Student and staff health and wellness has been a significant focus for many, and schools in Charleston, South Carolina have put in some hefty extracurricular work towards promoting it throughout the school year, according to The Post and Courier.
Every year, the Medical University of South Carolina’s Boeing Center for Children’s Wellness School Based Initiative distributes awards to schools based on their efforts towards promoting wellbeing at their schools. The center uses a School Wellness Checklist to push the school to create policies, system and environmental changes that ultimately promote wellness for students and staff.
The checklist itself looks at nutrition, physical activity, social-emotional learning, wellness culture, staff wellness, and sustainability as markers for success. Points are then awarded for the schools as they achieve certain goals, such as posting nutritional information for lunches.
The ultimate goal is giving students the resources they need to be healthy and succeed.
Recognized schools receive $250 – $2,000 to be put towards programs that promote physical and mental health. This year, awards were given out to 174 in 17 districts across the state. And 41 of those schools sat in Charleston County.
In total, the program gave $21,950 to Charleston County schools for the 2020-2021 school year, this in addition to the $150,000 the district has received in wellness grants over the year. So far, the money has already been put to work funding initiatives for nutrition and physical activity, including developing school gardens and kinesthetic classrooms to promote movement and exercise throughout the school day.
“Evidence shows that healthier students are better learners,” said Sarah Piwinski, the center’s assistant director. “They perform better academically, they behave better and have better attitudes.”
What’s the Top School Doing to Promote Wellness?
James Island Elementary School ultimately won the grand prize of $2,000 thanks to the creation of its Wellness Committee. The committee was the brainchild of school nurse Meredith Barnette and physical education teacher Ginny Jones, starting its efforts by creating a garden and running club. And not even COVID-19 was enough to slow their efforts down. Despite being restricted from on-site activities, the committee launched a campaign aimed at getting students to drink more water.
The committee has also been dedicated to staff wellness as well, however. For instance, a wellness room at the school provides faculty with snacks, flavored water and a calming atmosphere to relax.
“I can’t do this without (the teachers),” said Principal Jonetta Gregory. “Having them in good health, physically and mentally, helps the school environment overall.”
The committee helps keeps students active and focused throughout the year, and ultimately, that then feeds into their success at the end of the year.
“That simply helps with their focus and to keep them awake in class,” she said. “We also attempt to have our kids see our teachers being physically active to encourage them to be physically active.”