Working Toward a Healthier District

New Year’s Resolutions

This week, many schools around Indianapolis are reopening their doors to students after a summer away. A new school year provides opportunities for school leadership to implement new plans and goals for improvement, and this year the school district of Warren Township is implementing some new year’s resolutions of their own. Superintendent Dr. Timothy Hanson and Assistant Superintendent Ryan Russel are hoping to focus on the district’s view of health and wellness. Warren Township has a new District Wellness Policy that has a larger focus on physical activity in schools as well as stronger nutrition standards. This new wellness policy is much more comprehensive than the district’s original and provides an encouraging stepping stone as the district moves forward to make health and wellness a priority in all of its schools.

Children running outside

Changing Recess

To ensure that the district was providing ample activity opportunities for their students, the leadership’s first goal was to increase the amount of daily physical activity their elementary students were receiving. Schools are encouraged to provide physical activity for their students, as school is where many children spend the majority of their days. Opportunities for physical activity during the school day can encourage healthy behavior and make it easier to meet the recommended goal of 60 minutes of physical activity each day. However, in the past, the elementary schools in Warren Township could only provide students with 15 minutes of recess per day, and their 45-minute gym rotation only occurred once a week. This meant that with organization and walking time to and from recess, students would sometimes only get 10 minutes of play-time in a day. This year, Dr. Hanson has requested that each Warren elementary school provide a daily 30-minute recess block, ensuring that even with the time it takes to get organized and walk to and from recess, the students will be able to play for a full 30 minutes.

Sunny Heights Elementary School

The district’s initiative to improve recess at the elementary schools can be exemplified by the program at Sunny Heights Elementary School. The school received a grant that would allow them to hire an organization called Playworks that sends staff to assess the available play area, the type of play occurring at recess, and the staff that is present at recess. The Playworks program for Sunny Heights Elementary employs AmeriCorps coaches who act as liaisons to the school and visit for one week each month. They make sure that the school’s recess is safe, teach staff how to run an active recess, and give the staff tips about how to incorporate physical activity into the classroom.

Children playing recess games outside

Not all schools in the Warren Township district will be able to incorporate Playworks into their recess plans, but one school in the district with this resource is a great starting point for a township with a passion for health and wellness. Warren Township and Jump IN for Healthy Kids are working together to discuss more ways that all of the schools in the district can better incorporate physical activity into their daily routines, as well as how to implement healthy celebration policies district-wide. These steps may be small, but small steps toward success are giant steps in terms of importance, especially when it comes to the health of the students of Indianapolis!