Helping elementary school students understand the merits of physical activity and healthy eating can be a challenging task. At Elk Meadow Elementary School (Bend, OR), however, the effort is made easier due to the help of a friendly source: the students themselves.
The Wellness Warriors, as the student wellness team named themselves, are a mix of 2nd to 5th graders who help lead a number of health-focused initiatives at Elk Meadow throughout the school year.
On a given school day, you might find a member of The Wellness Warriors helping with Elk Meadow’s running and walking program, leading a Fitness Week activity, or passing out information about an upcoming Walk or Bike To School Day.
“Each Wellness Warrior can be as involved as their schedule allows,” said Grant Mattox, a veteran physical educator who helps to oversee the group. “Some come early to school, some stay late or give up recess time; some come on non-student days to help plan and implement ideas.”
The students’ commitment and determination is matched by their creativity. In an effort to encourage fellow students to eat healthy and be active, for example, they scripted a play, which they subsequently performed in front of their classmates. On another occasion, The Wellness Warriors developed a small promotional campaign to encourage fellow students to eat school breakfast.
Of course, the students receive occasional guidance, as well as the full support of the school’s teachers and administrators. Most of the activities, though, are makings of their own creation.
“Sometimes the team needs direction,” Mattox said, “but our hope is to allow them to decide what they want to do each year.”
According to Mattox, the creation of the student wellness team might never have occurred had Elk Meadow Elementary not been involved with Let’s Move! Active Schools.
“Let’s Move! Active Schools has opened up opportunities to access resources to better serve the needs of our students and larger school community,” Mattox said. “This national initiative not only has provided direct support but also served as a clearinghouse of sorts to help us connect to additional programs and resources.”
One of those programs was Fuel Up to Play 60, an in-school nutrition and physical activity program designed to encourage youth to lead healthier lives. Fuel Up, Mattox says, inspired the school’s decision to form a student-run wellness team. In successive years, the school has even had students represented at Fuel Up to Play 60’s national summit, sharing insights from their work at Elk Meadow while also bringing back new ideas to engage fellow students in fun, health-oriented activities.
Now, more and more of the school’s students are beginning to take notice of the efforts of The Wellness Warriors.
“As the team has become more and more visible, more students are asking how they can become members,” Mattox said. “This speaks to the positive example the students are setting.”