Young people who engage in healthy activities get better grades and feel better about themselves. Schools can play a critical role in helping establish these healthy behaviors that lead to academic — and lifelong — success. That's what School Health Connection™ was all about.
What was School Health Connection™?
School Health Connection™ was designed to encourage healthy lifestyles in students, teachers and families. It supported schools for a full academic year by providing health—education tools and resources, including $10,000 in grant money, consulting physicians, online learning resources, teacher trainings and community events.
Why did Allina Health launch this program?
Studies show that young people who participate in healthy activities get better grades and are more successful in school. Knowing that schools play a critical role in helping young people establish healthy behaviors that lead to academic — and lifelong — success, School Health Connection™ offered schools the tools to improve health education and academic achievement in all students.
What resources are available now?
Any school staff and teachers can now access Health Powered Kids™. The online learning tools, developed by Allina Health experts, provide engaging lessons on activity, nutrition and mind-body balance. The lessons can stand alone or be integrated into existing lesson plans. They can be used in the classroom or for after-school programs.
Ten elementary schools were selected as School Health Connection™ sites for the 2012-13 school year.
Out of more than 80 elementary schools that submitted applications, these 10 were chosen:
Braham Elementary, Braham, MN
Lafayette Charter School, Lafayette, MN
Lakes International Language Academy, Forest Lake, MN
Lincoln Center Elementary School, South St. Paul, MN
Loring Community School, Minneapolis, MN
Park Brook Elementary School, Brooklyn Park, MN
Parkside Elementary School, Buffalo, MN
St. Bridget Parish School, River Falls, WI
Shakopee Area Catholic School, Shakopee, MN
Wilson Elementary School, Owatonna, MN
Each school received these benefits:
Online learning tools
School staff and teachers were the first to access Health Powered Kids™. The online learning tools, developed by Allina Health experts, provide engaging lessons on activity, nutrition and mind-body balance. The lessons can stand alone or be integrated into existing lesson plans. They can be used in the classroom or for after-school programs.
A $10,000 grant included $9,000 to support healthy-lifestyle programs or equipment needs in their school, and $1,000 to fund a student-generated idea or program to improve health inspired by a student competition.
A physician from a nearby Allina Health primary care clinic consulted with each school for two hours per month, helping school staff respond to health issues affecting their school.
Allina Health professionals provided two one-hour in-service training sessions for teachers and staff on topics selected by the school. Topics included youth obesity, nutrition, emotional and mental health, concussion prevention and treatment, or an issue specific to the school or surrounding community.
Allina Health staff worked with the school to hold a health fair for students, staff and families. The Allina Health Mobile Wellness Center, parked outside the event site, will provide free health screenings to parents and staff.
What did the School Health Connection™ application process entail?
The success of School Health Connection™ depended on a commitment from each selected school's administrators, principals, teachers and families to actively support and participate fully. That commitment started with the online application, which asked a principal, teacher and parent to share their ideas about making their school a healthier place.
Applicants were encouraged to recruit and have conversations with each of these individuals before submitting their application. Applicants were also asked for basic information about their school, current health initiatives and ideas for how they might use the grant money to increase the health of students and staff.
Applications were accepted through August 31, 2012. All applicants were notified of decisions via email by September 14, 2012.
For a small school, Lafayette Charter School is making big strides to improve the health of students and the entire town of Lafayette in southern Minnesota.
School Health Connection™ boosts physical and health education
At Shakopee Area Catholic Schools, which serves 800 students from prekindergarten through eighth grade, the School Health Connection™ program is making big differences in the way children learn about health and participate in healthy activities.
Tracking steps and activity
"We haven't made all the decisions yet about how to spend the money, but we did use $7,800 to get a Fitbit activity tracker system for our seventh- and eighth-graders," said teacher Julie Moran, who is the school's curriculum coordinator and health coordinator. "The students will be able to track their activity, both at home and at school, for a year."
The Fitbit equipment is part of a full program of health and physical education challenges that the school is setting up for its middle school students in connection with Lifetime Fitness, Moran said.
As part of the program, nearly 1,000 people participated in a Friday evening event in April that combined Family Fitness Fair activities for kids and free health screenings for adults with the school's own Family Fun Night. Allina Health provided pedometers and hands-on activities for students and conducted the screenings.
"My son, who's 5, was just fascinated with the pedometer," Moran said. "He and his sisters started having pedometer competitions to see who could take the most steps in a day."
Kids with questions
Michelle Johnson, a family medicine doctor with Allina Health Savage Clinic, visited the school and talked with students about health topics during the year. Her sessions included food labels and nutrition for eighth-graders and a health Jeopardy!® game that she created for fifth-graders.
"When I talked to the first-graders about hand washing, there were also a lot of questions about cancer, so we spent time on that topic as well," Johnson said. "The kids were so open and really amazing. One of my biggest goals is to make the community as healthy and safe as we can."
Moran said Johnson did an outstanding job with health education, especially with the younger children.
Braham's Fitness Fridays made possible by School Health Connection™
Once a month, the students and teachers at Braham Elementary School leave their classrooms early on Friday afternoon. They are not playing hooky. As part of the school's new Fitness Fridays, they jump rope, go on nature walks and get active in a variety of ways.
"The Fitness Fair that Allina Health put on was a big hit," said Judy Adams, assistant principal.
The school used grant money to buy new equipment, including what they needed for a brand-new sport: lacrosse. "I think the program has made quite an impact," Adams said. "The biggest plus is that it's sustainable."
Cambridge Christian School also received a $2,500 School Health Connection grant.
More moving, more learning at Lincoln school
Students exercise more during the school day at Lincoln Center Elementary School in South St. Paul. They're trying to make healthier food choices, too.
Health and wellness have come alive at Lincoln, thanks to School Health Connection™.
Lincoln used part of the grant to purchase equipment for circuit training exercises, such as rope-jumping, step aerobics and balance balls. Circuit training for 15 minutes in classrooms and hallways fills the exercise gap on days when students don't have gym class.
School Health Connection brought a medical expert to Lincoln. Every month, Beth Gunhus, pediatric nurse practitioner at Allina Health Inver Grove Heights Clinic, spoke to classes on health topics chosen by teachers, including influenza and hand-washing.
"Teachers appreciate having someone from outside of school come and talk about science in a way that's kid-friendly," Gunhus said.
A Family Fitness Fair in May capped Lincoln's activities, attended by 800 students and family members. The fair offered everything from health screenings by Allina Health staff to exercise activities including tennis, Zumba and yoga. Allina Health employees offered healthy eating tips, distributed free pedometers and demonstrated the amount of sugar in pop.
Student Cailyn Block took a break at the fair to talk about Lincoln's improve-your-nutrition challenge for students. She decided to stop drinking sugary fruit punch. "I drink water and milk now," she said.
School Health Connection™ pumps up PE at Loring Community School
Physical education (PE) teacher Nancy Duwenhoegger's annual budget of $100 doesn't go very far to meet the needs of more than 400 pre-K through fifth-grade students at Loring Community School.
Thanks to a $10,000 grant from School Health Connection, Duwenhoegger is making the most of her expanded budget.
She bought equipment to provide 25 extra minutes of morning PE time for students, a new PE curriculum and playground equipment. Once a month, guest instructors who live near the school teach Fitness Night classes for all ages. Classes include yoga, hip-hop and Jazzercise.
Students were allowed to decide how to spend $1,000 of the grant money. They chose sports equipment that students can check out and take home.
Loring School also was treated to a Family Fitness Fair event and health education provided by Lisa Bishop, MD, pediatrician at Allina Health Maple Grove Clinic. Bishop has brought "BMI busters" information to the school and plans to educate teachers about attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
"The kids just love all of it," Duwenhoegger said. "This is a wonderful program that gives you the money and lets you do what's best for your school."