In just six short months, Action for Fitness in Monmouth County has worked with our committed partners to start two School Health Councils in the Asbury Park elementary schools. Together with our key partners, the Asbury Park School District, the YMCA and Meridian Healthcare, we are developing strategies and methods to teach students the importance of eating healthier foods and moving more everyday, we are creating effective policy and environmental change in the Bradley and Thurgood Marshall schools, and we are seeking to motivate and empower the school staff to be effective role models who make a difference in the lives of their students and the community of Asbury Park.
Bradley School 4th graders learn to roller skate
Submitted a Party Policy change that has been approved by both SHCs and needs final approval by the District Board of Education. The policy requires all school parties to adhere to the District nutrition guidelines which follow NJDOH guidelines. Additionally, a template for parties that promotes small bite-size portions and more fresh fruits and vegetables and the elimination of foods that have sugar as primary ingredient.
Surveyed more than 1,000 PK-4th grade students at both schools to find out what they know about nutrition & physical activity
Evaluated current district Physical Activity policies and suggested changes that will support our mission
Fostered an environment that lets the students know that physical activity is important for them to live long and healthy lives by starting/promoting:
rollerskating classes (more than 500 students skated in P.E.)
Moving and Grooving with Hopscotch program for K-2 students at one school
pilot walking programs at both schools
a Family Fitness Activity for students, staff and families to do fun cardio exercises together afterschool
a visual media/TV system that provides fitness reminders and eating tips daily to staff and students in a central school location
monthly articles in newsletter re nutrition and physical activity
Promoted and utilized evidence-based initiatives and educational programs to teach kids about the importance of good nutrition, 60 minutes of daily physical activity, and eating fresh fruits and vegetables such as
the Fresh Fruit and Vegetables grant,
Kid Power and Operation Lunchline 3D Musical
creating an edible raised bed vegetable garden at one school
donating a peach tree/strawberry plants to the PK and K classes at both schools to teach the kids how to grow healthy food and let them taste the fruits of their labor
encouraged Sodexo Food Services to look at the Smart Lunchroom program and asked them to highlight fruits and veggies for kids to taste
Starting edible gardens at schools is an initiative that Action for Fitness in Monmouth County stands behind as an effective learning tool. Specifically, edible vegetable and herb gardens provide an additional source of fresh produce that allows children to taste veggies and fruits and to learn how to prepare healthier meals. Gardens also teach kids how to grow their own food that tastes delicious and is good for them. Finally, gardens teach them about the cycle of life and how all living things, both plants and people, need the right combination of nutrients to grow properly.
These kindergarten students at the Thurgood Marshall Elementary School in Asbury Park, NJ are helping to water seedlings and plant a peach tree that was donated by a School Health Council member. While our small Shaping NJ grant did not allow us to fund the building of gardens at our Asbury schools, the attempt is still being made to build a school veggie garden through personal donations. Several large containers, four raised garden beds and many types of vegetable seedlings have been donated but we are still trying to secure enough topsoil and compost to get the garden beds planted and growing this Fall when the kids return to school.
If any readers of this blog would like to get involved, please let us know. You could be the helping hand that helps our dream of building school gardens at the Asbury Park Elementary Schools come to “fruition”!
Thurgood Marshall School Kindergardners Walking after lunch
Walking is one of the easiest, low cost ways to increase physical activity during the school day for most children. It is free, it doesn’t require any training, and it can be done inside the school or outside.
As part of our effort to increase physical activity and prevent pediatric obesity and chronic disease, the Monmouth County Health Department and Community YMCA have partnered to start School Health Councils at Bradley and Thurgood Marshall Elementary Schools in Asbury Park. Both schools have been asked to develop walking efforts to help kids take more steps towards wellness. We have used some of our Shaping NJ grant funds to purchase pedometers for the PK-4th grade students to encourage them to develop fun and creative walking programs. At Thurgood Marshall, the K and PreK classes all take a walk every day after lunch together outside around the school building. At the Bradley school, they are piloting a program called “Oh the Places You’ll Go” based on the Dr. Seuss book and they are encouraging kids to learn about NJ colleges and universities and to see how far they can “walk” on their way to get to a local university.
The Bradley School pilot involves 5 classes of 2nd graders (93 students) who wear pedometers all day long (including gym and recess) and measure the total number of steps and miles they walk during June 6th-18th. Each class has made a poster and is tracking each student’s steps every day. The goal for both schools is to learn from the pilots this Spring and then enact the program next Fall with the whole school. So far, challenges have dealt mostly with the pedometers themselves – how to best wear them (on wrist, pants or a neck lanyard), breakage, and some reset so easily that the count is not always accurate. Despite these small challenges, the kids are getting encouragement to be more active and seem to have adjusted to wearing the pedometers and it will be interesting to find out how many total steps they take and which 2nd grade class will travel the most steps to college!
Walking is fun as a class and we feel better afterwards!
Monmouth County Health Department is funding three weeks of roller skating for the elementary schools in Asbury Park, NJ. All equipment is provided by Skatetime USA, Virginia, including quad skates, helmets, knee, elbow and wrist pads, and a tested and approved skating curriculum. Kids start by learning how to put on safety and skating equipment and learn how to stand, fall, balance, take small steps and stop on an area rug before they ever place a skate on the gym floor.
This PE program has been done at several other local schools and Farmingdale Public School, which hosted the pilot School Health Council in 2011, is now funding this skating program for their students as they have been so pleased by the skills, both physical and social, that their children have learned. “It’s such an unusual gym curriculum that kids pay attention and are excited about gym and following their teacher’s directions so they can skate” says Lisa Lee who is working to start School Health Councils in more schools in Monmouth County. “It’s also a great workout and fun! ”
The Monmouth County Health Department has started School Health Councils at the Bradley and Thurgood Marshall elementary schools as part of their “Action for Fitness in Monmouth County” program which is focused on increasing the amount of physical activity for students, staff and families in schools and improving nutrition education with a focus on reducing pediatric obesity. The Monmouth County Health Department is working with a Shaping NJ Healthy Communities Grant and has started SHCs at Farmingdale School and Belmar Public School in recent years. Partners involved with this effort include the Community YMCA, Meridian Healthcare, Asbury Park Mayor Myra Campbell, Farmingdale SHC and others. For more info, contact Lisa Lee at 732-431-7456 or Lisa.Lee@co.monmouth.nj.us.
Bradley School Health Council Team discussing the Physical Activity Policy
School Health Councils (SHCs) are a collaborative and creative team effort. To truly be effective, they require the cooperation of many different people in the school and from the community who have a common mission to produce positive long-lasting change. Our focus is to improve nutrition and increase physical activity at the schools.
Around the tables here at the Bradley Elementary School and Thurgood Marshall School in Asbury Park, we are having our third SHC meeting. We have classroom teachers and a Physical Education teacher, administrators, a school RN, along with representatives from the YMCA, the Meridian Healthcare community and the County Health Department. Other members include Master Gardeners, Asbury Park Mayor Myra Campbell, the parent liaison, food services and even school security.
Thurgood Marshall Elementary School Health Council discusses the new Walking Program
One really exciting collaboration I am planning is to encourage members of the other School Health Councils to come and help me motivate and encourage our two newest SHCs in Asbury Park. The success at the Farmingdale Elementry and Belmar schools should be shared! I have asked the wonderful parent volunteer who coordinates the garden plan at Farmingdale to join us to offer her ideas, support and resources. Starting this type of effort from scratch is never easy but it helps to hear from those who have seen the fruit of the SHC model in their school and community! Neighbors and communities helping other communities: there is no better collaboration in my view!