Billerica’s Walk-a-Thon for a Healthy Future
The Billerica School Nurses work on many healthy initiatives throughout the year and the Walk-a-Thon for a Healthy Future was one of these initiatives at the Ditson Elementary School. In the past, the Ditson School’s PTA group usually raised funds by selling sweet bread, cinnamon rolls, etc. However, the entire district has been striving to improve adherence to their healthy school policies, so they decided to sponsor a walk instead. The school nurse gave the PTA guidance, ideas, educational materials, pedometers, and prizes. In advance of the walk, the Parker Elementary School’s retiring nurse gave the gift of a visit from Mr. Slim Goodbody to do two presentations on healthy lifestyles for the whole school community. The students walked a course around the school grounds mapped out by the physical education teacher. Educational health facts were strategically placed along the course. The event was a great success as they reached their three goals: (1) raising school spirit, (2) educating on healthy habits, and (3) raising more sponsorship than they ever dreamed of – netting over $14,000. The walk was such a success that it will be repeated next year, integrating supplementary disciplines and additional health activities into the day.
Teachers can think about how all of their education plans, including cultural events, fit with providing their students a healthy environment in which to learn. In order to provide a valuable, well-rounded learning experience for students, teachers may want to shift the focus of these events away from primarily food and on to other aspects of a world culture, including dress, music, art, and the cinema. For example, while the French have a reputation for cuisine that includes butter, cheese, and white bread, the French lifestyle and eating habits are very different from a traditional American lifestyle and eating habits. Food and fuel are much more expensive in France than in the United States and even their refrigerators are half the size of those in the US. The result is that the French eat less processed food, eat more fresh fruits and vegetables and incorporate more physical activity into their daily lives because it is cheaper and easier to walk or ride a bicycle than to drive everywhere. Offering foods for these events that meet the new nutrition standards will impart a consistent message of healthy eating that is important to students’ well being. For instance, teachers can focus on the fresh, less processed aspects of French cuisine such as fruits and vegetables and choose lower-fat selections from France’s extensive cuisine. Schools can still provide a fun, educational event for their students and prioritize a healthy school environment.
If a meal or snack will take place during a field trip, organizers can plan ahead so that students have access to healthy options. One option would be to have nutrition services make boxed lunches for students to purchase and take with them on the bus. A nutrition services director in one Massachusetts school district recently shared that their school was looking for creative new revenue streams, so they decided to provide healthy “grab and go” snacks for students who stay after school for athletics or other activities. This same approach could be applied to accommodate students traveling on school-sponsored field trips. Another idea would be to call the restaurant where a stop is planned beforehand and make arrangements for healthy options.