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Partnership focuses on improved learning through healthy habits
Partnership focuses on improved learning through healthy habits
Posted on 01/05/2020
Students taking part in running club

Through a unique partnership, three UCS schools are sending students a clear message about how eating right and exercise can improve their learning.

“When you are exercising and active, you feel better,” said Plumbrook Elementary teacher Kia Zager. “If we can target feeling better, all of the other goals – academic, social – will fall into place.” 

It is a message that is being received loud and clear. 

“It’s very, very important to get more exercise – 60 minutes every day,” said second grader Abagail Bowden, a member of the school’s new after-school exercise club. “It helps us stay healthy.” 

Plumbrook, along with Havel and Roberts elementaries, were selected by Blue Cross and Blue Shield to participate in the “Building Healthy Communities” initiative.

Called The Step Up to Wellness program, this initiative promotes healthy habits in ways that have tied greater social and emotional support to academic achievement.

The program has been implemented in more than 260 elementary schools over the past nine years. The goals are simple: 

Educate students through classroom lessons
Encourage students to apply new insight and skills outside the classroom
Provide increased opportunities for physical activity
Improve access to healthy food and beverages
Create an environment that makes the healthy choice the easy choice

At Plumbrook Elementary, the students in Healthy Kids Club teamed up with Plumbrook Elementary's SACC students to make walking fun by collaboratively tracking their laps around the gym.  

Students and their coach documented team mileage on a Healthy Kids Club map, showing how they made it all the way to Traverse City this year.  In a single session, the Healthy Kids Club alone averages close to 14 miles.  

Laps are followed by 20 minutes of cardio, a grant-funded heathy snack/ discussion, and the club closes with a mindfulness cool-down type of activity such as yoga.  

"Not only do we exercise our bodies, but we also practice exercising our minds each week in our Healthy Kids Club,” said first grade teacher Sarah Chisholm, who sponsors the club.  “We begin each meeting with a positive-mindset circle.  We use this time to practice gratitude, give both ourselves and each other positive affirmations, and practice self-regulation/ problem-solving techniques."

She added: "When asked to coach this club, I knew I wanted to start small as a way to help establish a tight-knit little community of students who feel safe, confident, and empowered to practice living a healthy lifestyle in a fun way!"

Posters at the school promote things such as how many steps students in the exercise program are taking – with the goal of showing students how they made it Traverse City this year. 

The after-school “Healthy Kids Club” is just one component of what the schoolwide cultural change.

Teachers are integrating lessons on healthy habits through the curriculum, creating parent outreach programs and developing student leadership activities using the Exemplary Physical Education Curriculum as part of the school’s physical education program.

The partnership is also providing funds for additional recess equipment for the schools and a consultant through Wayne State University.  

According to second grader Mary Mushi: “You want to keep your body fit and so you feel better. I exercise every day.” 

Organizers noted the program is inclusive and will benefit all students alike.