The Alliance for a Healthier Generation works to empower kids to develop lifelong healthy habits by ensuring the environments that surround them provide and promote good health. The Alliance’s Healthy Schools Program helps to create and sustain healthy environments where students, especially those in greatest need, can learn more and flourish.
The Healthy Schools Program identifies specific criteria that define a healthy school environment. Through an assessment tool and a customized action plan, schools work toward the Alliance’s National Healthy Schools Award. To earn the Award, schools must demonstrate implementation of specific best practices in each of the following modules that address school health:
• School Health and Safety Policies and Environment
• Health Education
• Physical Education and Other Physical Activity Programs
• Nutrition Services
• Health Promotion for Staff
• Family and Community Involvement
Schools are recognized with a National Healthy Schools Award at the Bronze, Silver or Gold Level. During the 2014-2015 school year South Dakota had 8 Bronze level award winning schools!
Beresford Elementary School – Beresford School District 61-2
At Beresford Elementary School, students are always on the move – for some, even while they are sitting at their desks. The school integrated kinesthetic learning desks into its third and fourth grade classrooms, so that students can complete their assignments and keep their legs moving at the same time. The new desks are one of many ways that Beresford Elementary is encouraging healthy habits. The school schedule includes recess and an afterschool program filled with physical activity options. At recess once a week, students participate in activities organized by Peaceful Playground, a program designed to help kids engage with one another socially while they play outside. Staff boost their physical activity by participating in a faculty fitness program before and after school. To promote healthy eating, the food service staff overhauled the lunch menu to meet federal nutrition guidelines and replaced unhealthy snacks in the school’s vending machines with healthier alternatives. The school is in the process of determining the best ways to educate parents on the importance of helping their children make healthy choices. “The assistance from the Alliance’s Healthy Schools Program has been essential throughout the process of reviewing, revising and updating our wellness policy,” said Scott Klungseth, district staff member. He continued, “The guidance of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation was an essential component as we moved through the process.”
Brandon Elementary School – Brandon Valley School District 49-2
A typical day at Brandon Elementary School is packed with opportunities for physical activity from the moment the bell rings through the end of the school day. Every morning, many children ride their bikes to school and students get moving when teachers use Jammin’ Minute physical activity breaks. The school offers exciting physical activity options during recess, such as martial arts. Staff participated in a month-long physical activity challenge and took advantage of stress management seminars and health screenings. To promote healthy eating, the school aligned all foods sold outside the school meals program with the USDA’s Smart Snacks in School standards and offers a healthy snack break during the school day. Parents are encouraged to send non-food items to school for classroom parties and birthday celebrations, and students learn how to create nutritious meals based on the USDA MyPlate recommendations in health classes. Collectively, these changes are helping to shape a healthier and more positive learning environment at Brandon Elementary. “We would not have achieved these changes without the help of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation,” said Lisa Johnson, district staff member.
Buchanan Kindergarten Center – Huron School District 2-2
Every day at Buchanan Kindergarten Center begins with a Jammin’ Minute to ensure that students are energized and focused before class begins. Many students also run or walk laps before class. Staff members are getting involved in encouraging the school’s young students to practice healthy eating habits throughout the day. The school nurse, for example, teaches a weekly health lesson, and many high school students organized a health fair for the children. As a result of these efforts, students are more aware of healthy eating options and have had the opportunity to try new fruits and vegetables. Staff wellness has become a top priority at Buchanan as well; staff members take part in a physical activity challenge, and are encouraged to wear pedometers to increase their daily steps.
Jefferson Elementary School – Huron School District 2-2
Students at Jefferson Elementary school are moving more all day long, thanks to the schools participation in the Healthy Schools Program. The whole school starts their day off with exercise over the loud speaker. Jammin’ Minute gets the kids focused and ready to learn. The teachers keep the kids moving during the day in their classrooms with brain breaks. To get the students moving more the school wellness team developed a walking challenge that students participated in during recess and after school. “I see the impact we’re having when a student comes back to tell me her family exercised together,” said School Nurse Rita Baszler. The wellness team was instrumental in getting the administration to change their school’s handbook by adding, “physical education minutes cannot be withheld as a punishment at school.” This program helps to keep our staff focused on wellness for the students which helps them to be ready to learn.
Georgia Morse Middle School – Pierre School District 32-2
At Georgia Morse Middle School, students and staff are understanding the importance of healthy eating. In the cafeteria, all food options align with federal standards for meals and students are choosing fruit and vegetable options more frequently. The school added a vending machine stocked with nutritious USDA Smart Snack items and also provided certain classrooms with new NutriBullet blenders so that students could test out new, healthy recipes. Physical activity is a priority at Georgia Morse, where students and staff enjoy access to new fitness equipment. The staff organized a “Girls on Track” program to help girls train for a 5K race and managed a weight lifting program after school three days per week. The school also offers a wellness calendar full of physical activity ideas and inspiration for staff. As a result of these initiatives, students and staff alike are developing healthy habits. Physical Education is provided every other day to all grades, for all three years. An active Healthy Alliance Committee has implemented many new activities in the past few years. “We are continuing to change the climate of our school to a healthier and more positive place,” said Kyley Cumbow, school administrator.
Jefferson Elementary School – Pierre School District
At Jefferson Elementary School, the importance of health and wellness is obvious from the moment students set foot in the building. Before classes begin, students enjoy extra time for physical activity and grab a healthy breakfast provided by the school. After school, staff members take walks together and many female students participate in a popular “Girls on the Run” program. The school also created a “Boost Up” classroom, equipped with multiple physical activity stations for students to try. To encourage more physical activity among the staff, many faculty meetings conclude with a friendly game of volleyball or jogging some laps outside. Students enjoy healthy meals in the cafeteria and all foods and beverages sold outside of the school meals program align with the USDA Smart Snacks in School standards. The school also implemented a Harvest of the Month program to introduce students to new, tasty fruits and vegetables. “The Healthy Schools Program kept us on task and helped us to improve our healthy activities,” said Bill Kaiser, administrator. “The Program has shown us that school wellness should be talked about more and emphasized,” added Jim Keyes, physical education teacher.
Black Hawk Elementary School – Rapid City Area School District 51-4
At Black Hawk Elementary School, many teachers and students share a common goal: completing 100 miles of walking or jogging by the end of the school year. For every 25 miles completed by a participant, he or she received a special t-shirt to wear with pride on “Miler Mondays.” This “100 Mile Club” is one of many initiatives at Black Hawk geared toward building a healthier environment. The morning announcements always include a student-organized nutrition lesson plus a Jammin’ Minute physical activity break to ensure that the students are energized and ready to learn. Teachers are encouraged to incorporate at least ten minutes of movement into their daily lesson plans. The school’s wellness efforts are also extending into the community: it hosted a 3K walk for all Black Hawk families and planned physical activity events for staff. Collectively, these changes have begun to transform the school environment. “We have created a culture where health and wellness are valued in the educational process. It is no longer just the physical education teachers’ job to get the kids moving; the principal, classroom teachers and community now understand healthy students are better learners,” said Tari Phares, physical education teacher. She continued, “Healthy Schools Program Manager Kari Senger has been instrumental in training us on the Alliance’s process and framework. She has connected us with valuable resources to help us accomplish our goals.” The Black Hawk community has plenty to look forward to; the school plans to use its new blenders to host smoothie taste tests and the local Black Hills Runners’ Club has offered to sponsor the 100 Mile Club for the upcoming school year.
Knollwood Heights Elementary School – Rapid City Area School District 51-4
At Knollwood Heights Elementary School, Wednesdays are one of the most exciting days of the week; each “Wellness Wednesday” brings an opportunity for students and staff to experience new physical activities. “I look forward to Wellness Wednesdays. It is a great time to have fun with our students while doing something physical,” said Mallory Spoelstra, first grade teacher. In addition to Wellness Wednesdays, the school encourages students to get moving with a popular running club and an additional ten minutes of recess time. Staff are leading the way to healthier habits; they walk together after school, participate in a fitness challenge and receive tips for healthy living via e-mail. Students and staff alike enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables during snack time and candy rewards have been removed from most classrooms. To ensure that students can practice healthy habits within their homes, the school hosted a family night where students and their parents completed three fitness stations that culminated in a free, nutritious meal. As a result of these changes, Knollwood has made significant progress in its mission to build a healthy school environment.