In our 2013 – 2014 school year, John M. Sexton Elementary School worked on fine tuning all the things we have been doing to be a Silver school as well as worked toward new goals to be eligible for a Gold National Recognition Award.
Our goals for this school year were to implement recess for every child every day and to work with the school district to make the necessary changes in our cafeteria foods.
Recess Every Day
I began surveying and questioning the teachers about adding recess and met with my wellness council to discuss the logistics of how it could be fit into the school day without affecting the state required minutes for reading, math, etc. Once we had a plan, I emailed it to the teachers and asked them to sign up for a recess time and created a master schedule.
We provided some equipment from physical education class and began a trial run. To my surprise it went very well. After about a month I did a + and delta chart and there were so many positive notes from the teachers that said it made such a difference in their students' ability to focus afterward.
Teachers used recess to promote good behavior and hard work in their classes and it was something their kids looked forward to every day. We even have a teacher that exercises and plays with her kids every day at recess and has lost 40 pounds!
Back to the Cafeteria
With recess working so well, the only obstacle left between us and Gold was one we had no control over. Carol Chong, Healthy Schools Program School Meals Advisor, reviewed our district menu and made suggestions for change but found only about seven entrees that had all the components necessary to meet the gold level set by the Alliance. Since this would drastically reduce the choices students would have at lunch, we knew we had a problem that had to be solved at the district level.
Our Healthy Schools Program Manager Megan Diehl requested a meeting of Carol Chong, our district Healthy Education Supervisor Peggy Johns, our district Food Services Manager Catherine Gerard, our Cafeteria Manager Beth Bates, our principal Suzette Burns and me.
After hashing out the possibilities of using the current menu with some changes or getting new products for just our school, the conclusion we came to was that this would not be possible this school year. That was hard to hear, but it wouldn't halt our momentum.
Although disappointing, we discussed the possibility of making product and menu changes not just for Sexton but for the whole district. Knowing that our driving motivation to make our school a healthy place to learn could end up helping the more than 100 schools in our district to be healthier, was more exciting than any of the awards and recognition we had thus far. We are so excited at the prospect of what next school year will bring! We will continue to pursue our goal of achieving a Gold National Recognition Award for Sexton, but we will always have the larger goal of supporting childhood health in mind. One day at a time.