Three schools in Monett, Missouri are on the 2018 list of America's Healthiest Schools. It's national recognition by the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. Promoting healthy eating and physical activity became a community effort that's a win with kids.
For three weeks groups of students gather at a bus stop near Cox Monett Hospital on bikes and on foot. They will make a fifteen minute trip to school. As they walk one thing you notice kids aren’t on phones.
Fourth grader Evan Snarey said, “I like being able to talk to my friends and um, getting the exercise."
Monett school district has six Walk to School Weeks, three first semester and another three in the second. It’s all part of the Healthy Schools, Healthy Communities Initiative. District Wellness Coordinator Alex Severs explained, “We space them out to kind of keep the effort and excitement of walking go to school so they'll kind of do it year round if weather permits."
It's a journey made easier and safer after part of a transportation tax provided painted crosswalks, some new or improved sidewalks and signage of the route to school walk to alert drivers and the community.
Mom Michelle Goodson volunteered to walk with the kids and served on a health committee. She said, "We've really tried hard to figure out what to do for our schools so that our kids can have a healthy future. If we set them up now, they know the habits to have later on."
Snary is wise even for a fourth grader. He said, "If we're not healthy, then we might not live longer. Or we could have disabilities later on in our life."
And there's a pay off in the classroom. Snary said of the
morning walk,"It kind of makes me feel energized to do the day."
Franklin Lucore, who rides his bike agreed, "It makes me feel more awake and it makes me drink more water."
It’s not just about exercise. All the district’s schools have planted vegetable gardens. Everything from cabbages to radishes brussel sprouts to beets. And teachers incorporate that process into the curriculum.
Teacher Erin Meng said, "We have plant adaptations and other standards we have to follow."
Students like Urijah Hudson help track the weather to see its impact on the garden. What the garden grows, they'll eat.
Meng said, "They kind of encourage each other to try new things. I think it will actually be really good when they get to see it grow all the way up from the seed all the way up onto their plate."
Hudson believes growing them will prompt kids to try vegetables which he told us are good for you.
Severs said besides raised bed gardens outside schools now, "We also have some campuses that have some indoor hydroponic gardens that allow them to do some growing and some lessons of farm to school all year long."
Severs says it’s a mindset change district wide that led to being named among the nations healthiest schools. And students like it.
Franklin said, "I'm proud that we’re all like being healthy and stuff instead of just doing our work and going home and not doing anything."
And of the Bronze award given to Central Park Elementary and its national status, Evan simply said, "That’s pretty cool."
This is Central Park Elementary’s first year to make the list earning the bronze level recognition. Last year Monett elementary and the middle school both achieved bronze status. This year both made the list of healthiest schools with a silver status.
Other factors in earning the recognition are before and after school walking programs for kids and an employee wellness program that offers incentives to teachers through insurance.
The wellness coordinator was initially hired with a five year Missouri Foundation for Health grant which expired this summer. But the district decided to hire Severs to continue the good work. The grant also paid for new water fountains that are designed for filling water bottles.
Severs offered more information about the award and coordinating organization:
All of America's Healthiest Schools have earned National Healthy Schools Awards, a prestigious achievement that celebrates schools that meet or exceed expert-recommended standards set by Healthier Generation's Healthy Schools Program for serving healthy meals and snacks, getting students moving more throughout the day, offering high-quality health and physical education and empowering school leaders to be healthy role models.
A total of 461 schools nationwide were selected based on a rigorous set of criteria—from availability of nutritious foods to access to quality physical education opportunities—as part of Healthier Generation's Healthy Schools Program. The three schools from Monett, which serves 1,200 students, are among 19 schools in Missouri to receive this recognition.
Monett Elementary, Central Park Elementary and Monett Middle schools have taken the following steps toward creating a healthier environment for both students and staff:
• Partnered with the City of Monett to help improve pedestrian transportation efforts, and established safe routes to school for students via Walking School Bus events.
• Created or revitalized before and after school programs such as the Morning Mile, Cubs on the Move, Cubs on the Run, Training Team, Power Hour and more.
• Initiated Farm to School efforts in the form of taste tests and school gardens that allow for integration of classroom curriculum.
• Created and implemented an employee wellness program that encourages Monett school district staff to act as healthy role models.
• Updated Monett's District Wellness Policy which was a huge success and created healthy changes with HSHC. For Monett R-1, the district has strived to make a commitment to provide school environments that promote and protect children's health, well-being, and ability to learn by supporting healthy eating and physical activity. For Monett, a district wellness policy represents the sustainable piece to the wellness puzzle.
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