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Reaping Rewards from Recess

Nurse Susan Moyes has been a catalyst for healthy changes at Titche Elementary. When Titche joined the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Healthy Schools Program last year they were able to assess their school and look at ways to create a healthier school environment. With the support of the Dallas Independent School District’s (DISD) Coordinated School Health Program, staff were trained in the CATCH program and learned about resources available to help meet the school wellness goals. Since that time the schools have set out to teach students about “Go, Slow and Whoa” foods and strived to improve physical education and physical activity opportunities.

This fall, when Moyes and her wellness council reviewed the Healthy Schools Program Framework which outlines best practices, she noticed the part about the importance of recess and, ideally, having the recess period before lunch. Knowing that the district was about to pass a new policy requiring recess, Moyes and her team encouraged their principal to proactively adopt a policy of a 20 minute recess every day for all students. Moyes even offered to help in rearranging the schedules for every grade level to make it work. Scheduling all classes to go to recess before lunch was too difficult for this large school but she tried to get most classes out before lunch and she moved the recess period to later in the day (instead of following lunch) for the others.

Moyes and the wellness council worked closely with cafeteria manager Angela Frazier who has said that she has noticed a reduction in food waste due to the addition of regular recess. She said the students used to fill four trash cans after each lunch and now they are down to two. “With daily recess the kids eat more and we are seeing more clean trays,” she shared. Moyes said that before the strategically scheduled recess was implemented she saw a steady stream of kids getting sick after lunch. When they changed the schedule around to have either recess before lunch or recess much later in the day, she has seen a decrease in students feeling sick.

At Titche they use JAMmin’ Minute activity breaks during the school day, display health bulletin boards on campus, send home a monthly newsletter and they are receiving fresh fruits and vegetables three days a week through the federal Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program. Students love this program and look forward to receiving their fruits and vegetable each week. Frazier said, “The kids love the fresh fruit and vegetable program and wish they could have it every day. It brightens up their day!”

Since increasing the physical activity breaks throughout the day, the teachers have seen longer attention spans and fewer disruptions in class. It has taken some effort and attitude shifts, but with the full support of the principal, it has been a smooth transition.