There are many reasons for health and physical educators to become champions for healthy, active schools. This list focuses on the five most valuable reasons, as outlined in this recent Strategies article.
- The Champions initiative is designed to engage students in grades K-12 to improve both their academic success and overall health.
- The Champions initiative is part of a larger partnership engaging not only the school, but also the state’s department of education, department of public health, AHPERD/SHAPE, and other related entities.
- Champion schools provide 60 minutes of daily physical activity, nutritious meals and healthy snacks.
- The Champions initiative engages parents, family members, school staff, and the community.
- The Champions initiative is replicable.
All students can benefit from the Champion schools’ approach and implementation model. Champion schools value the success and well-being of all students and are committed to student wellness at all levels. This initiative is one way to address the components of the Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child (WSCC) model.
These partnerships are both strategic and imperative in accomplishing the goals of a healthy Champion school. In Alabama, additional partners include the Alliance for a Healthier Generation and HEAL (Healthy Eating Active Living) Alabama. Proactively seeking allies who can support your mission to be a Champion school is both critical to your long-term success and important for forging much-needed relationships and alliances across groups with similar interests.
These components are central tenets of the Champion schools program. Providing 60 minutes a day of physical activity can include physical education time, recess, brain boosters, activity before and after school, and other opportunities for movement.
To meet this goal, it is critical to get “buy in” from other teachers and school administrators. Providing professional development for teachers on how to structure brain booster activities is a great opportunity for the physical education teacher to engage with classroom teachers and build relationships across the school and various disciplines. In addition, Champion schools are encouraged to provide nutritious meals and smart snacks to all students.
Staff, community, and parental involvement are all key to the success of Champion schools. Staff can have movement opportunities by utilizing school facilities, using “walk and talk” meeting formats, and conducting a staff needs assessment to determine what they would like to have available to encourage a physically active work environment.
Reaching out to parents is also a central part of being a Champion school. Schools can invite parents to “Bring a Parent to PE Class,” Family Fun Night, and health fairs. In addition, community members may be invited to participate in a school-sponsored 5K run/walk or fun run/walk.
Champion schools are encouraged to teach students how to use community resources for physical activity, such as local recreation centers, bike paths, and hiking trails. Champion schools also provide accommodations and modifications of all activities for students, staff and parents who may have a disability.
This model can be taken and implemented anywhere, at any time, in any school. Each school, and the appropriate school personnel, must decide on the goals and components that are most needed and will work best for their school and the students’ needs. It is important to understand the social context within a school and community before embarking on a Champions endeavor, but the overall model can be replicated in any school system.
How do I get started?
The first step is to find a Champion! A Champion is one person who will help the school become a Champion school. This person could be a physical education teacher, health education teacher, guidance counselor, administrator, school nurse, classroom teacher, or even a parent. It just takes one person to get started!
Second, the Champion should consider if there are other individuals or organizations who might be logical partners on the path to becoming a Champion school. For example, members of the school wellness council, or a local public agency with a stake in community and family health, may want to become involved. Other interested organizations could be your state AHPERD, department of public health, or department of education.
Third, use the results of the School Health Index (SHI) to determine the needs at your school. The SHI is a free, online self-assessment that can identify areas of improvement for your school. The SHI, staff needs assessment, and school wellness policy can all inform and identify areas that may need to be addressed. Using data to help inform your decisions is one key to long-term success.
Fourth, create a plan to address the SHI results. In the beginning, select one goal for the school year and focus on that goal. After achieving that goal, set another goal and revise your initial plan. This process involves a series of goal setting, revising, and continuing to reach for new heights.
The Champions initiative starts with one person and is designed to grow and evolve into a team of committed partners who want to see schools, families, kids, and communities succeed and live their healthiest lives. Champion schools can change lives through the dedication of internal stakeholders and community partners.
Charity Bryan is director of Technology Enhanced Learning and clinical associate professor of Health Promotion and Physical Education at Kennesaw State University. She is known for her expertise in both children’s physical activity and online learning using new and blended learning models. Charity is an active scholar in the areas of physical education pedagogy as well as distance learning and has published 21 national peer-reviewed manuscripts.