Districts score in top 10 statewide for health and wellness efforts
South Routt, Hayden recognized for efforts to improve health, wellness of students, staff
February 28, 2016
Two rural Routt County school districts are being recognized for their efforts to promote health and wellness initiatives within schools.
Both the Hayden School District and the South Routt School District announced last week they were among 43 small districts or schools in Colorado to be named a Healthy School Champion for 2016.
The awards, presented by the Colorado Education Initiative, Colorado's Healthy Schools Collective Impact and the Colorado Health Foundation, are given for demonstrating how health and wellness is imbedded into the school culture.
Both districts were among the top 15 applicants scored, and an additional interview process with school staff determined the ranking of the 15.
The Hayden School District was ranked seventh among 87 applicants from across the state, earning $1,000 and a bronze award for its efforts.
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In Hayden, efforts to promote health, nutrition and overall wellness of staff and students have been widespread, according to Kristi Brown, a half-time health and wellness coordinator who splits her time between Hayden and South Routt.
One of the latest efforts is a new Walking Classroom program in teacher Julie Cucuel's fifth grade class. While on a walk, students pop in their earbuds to listen to a 20-minute standards-based educational podcast on topics including language arts, science or health.
There is a wealth of scientific research on the benefits of combining movement and learning, Brown said.
"My students love the Walking Classroom," Cucuel said. "Research shows that physical activity helps students focus and attend to their learning. Not only do we get a few minutes of fresh air and exercise, but we listen to podcasts about topics we are currently exploring in class."
Other efforts include offering CPR and first aid classes for staff — a progam spearheaded by a district nurse — the use of a tower garden to grow food for the school cafeteria, and the practice of mindfulness exercises, which were taught to staff through the Mindful Life program.
Snacks and school meals comply with healthy food guidelines, and classroom health instruction has increased through the past few years, Brown said.
Students particularly enjoy new tower gardens, which allow them to grow food indoors.
"The kids are really excited to see things growing form seed to plant to something that they're actually eating," Brown said.
The South Routt School District was ranked fourth among 87 applicants across the state, earning the district $2,500 and a silver award.
In South Routt, Brown said, the district has shown a commitment to health and wellness efforts, in part by allocating $3,000 for new programs.
"That speaks volumes when resources are so limited," Brown said.
Efforts in South Routt include the LiveWell Food Initiative to make healthy improvements to school lunches, including an increase in fruit and vegetable consumption and a decrease in processed foods. Two tower gardens help supply school lunch ingredients, and students are offered a salad bar daily with lunch.
Staff and students participated in a hydration challenge earlier in the year to increase their water consumption, and now, a physical activity challenge is underway.
"Students and staff are all working together to be healthy," Brown said.
The district also modified health education curriculum to reach students at a younger age, rather than when they enter 10th grade.
The efforts of both Hayden and South Routt have been supported through the creation of new District Health Advisory Councils, which were established in both communities last September. The councils bring together district staff and community representatives, town government and others to promote health and wellness initiatives within the district and greater community, Brown said.
In Hayden, efforts are boosted through a Health & Wellness Team at Hayden Valley Elementary — the group organized the town’s Turkey Trot last November.
"I think the awards really value the efforts that have taken place over the last two years," Brown said. "Both school districts have made great strides on focusing on the whole child."