The global healthy school initiative by WHO promotes different strategies to improve the health of our students. Having healthy school environments no longer considers students’ physical health and the social, mental, and emotional health. Healthy schools consider everything from the foods being offered to students to learning environments that make students feel safe, secure, and wanted. While 2020 made all of these things tremendously more difficult, going into 2021, teachers all across the country have a much better idea of how to achieve these things for our students.
Tips to Make Your School Healthier
While the thought of taking on the task of making your school healthier for both the staff and the students may seem like a large undertaking, there are many small things that you can do to improve your school in a big way. Here, we have 10 ways to help you promote a healthy learning environment through different programs and activities.
1 . Have Time For Physical Activity
Part of having a healthy school has students who are both physically and mentally healthy. School environments that incorporate time for being outside for recess or having fun playing physically active games will promote positive attitudes about exercise and health.
2 . Create Health Education Classes
In the famous words of Dr. Seuss, “The more you will read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go”. Students who are better educated on living a healthy lifestyle and what comes when you don’t are statistically more likely or make better nutrition choices and live a healthy life.
3 . Start a School Garden
Healthy schools start with their school-wide programs, but also within the classroom. Make healthy eating habits by building and nurturing a school garden as a grade level or even a class project. Then, have a feast with all of the fruits and vegetables you harvest from the school garden. Growing fresh produce is a way for children to see where their food comes from and see the efforts of collective hard work. Things like this promote a liking for healthy foods, consider the health and wellness of the mind, and give kids something to be proud of.
4 . Promote Healthier Options in the Cafeteria
The majority of the kids we asked would prefer healthier options in the cafeteria. Create a program or a campaign that partners with the community and your school nutrition program to help provide healthier options. Consider incorporating a salad bar during the week for lunches as a healthy side option or maybe promoting healthier breakfast options in the morning.
5 . Have Community Health Events
The best and most healthy schools are those that have strong community partnerships and programs. Living a healthy lifestyle starts in the home, and impoverished homes are the highest childhood obesity and diabetes rates. Many times this stems from parents also needing education and resources on nutrition. Wellness fairs are a great way for schools and the community to come together and help families thrive.
6 . Provide Resources for Wellness Visits
While many have a physician and do wellness checkups and immunizations regularly, there is a surprisingly large amount of people who do not know where to begin. Education geared toward educating the whole child, including leading a healthy lifestyle, is our key goal. Why not have resources to educate them on how to navigate the health care system? The national take your parents to school day is another good way for parents to exchange healthy school lunch ideas with other parents.
Parents who cannot afford health care and need government help often do not know how to start. Have information resources and support available within your school to ensure children can receive proper medical care and immunizations needed.
7 . Host Fun Exercise Classes
Get creative with providing both kids and teachers with new and fun physical activities. Host a Zumba class or maybe a Power and Flow Yoga class. Another idea is to sign up for a race a few months down the road and train together as a team before or after school. Things like this create a team-like school environment and encourage all those involved, and piquing the interest of those who aren’t.
8 . Promote Flexible Seating
Did you know sitting on a balance ball all days burns more calories and increases attention? Learning environments with flexible seating with these types of seats show greater student achievement in their class word and attention spans. Plus, the constant physical activity rather promotes an active rather than sedentary lifestyle.
9 . Host Healthy School Cooking Classes
Some of my most successful lessons were those that involved cooking and eating in class. Anyone can tell kids all day long they should eat Kale, but until they can cook it in something and taste it and realize, “oh…this is healthy for me AND tastes good…” they won’t eat it. Education environments that allow children to practice what they learn, like cooking with the very foods they are being told are good for them, are often the most successful.
10 . Mental Health Awareness
It is certainly no secret that our nation’s youth’s mental stability is being challenged in so many different directions. This is why healthy schools and healthy school environments also focus on children’s mental and emotional challenges today. Social media and bullying now almost seem synonymous on a national level.
Social and academic pressures often leave kids stressed out and unable to cope with all of their overwhelming emotions. School environments that teach kids proper social media etiquette, bullying laws, and stress coping techniques set their students up for a more successful academic career and the ability to also cope with life’s hardships.
Final Thoughts on Healthy Schools
Healthy schools, overall, are ones that focus on the whole child, not just academics. The key to education is the focus on physical and emotional needs. By doing this, we can create healthy schools and communities that support each other.