grant, Neal joined the staff to implement it. It was a sizable grant, over $400,000 over three years. It’s now one year past the end of the grant, and Neal has worked hard to make the concept self-sustaining.
Did you know? Jump IN for Healthy Kids is fortunate and honored to be one of the 50 organizations competing for the $250,000 Healthiest Cities and Counties Challenge. The Challenge is a partnership between the Aetna Foundation, the American Public Health Association and the National Association of Counties. The partnership empowers small to mid-size U.S. cities and counties to create a positive health impact. 50 communities were selected by competitive process to be part of the Challenge, and Jump IN's community demonstration project in Greater Lawrence and the Far Eastside (GLFE) was selected as one of the 50. Jump IN's work and the work of our partners is broad and deep, and we've listed nearly everything below that we're up to in GLFE, so it's a bit of a long read, but we really wanted to tell you about our work. It's a lot, and there are wonderful partners and grassroots efforts that are helping improve the health of residents every day. If we are fortunate enough to win the Challenge, the prize money will go directly into the GLFE community to continue and expand our work.
Physical activity is important to the overall health and well-being of everyone, including school-age children. The benefits are well documented and include significant reduction in health risks, building and maintenance of strong bones and muscles, improved health-related fitness, and positive social and mental health. Increasing scientific evidence suggests that healthier students are also better learners, and physical activity can improve academic achievement.
Schools are in an ideal position to influence children's health through increased physical activity, because school is where most children spend the majority of their time outside of home. A School Wellness Policy can help guide these efforts.
Halloween may come just once a year, but when candy and sweet treats take center stage at our celebrations, the cumulative long-term consequences are scary.
Shift the focus of your Halloween celebration away from candy and have fun with healthy snacks, active games, and non-food prizes instead.
Did you know that simple marketing and presentation strategies can affect the number of fruits and vegetables that students eat? Here are some Smarter Lunchroom strategies that encourage students to eat more fruits and vegetables:
Focus on Fruit
Offer at least two different kinds of fruit
Think beyond apples, bananas, and oranges. Smarter Lunchrooms expose students to a wide variety of fruits, including grapes, watermelon, mandarin oranges, peaches, berries, and kiwi. Fresh, frozen, dried, and canned are all equally nutritious.
Four in ten kids in central Indiana are at an unhealthy weight. That's nearly a quarter million kids, or enough to fill Lucas Oil Stadium three times.
Because of their weight, these kids are at significantly higher risk for life threatening conditions including heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
How did we get here?
The causes of the obesity epidemic are numerous and complex. Food has become highly processed, calorie dense, and “super-sized.” Many families lack access to affordable, healthy food. Children have fewer opportunities to play and be active, as recess and physical education classes have been reduced or cut entirely in schools. Too many kids spend too much time sitting in front of computer screens, tablets, or smart phones. Many of them live in neighborhoods that lack safe places to play.
As a result, simply promoting public awareness and “personal responsibility” will not solve this crisis. There are no simple or one-size-fits-all solutions.
We're in the habit of celebrating with food—usually sweets and candy with lots of empty calories. But it's easy to rethink how you party in the classroom or at day care when you're equipped with fun alternatives that kids love. We've got 15 fun and healthy school celebration ideas to help!
Why healthier classroom celebrations?
Why does your school or child care center need a healthy school celebrations policy that extends to birthdays, holidays, and special events? "A birthday is just once a year," we might think—but if you have 25 or more student birthdays, and add in Halloween, winter break, Valentine's Day, the 100th day of school, the last day of school...you can easily accumulate 7 full weeks of sugary treats!
Parents can't know what we don't tell them, so be sure to introduce your wellness vision at the beginning of the school year and take steps to reinforce it all year long. Here are four strategies to increase parent engagement and the tools you need to implement them:
Introduce your wellness plan
Create a welcome letter that introduces parents to the rationale for making wellness a priority in your school/classroom, shares your goals, and sets expectations for what they may see from you throughout the year.
You might include: