Dealing with Pushback
Creating a healthy school that serves nutritious meals, teaches children about healthy eating, provides lots of opportunities for physical activity and offers access to health care services doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time and dedication, but the long-term investment is huge. When kids are healthy, they excel in school. When employees participate in wellness programs, they are often more productive and take fewer days off.
Taking a coordinated approach to creating a healthy school simply makes good sense. But some may question efforts or priorities. The fact is that for every barrier, there is a solution. And one of our top priorities is keeping kids and staff healthy!
Among the most common issues that arise:
Lack of funding. School district budgets are stretched thin, especially during challenging economic times. Fortunately, many of the action steps in this guide are inexpensive and provide a huge return on investment that focuses on a school district’s main mission: student achievement.
Competing demands. School districts are under more pressure than ever to get results, and with good reason. The focus on improving academics competes for time and money, leaving health and wellness issues behind. A coordinated approach to healthy schools should not compete with academics; instead it should be viewed as one of the key levers to advance student performance.
- For example, research shows that school-based asthma programs can improve attendance and grades for students, especially low income urban minority youth who have higher rates of asthma than other students (Basch, 2011). Also consider this: 86 percent of Colorado voters support requiring 30 minutes of physical education each day in schools — even if it meant time was taken away from other subjects. (Source: 2009 poll commissioned by the Colorado Health Foundation).
Low on the priority list. Some may not view health and wellness as part of the school district’s mission. The reality, however, is that it’s hard for students to concentrate on their studies if they haven’t eaten a nutritious meal, can’t see the chalkboard, or aren’t coming to school because they are not able to manage a chronic disease, like asthma or diabetes.
- According to a 2009 poll commissioned by the Colorado Health Foundation, 80 percent of Colorado voters believe that as students become more physically fit, their test scores increase and discipline problems decrease. In addition, a growing body of research actually supports this belief. Recent studies have shown that school-based physical activity programs may result in short-term cognitive benefits and improved cognitive functioning among children (Basch, 2011).
Inadequate space. Some school and district leaders say they struggle with where to place students – let alone room for a nurse’s office, gym, or kitchen. Yet schools from Grand Junction to Bethune are using creative approaches and partnering with local recreation departments and parks to build gymnasiums that are large enough to meet everyone’s needs or entering into joint-use agreements. Some high schools are now offering high-quality, standards-based online courses in physical education.
Inadequate space. Some school and district leaders say they struggle with where to place students — let alone room for a nurse’s office, a gym or a kitchen. Yet schools from Grand Junction to Bethune are using creative approaches and partnering with local recreation departments and parks to build gymnasiums that are large enough to meet everyone’s needs. Some high schools are now offering high-quality, standards-based online courses in physical education.
“Kids won’t eat it!” Some may worry that if they swap out popular but less healthy snacks and sugary drinks for fruits, vegetables, trail mix and bottled water, they’ll lose revenue. Healthy snacks and sugar-free drinks give students the energy they need for school, sports and after-school activities. And students and staff buy them — especially when those are the only options!
- Nearly 80 percent of Colorado voters believe it is “very important” for schools to encourage healthy food choices, according to the Colorado Health Foundation poll. Also, an emerging body of research is documenting the adverse effects of skipping breakfast on various aspects of cognitive performance including alertness, attention, memory, problem solving, and mathematics (Basch, 2011).
“I don’t matter.” It’s easy to put ourselves second when our first priority is the students we serve. But research shows that employee wellness programs result in positive outcomes for adults — and, ultimately, students. Healthy school employees are absent from work less often, more productive and likely to have lower health care costs. They also are positive role models for their students.
Students are not able to make important decisions regarding their own health and education. Students can and should be involved in making health decisions because giving them opportunities to contribute helps them identify their “sparks,” or interests and passions. Research shows that helping students identify their sparks, appears to be an important component of teaching and learning because it assists students in achieving school success (Search Institute Insights & Evidence, 2010).
- For example, one study shows that students with supportive teachers or those who felt like they belonged in school had higher GPAs than those that did not (Guttman & Midgley, 2000).
- Students should be engaged in positive youth-adult partnerships where their voices are heard and their opinions help inform decisions.
Advice for students from students on how to become engaged:
- Step out of comfort zone, don’t be afraid to be “uncool” and challenge the status quo to make sustainable and meaningful changes.
- Want change, believe there is something you can do and you will make a difference.
- Make it simple and fun to instigate change.
- Not sure what to do? Start small and join a club that already exists.
- Students are innovative and often think of cost effective solutions.
- Step it up and create your own club:Be tenacious- keep at it and good luck
- Be a leader, welcoming and dedicated: recruit a small group of supporters (“mini army”) from all peers and grade levels and find a teacher advisor that can help support your efforts.
- Make your club or team fun and welcoming: offer food, trips and resume builders.
- Set member expectations and ground rules: keep all members engaged.[/checklist]