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Jeff Wendorf

Thank you for your insights into the student health issue related to obesity. I do wonder how many minutes per week the students in your school (or any school) are either in physical education or other physical active settings? I would guess the time spent in physical activity has decreased over the years.

In our district we are beginning to plan for a student health portfolio with many measures through out grades 4 - 12 that the students will be able to access for thier own measures when health, sciencce, physical education, and other classes so they will have a more relevant connection to the curriculum. A risk assessment is also planned to identify district needs for programming or curriculum. We too need to address the physical activity levels of students at school and at home - maybe a birthday celebration that includes running, jumping, playing!

Kelly Christopherson

I believe that we do have a responsibility to be examples to the students in our schools. Children learn by example and what you do goes much farther than what you say.
Child obesity is not the only problem we are facing. The eating habits of the general population have declined over the last few decades. With more families relying on two parents to work in order to live the "advertised" lifestyle, families are not taking the time to cook meals at home or grow gardens or some of the other routines that were common in past generations. We are sold on the fastfood lifestyle and it doesn't seem to be coming to an end in the near future.
In Saskatchewan, we have rejuvenated our old "Participaction" campaign and called it "In Motion". Our young children do 10 minutes of exercise each day after recess. We are also working on educating parents on healthy meals. Our School Community Council is working on a snack program for our older students, many of whom do not get a proper breakfast. Our elementary students have a snack time in the morning and we are encouraging the drinking of more water instead of pop and juice.
We bring in all sorts of people to talk to the students about proper diet and the need for proper nutrition. We encourage intramural sports each noon-hour and we are moving toward a similar idea as Dave has mentioned with no treats for birthdays because of the allergies of several of the students.
Like any problem that comes into the school from society, we can either try to ignore it and focus on only the academic or, we can realize that until the child feels safe, is fed and is rested, little learning is going to take place no matter how "21st Century" it is. If we choose to ignore these problems, then our past will become our future and we will not make the improvements that people think we should because we haven't dealt with the whole child. And that's what I think our role and responsibility is in school, to educate only part of the child is only doing part of the job.

Barbara

I applaud you active involvement in this issue. You raise some good points worthy of some think time but I am writing this on the fly.
For what it is worth i thought I would share a middle of the road approach to birthdays that we have adopted. Rather than the constant stream of parties that particularly plague the lower grades ( I work in a K-8) we have birthday Monday once a month. All birthdays for the month are acknowledged and celebrated and the parents divide up the responsibilities. One parents brings a teat, one a drink (no soda) , one paper goods etc.
It has made a big difference and besides the health issue it does away with one oneupmanship .

Phil Christian

Excellent blog and you could not be more on target with your concerns about the health of our youths. The time for being politically correct and appealing to the masses must come to an end when it concerns the health of our children. If ANY parent is offended by your decision to stop celebrating birthdays with sugar, corn syrup and other unhealthy elements - then I would truly have to question the common sense of that parent(s). Schools are already in an awkward situation by trying to promote a healthy learning environment while hallway vending machines and lunch programs make unhealthy foods readily available to students and teachers. That's slowly changing as more school leaders find/create ways to replace the income generated through the sale of unhealthy food products. However, some things that don't have to wait to be changed - and you recognized one of them! I applaud you for taking a stance against something so easily fixable - and hope that more school leaders across the US will follow your lead.

Solving the obesity/overweight problem in our young people is going to take a mixed approach of education, environmental change and treatment. I’m involved with a group that is creating a truly innovative health curriculum built around interactive technology relevant to the lifestyles of today’s young. It is our intention to use technology to engage young people on their level and to empower them to participate, collaborate and share in the educational experience from the very first minute. We’re in early development and plan to beta test it this Fall with a regional launch scheduled for Spring 2008. We hope to be able to provide this health curriculum to schools throughout the US at no cost. If you would like to learn more, visit my blog at http://getfitkids.blogspot.com/ and read the most recent article. Perhaps we can bring this program to your school as well.

Thank you for your commitment to the education AND HEALTH of our young people. You are setting an example for many to follow!!

In good health,

Phil Christian

Dave Sherman

Thanks to all of you for the very positive comments. I can't agree with you more, and I am very committed to introducing and maintaining a healthy lifestyle in our students. I work hard at modeling what I am eating for lunch (I usually eat with the students in the lunchroom), and I work hard at keeping in shape (which is not so easy at 45 years old!). Anyway, I think we are fighting a very difficult battle, but we should not give up. I also want to work on the parents to help them see how important health and fitness are for their children.

Phil, nice site! I have added you to my Bloglines account. I will keep up to date on your progress. Maybe we can use this in our school one day.
Enjoy the summer!

- Dave

Joe Bruening

Thank you for this post. We have implemented our wellness policy, and it is really nothing more than a paper tiger. I think one very important point that you can start to emphasize is that there is a huge educational purpose for a wellness policy. Simple put; healthier kids are smarter kids. There is a ton of research that supports this. One study I have recently read tells about a school district that reduced class time by 240 minutes a week, and applied that time to physical activity. The result, better test scores! It seems counterintuitive, but kids learn by moving. Another district made minor changes that yielded huge results. They gave every kid a nutritious breakfast and reinstated recess. Test scores on average increased 20% (from memory). As educators we need to keep in mind that we are educating the whole child, not just the part that rests on the neck.

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