It Takes a Village to Build an Active School

Let’s Move! Active Schools is powered by a national collaboration of leading health, education and private sector organizations that team up to offer schools and districts a comprehensive selection of physical education and physical activity resources, professional development, and funding opportunities. Schools receive guidance to ensure students have opportunities to be physically active and choose resources that work best for them. 

Read on to learn how Sands Montessori School in Cincinnati, Ohio has worked with Let’s Move! Active Schools and two of its supporting organizations, GENYOUth Foundation (through Fuel Up to Play 60) and ChildObesity180, to make 60 minutes of physical activity a day the norm.

From the 100 Mile Club® to Wellness Works, students and staff at Sands Montessori School have a variety of ways to achieve 60 minutes of physical activity before, during and after the school day. Physical Educator Jennifer Toebbe believes that positive change in fitness outcomes takes a team effort, and she exemplifies that belief by pursuing and promoting collaborative opportunities for her students and colleagues.

Sands Montessori first became involved in school health initiatives in 2011 when the American Heart Association started a pilot FITNESSGRAM® program in Cincinnati Public Schools. Toebbe was heartened to see physical education teachers from different schools unite around the common goal of assessing the components of fitness to promote wellness. She wondered what other resources might be available, leading her to join Let’s Move! Active Schools.

Fuel up to Play 60 Ambassadors set school wellness priorities

As the Program Advisor for Fuel Up to Play 60, a Let’s Move! Active Schools supporting organization that empowers youth to create healthier environments in their schools, Toebbe works with a team of 35 sixth grade Fuel up to Play 60 Ambassadors to make decisions and incorporate their ideas into the school’s family fun fitness challenge and community wellness night. “The students are so proud to be Ambassadors,” said Toebbe. “They love coming up with ideas and helping the younger kids during kindergarten physical education.”

Although the school has strong parental involvement and offers 60 minutes of weekly structured physical education to students, the Let’s Move! Active Schools Assessment allowed them to identify additional areas for improvement, such as health education. The school wellness team and Ambassadors play a direct role in selecting which wellness areas to focus on each school year, and students are more motivated to participate as a result.

As the wellness coordinator, Toebbe also holds monthly meetings with the school wellness team to create action plans and set measurable objectives for events. Toebbe used her school’s Let’s Move! Active Schools Assessment to help determine areas for growth and track progress. Cincinnati Public Schools now holds districtwide wellness meetings in an effort to encourage all of its schools to create wellness teams, and Sands Montessori is able to collaborate and share their successes at a district level.

Moving more before, during and after school

Sands Montessori students take part in a wide variety of before- and after-school activities like yoga, dance, karate, volleyball, basketball and soccer throughout the school year. Thirty-six students are participating in the 100 Mile Club®, a school-based walking and running program named national winner of ChildObesity180’s Physical Activity Innovation Competition, which the Ambassadors help to organize. Members of the running club check out a pedometer when they arrive at school each morning and complete a running route during daily recess. When the weather does not cooperate for outdoor recess, Toebbe also partners with external organizations like Girls on the Run to provide after-school opportunities for students to reach their 100-mile goal.

Sands Montessori staff can also train for the Flying Pig Marathon races with students, in addition to participating in Wellness Works, a district-wide program that promotes employee weight and stress management.

One of the school’s biggest events is the community wellness night held in April, a free hour and a half event that attracts an average of 250-300 people. Attendees participate in volleyball, hula hoop lessons, yoga and dance. The event is also the culmination of the family fun fitness challenge where families that eat the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables and get 60 minutes of daily physical activity earn prizes and accolades.

Coach’s Corner

Community involvement and collaboration have been vital to help Sands Montessori staff and students meet their fitness goals. “Start small, but just make a change! Change is hard and you have to surround yourself with a team who supports your goal. It can be overwhelming at first, but the more you do, the more resources become available to you,” said Toebbe. “Fill out a Let’s Move! Active Schools Assessment and see where to go from there. If you don’t know where you are, you don’t know where to go!”  

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