Turning Wellness Policies into Action at a Healthy Teacher Network Workshop

Rodney Tripplett

by Rodney Tripplett, School Programs Intern

On November 27, 2012, CLOCC’s Healthy Teacher Network hosted a workshop with the theme Wellness Policies into Action: Making Healthy Students Happen that was attended by teachers, counselors, and school nurses.  It began with a presentation of the highlights of the new Chicago Public Schools (CPS) Local School Wellness and Healthy Snack and Beverage policies from Annie Lionberger, CPS Senior Manager of Student Health and Wellness. This provided an opportunity for participants to gain a better understanding of the key requirements and guidelines of the new wellness policies. Participants also engaged in breakout sessions that focused on key components outlined in the wellness policy such as forming wellness teams, implementing activities to engage all students during recess, and integrating nutrition education into the school day. 

To provide tools for addressing the nutrition education requirement of the new CPS wellness policies, Rebecca Calendo, CLOCC Health Educator, facilitated a session focused on a nutrition and food access curriculum called Cultivating Change. This curriculum includes a series of lesson plans for middle school grades to develop students’ awareness of their food choices as well as food access and health issues that impact their communities. In the session, participants learned project ideas, recipes, and activities to launch a unit on food and health. 

Likewise, Urban Initiatives led an engaging session and dialogue on implementing activities to get students moving during recess. Play with Potential, a recess program developed by Urban Initiatives, includes games that are adaptable to a variety of spaces including outdoor fields, classrooms, and multi-use areas. Program Manager April Lillstrom encouraged school staff to engage all students in physical activity and emphasized the importance of recess as being safe, fun, and active as well as an opportunity to facilitate positive youth development. At the end of the session, participants experienced a sample of Play with Potential activities, gaining a better sense of how recess can be improved at their respective schools. 

Overall feedback on the workshop was very positive.  Participants particularly enjoyed the breakout sesson on how to initiate wellness councils. This included a success story from Kristen Janko, adult facilitator for Young Organizers Leading Others (YOLO) at Instituto Health Sciences Career Academy. YOLO tackles issues students want to address in the school and broader community. It began when students decided to raise funds to expand the school’s fitness center and add new equipment. YOLO has raised over $3,000 from fundraising efforts which include school health awareness dances, bake sales, and walk-a-thons. In the breakout, Kristen explained successes and challenges as well as tips for other schools wishing to replicate their work. Kristen strongly encouraged staff struggling to start a wellness council to involve youth, be open to their ideas, gain support from faculty and parents, and ensure student wellness groups are inclusive and accountable. 

As at past workshops, participants networked at the Resource Fair with a variety of community organizations that promote student wellness, healthy eating and physical activity. Twenty-one organizations participated – the largest number to date! Educators from the Lower West Side, North Lawndale, and Chicago Lawn/West Edison were among the most represented at the workshop, with many first time as well as returning staff.

The Healthy Teacher Network fall workshop provided tools to put the wellness policies into action, and we look forward to hearing how they help attendees to create healthier students throughout the city of Chicago.

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