Healthy Classrooms Initiative: Educating Teachers on Healthy School Celebrations, Non-Food Rewards & More
|July 30, 2014||Posted by Stacy under Classroom parties, Food rewards, Healthy parties, Healthy snacks, Junk food in school, Making change, School food, School parties, School policy, School wellness programs, Teachers, Wellness policy|
Recently, I teamed up with a local registered dietitian to create an education initiative targeting the people in our school community with the greatest power to influence our kids: our teachers. When a school district doesn’t have a firm policy when it comes to classroom food, teachers are the ones who decide how to handle birthdays, holidays and other celebrations. They also determine whether kids are rewarded with ice cream or candy for a job well done.
Enter our new Healthy Classrooms Initiative.
With our eye on a nutrition education grant being offered by our state board of education, we approached our school district superintendent and other administrators with the idea–and they said YES! One grant proposal and a bunch of legwork later, we have our funding–and are busy preparing the presentation and handouts that will be provided to every single teacher and classroom aide in our district.
So what exactly IS a Healthy Classrooms Initiative? At the start of the school year, teachers and other staff will be given a 30-minute presentation (delivered by clinical dietitians) designed to raise awareness about the benefits of healthy eating and physical activity on student learning, behavior and health. They will get specific recommendations for food served in the classroom and learn the ins and outs of healthy celebrations, non-food rewards (SEE Why Food Rewards are Bad for Our Kids–and Ideas for Healthy Classroom Alternatives), the importance of physical activity and recess, and more.
Food-free birthday celebrations are one of the big changes that we’ll be advocating as a way to cut down on sugary treats and other junk. The overall goal: to have no more than three to five parties or special occasions involving food per year. Teachers who sign up to have a Healthy Classroom will receive a sign to display in their classroom. Participation will be voluntary but all will be asked to take the Healthy Classrooms pledge to demonstrate their commitment (and allow us to measure and track involvement).
Later in the spring, teachers also will have the option of taking a Healthy Classrooms enrichment course made up of a 4-hour class that can count toward professional development.
To help communicate the basics, we’ve created handouts for both teachers and parents. Thanks to the master design skills of Kim Harshberger of DesignQueue, I think they look pretty darn great. And in case you want to learn more about our initiative or pitch the idea to your school district, I’m sharing them with you here:
What Is a Healthy Classroom? Info Sheet
Healthy Classrooms: Letter to Parents (English) / Healthy Classrooms: Letter to Parents (Spanish)
Healthy Birthday Contract for Parents (English) / Healthy Birthday Contract for Parents (Spanish)
Healthy Classrooms Sign & Student Sign-up Sheet
To be clear: I don’t think the teachers in our district are unhealthy. On the contrary, I have seen some make an extraordinary effort to create a healthy classroom environment. Our objective is to support their efforts by helping them create and communicate guidelines for classroom food.
Of course, I have my fingers and toes crossed that our Healthy Classroom Initiative is well received by our teachers. Most that we’ve spoken so far to are on board with the concept–but I realize that some may get defensive or want no part.
In any case, we hope that the information provided will inform, inspire and empower more of our educators to have healthy classroom celebrations and reward students with extra recess instead of M&Ms.
Does your school district educate teachers about ways to promote healthy eating and physical activity? Do you think it’s a smart strategy? Leave comments down below, please!
Should We Just “Let Kids Be Kids” When It Comes to Junk Food?
Calling All Moms: Here’s How YOU Can Make a Difference in the Fight for Healthier School Food
Taking a Stand Against Junk Food in School: Why It’s Hard–But We Need to Anyway!
Rant of the Day: Please Stop Feeding My Kids Junk Food at School!