The Roland Park Elementary/Middle School wellness committee actively engages parents, school administrators and staff to collectively promote health for students, faculty and the greater Baltimore community. “The committee has been integral to promoting policy change and creating a cultural norm of physical activity at school,” said Elisha Hawk, co-chair of the wellness committee and the parent of a Roland Park student. The wellness committee is at the core of the school’s successful efforts to get kids moving before, during and after the school day, keeping their minds and bodies ready to learn.
Joining Let’s Move! Active Schools
Joining Let’s Move! Active Schools in 2012 further enabled the committee to access the resources and information needed to amplify their efforts – Roland Park earned the Let’s Move! Active Schools National Recognition Award the following year. Amy Bonitz-Palmer, another parent member of the committee, said, “People were very excited to have our school recognized; it really galvanized us to take things to the next level.” She attributes their success partly to bringing the right people to the table and creating a shared vision. “At the beginning of the year we get everyone together to make an annual calendar of events so programs won’t compete with each other and so we don’t overwhelm people with activities,” she said.
After their kick-off meeting, the committee meets monthly throughout the school year to set goals and plan activities. Hawk advises other schools that are looking to engage more parents in their wellness committees to develop creative and flexible opportunities for members to contribute: “Identify projects people can work on that don’t require them to spend a lot of time in the school so they can work outside of the meeting structure.”
Morning movement with Safe Routes to School and Fire Up Your Feet
Let’s Move! Active Schools aims to provide opportunities for kids to move for at least 60 minutes before, during and after school. To get kids moving in the morning, the wellness committee signed up to participate in Fire Up Your Feet, a program that offers physical activity resources and an activity tracking challenge for schools in select states and regions. Fire Up Your Feet is a core program of the Safe Routes to School National Partnership, a Let’s Move! Active Schools partner organization that advances policies and shares expertise to leverage support for walking, bicycling and active communities.
Last October, the wellness committee held weekly walk to school days and awarded prizes to kids totaling the most miles. About 500 students participated in the Wednesday morning walks, averaging nearly half a mile each day. “It’s a lot of fun for families, and it’s exciting to see that kids are the ones pushing their parents to participate,” said Bonitz-Palmer.
As a testament to their success, Roland Park earned a Fire Up Your Feet final challenge award and the award for the most minutes of bicycling tracked of any school participating in the state of Maryland during the fall of 2014. The awards will be used to further support walking, bicycling, and physical activity programs at the school.
Keeping kids active during and after school
In addition to getting moving in the morning, the Roland Park wellness committee helps kids and their families move more after school by organizing family fitness nights and by participating in the Baltimore Running Festival. “Last year we put together the largest charity team for the Baltimore Running Festival with 340 members – we raised $94,000 for the school!” said Hawk.
Roland Park students don’t lack opportunities to be active while they’re at school, either. “We implemented physical activity during the school day for all of the kids at the same time through the public address system, and we’ve seen great success,” added Bonitz-Palmer. Mark Schwegler, Roland Park physical education teacher and co-chair of the wellness committee, added that, “Students meet the recommended minutes for physical activity at school through a combination of physical education class, recess, classroom movement breaks, morning exercises and other school events that promote an active lifestyle.”
After several years of working to make daily movement the norm at school, the wellness committee’s efforts are paying dividends. Hawk said, “The great thing now is it has becoming part of the culture at school. We don’t have to market our events as much because the kids know that being active is just part of what we do!”
Share your school’s stories by emailing [email protected] or join the movement to bring physical activity back to our nation’s schools! Enroll in Let’s Move! Active Schools and become an Active School today.