At MFL MarMac, the focus is on more than just educating students. It’s also about ensuring their health and well-being. That’s where the district’s wellness committee comes into play.
Made up of teachers, administrators, nursing and dietary staff, and community members, the group meets quarterly to discuss the school’s goals for maintaining and improving the health and well-being of students through education, nutrition and fitness.
“Everything we do is based on the Healthy Kids Act, from how we serve meals to how we hold recess,” explained McGregor Center nurse Jennelle Schroeder, who’s one of the committee’s leaders.
For the last few years, MFL MarMac had a resource contact through the Northeast Iowa Food and Fitness Initiative who helped implement some of those goals. However, when funding sources for the program changed, the district opted not to participate this school year. As a result, the wellness committee has taken on a different role.
Right now, they’re working on updating the district’s wellness policy.
The wellness committee is also preparing to implement the 5-2-1-0 Healthy Choices Count campaign later this month. Through Iowa’s Healthiest State Initiative, this movement aims to keep kids healthy by focusing on good habits: “5” or more fruits and vegetables each day, “2” hours or less of screen time, “1” or more hour(s) of physical activity and “0” sugary drinks – more water.
The program is helpful, said Schroeder, because it provides a wealth of already-created lesson plans in each area, as well as action plans to complete the good habits.
Schroeder is especially excited about rolling 5-2-1-0 out at the middle school, where the Healthy Youth Peer Education (HYPE) team she advises will take the lead.
“The HYPE kids will come up with some ways to educate and promote it,” she said. “Educating and mentoring is part of what they do. They did a lot of cross-age teaching last year and seemed to really enjoy it.”
Groups like HYPE are just one fun way the school promotes health and wellness. Aside from cross-age teaching, where they speak about topics with younger students, Schroeder said HYPE is also planning a fun night for later in the year.
“It’s a whole night of physical activities, like a dodgeball tournament, bean bags and Wii Fit or Dance,” she shared. “They’ll also have a healthy concession stand.”
In the future, HYPE also hopes to create a cooking club, she added.
Other school health and wellness activities include participation, each October, in the Healthiest State Initiative’s Healthiest State Walk. At MFL MarMac, it’s been dubbed “Walkin’ the Dogs,” with students and staff coming together for a 30-minute walk. “It’s a really good thing,” said elementary principal Kathy Koether. “All the buildings participate.”
In the spring, students participate in “Go the Distance May,” a program through Live Healthy Iowa that highlights the importance of physical activity in a healthy lifestyle by encouraging schools to engage kids in 30 minutes of continuous physical activity. At MFL MarMac, those activities include games, relays and sports.
Wellness activities don’t end there. Students have the opportunity to try new foods at meal times and enjoy engaging physical education classes, as well. This school year, the nationally-recognized Bigger Faster Stronger strength and conditioning program was opened up to middle and high school students.
Teachers and other staff also promote physical activity, like yoga, in their classrooms. Additionally, they advocate for healthy snacks and drinks. For example, in the mind and body unit elementary guidance counselor Kurt Gaylor teaches to third graders, students make their own healthy smoothies.
“We talk about the different food groups,” he explained. “They roll a die that has colors on it, then have to pick a food in that group.”
“We talk about the vitamins it has in it and why it’s good for the body,” added Donna Krambeer, a nurse associate at the Monona Center.
Gaylor said students try foods like spinach, which they think they’ll hate, but end up enjoying.
Schroeder said the wellness committee would like to explore even more ways to engage students, and hopes community members can help by either joining the committee or sharing their thoughts at a meeting. “We want to know the areas where people see a need in regard to health and wellness,” she said.
The group would particularly appreciate fun ideas for promoting fitness and nutrition—anything from posting health-related info on Facebook to sending home healthy recipes. “It’s always nice to get a fresh perspective,” Schroeder said. “They [parents] have kids. They hear what the kids like and don’t like.”
If parents or community members have a particular area they’re passionate about, Schroeder said the wellness committee would love to learn more. “If they have interests that apply to nutrition and wellness, we’ll use them that way too,” she shared.
The next wellness committee meeting will be held Monday, March 19, at 4:15 p.m, at the McGregor Center. If you would like more information, contact Schroeder or Pat Echard, the district’s food service director.
Source: Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times, 1/16/18.