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Get healthy … it’s not just New Year’s resolutions

By Sheila Berger

Sumner Elementary Principal

Getting healthy is a national focus, especially around the new year. Many people renew their commitment to “get healthy” on Jan. 1, but the unfortunate fact is that many have gone back to their old habits by Jan. 31.  Here at Sumner Elementary School, getting healthy is something we have focused on for a while now and, in fact, we have been recognized as one of the nation’s Healthy Schools for the past three years.

About five years ago, we completed a needs assessment of our practices and began to implement healthier options for students. One of our first steps was getting new water stations that allow students to refill their water bottles throughout the day.  We give all students a water bottle at the start of the year, and they are encouraged to access water whenever needed throughout the day.  Drinking water throughout the day is an important part of your physical health, but it also has several mental health benefits as well.  Drinking water allows the body to remain hydrated, which in turn enhances decision making.

Another change we made was removing food as a part of any reward system at school.  Many adults have worked hard to overcome the temptation to use food as their emotional support system, so it made perfect sense to not introduce the concept to our young students.  Any foods that are shared with students must meet the “smart snacks” guidelines. Parents are encouraged to bring a healthy snack (or better yet, a pencil or other small non-edible item) for birthday celebrations.  This has been a slow process, but families have been respecting our healthier guidelines.

The most recent change has been in the area of recess and physical education. Students at Sumner Elementary participate in recess every day. Additionally, removing recess is not an option as a punishment for behaviors or incomplete work. Movement at recess is as vital to a student’s growth as participating in a reading lesson. Students go outside every day for 20 minutes unless the windchill falls below –10°F.  Also, students have Physical Education every day for 30 minutes. Young students should be moving for at least 90 minutes a day, and Sumner students get at least 50 minutes of that at school.

Getting healthy at school also applies to the staff.  Staff are encouraged to drink water every day at work, and all staff members were given an insulated cup at the start of the year. Sumner has a wellness room where staff can do yoga, practice their breathing, or simply take a quick break when they are feeling stressed. The Sumner Wellness Committee offers a weekly prize drawing for any staff members that participate in 150 minutes of exercise per week. Healthy staff members can better help students be healthy.

Getting healthy is a 12-month a year life skill, and healthy habits can help students be more successful.  At Sumner, we’re working hard to instill a love of movement and making healthy choices in our students. So, join us in drinking more water, moving every day, and eating healthy!