Five SPARK Schools Win National Award for Healthy Schools
Each year, the Alliance for a Healthier Generation awards the Healthy Schools Program National Recognition Award to schools around the country that have reached an important benchmark in improving the learning and working environments of students and staff.
By making significant changes in the areas of healthy eating, physical activity and staff wellness, these schools have joined a growing movement of committed individuals and organizations that are working to combat childhood obesity and foster healthier communities
This year, five schools that have implemented SPARK programs have achieved recognition!
Promoting academic excellence and lasting healthy lifestyles is working at Namaste, as students are outperforming their peers from local public schools while reducing and/or maintaining BMI levels. To achieve these positive results, Namaste and Principal Allison Slade have relied on family and community involvement from the school’s inception. Parents and families are encouraged to incorporate the school’s healthy practices at home through programs that include an on-site Family Center with regular educational workshops, a weekly Friday Family Breakfast program and ongoing family fitness nights. Community businesses such as Chicago Indoor Sports and the 35th Street Café have also joined in to support students and families by providing opportunities for physical activity and healthy food choices outside of the school day.
Wilkerson Elementary School has made student health a priority. They started by upgrading their physical education program by providing SPARK training for all the classroom teachers. This was supported by the purchase of new physical education equipment that would encourage teachers to implement active participation and non-competitive activities as part of physical education. The next step was to provide awareness of the value of healthy food choices, introducing students to new fruits and vegetables and the “Caught Eating Healthy” campaign which provided rewards to students that selected healthier options in the cafeteria.
The PE department made significant changes to its curriculum this year. It was one of 40 pilot schools in the county selected to adopt and train teachers in the SPARK program of inclusive, easy to learn PE activities. In support of this change, the PTA granted the PE department $6,700 to purchase new equipment to be used for the SPARK program. Members of the school’s student wellness council came up with a way to put a healthy spin on the traditional career week this year: they invited local health and wellness experts, including speakers from the Pritikin Longevity Center, Miami Heat Basketball Team and the Coast Guard, to lead discussions and conduct hands-on demonstrations for the students, staff and community.
Teachers were trained in the SPARK program and began incorporating more structured, active play during physical education classes. The school participates in the annual Walk to School Day as well as the California Nutrition Network which provides healthy recipes in English and Spanish. The Harvest of the Month program provides classrooms with produce for students to sample as well as materials for incorporating the food into lessons. They also offer a Guest Chef program where teachers can sign up to have a chef come in to make something special with the produce, which everyone has enjoyed.
Le Gore started by looking at their physical education program. After providing training in the SPARK program, the teachers are energized about PE and what was once only playtime for students has become a true physical education program. The school wellness council meets during the school site council every two months; together they plan and coordinate other activities to benefit students. By working together, they have made other significant improvements at Le Gore including replacing traditional chocolate and candy fundraisers with healthier alternatives.