School Wellness Policies—Is Your PTA at the Table?

Do you know if your school district has a school wellness policy, and if so, what’s in it and what the district is doing to implement it? If your district participates in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs, they are required to develop such a plan and to permit parents to participate in its development. They are also required to update and inform parents about its content and implementation. There are many resources to help your PTA get involved in your school’s wellness policy, and this year’s Illinois PTA Convention will also feature a workshop on how parents can change a school’s health culture by Action for Healthy Kids.

National PTA spells out how your PTA can be involved and ensure that parents’ rights and the legal requirement to be included are followed. These resources include:

  • A summary of what an effective, comprehensive school wellness policy should include
  • A School Wellness Committee Toolkit from Alliance for a Healthier Generation to help committees convene, plan, and implement their action plans (Note: login required)
  • Model School Wellness Policies from the National Alliance for Nutrition and Activity
  • School Health Guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
  • Local School Wellness Policy Outreach Toolkit from the US Department of Agriculture to help communicate school wellness information to families and school staff
  • WellSAT 3.0 from the University of Connecticut Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity that measures the quality of written wellness policies.

School wellness is a community issue, and your school district is required to include families in the development and implementation of their policy. Ensure that your PTA has a seat at the table to advocate for your child and the children of your school district.

Make Your School a Healthy One with Game On

Action for Healthy Kids, who will be presenting at the 2019 Illinois PTA Convention, has created a flexible online program to helps schools become healthier environments for students, staff, and the communities they serve. The free Game On program focuses on both eating better and moving more. An online guide walks you through how to get organized and make a difference at your child’s school. There are also $1,000 grants available(application deadline April 5, 2019) to support implementing Game On at your school.

The Game On online guide makes it easy to implement the program, spelling out how to implement each of the six steps.

  1. Gather Your Team
  2. Assess and Track Progress
  3. Create and Implement an Action Plan
  4. Find Activities
  5. Engage Families and Communities
  6. Receive Recognition

The program aligns with the components of the Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Childmodel and has proven results. Using the Game On program, 74% of schools met all of their school district wellness policy requirements within three years.

Check out the Game On program, apply for a grant by April 5, 2019, and be sure to attend the Action for Healthy Kids workshop at the Illinois PTA Convention in Champaign on May 3-4, 2019.

Photo courtesy of pngimg.com under Creative Commons license.

Creating a Social Justice Reading Group for Children and Their Families

Seeing an increase in intolerance shortly after the 2016 election, National Education Policy Center(NEPC) director Kevin Welner and associate director Michelle Renée Valladares were discussing how to address the issue with their young children. They decided to collaborate other parents and their children to create an intergenerational social justice reading group. The aim was to provide a learning experience to counterbalance the negative political comments about people of color, immigrants, and other historically disenfranchised groups.

They decided to share their experience running the reading group with the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance project. Through this collaboration came a new Reading for Social Justice guide.

The guide provides everything a group of parents or teachers need to set up a social justice reading group for families, covering:

  • Things to think about before starting your reading group
  • How to organize your reading group
  • How to set content and literacy goals for your group
  • How to select what books to read
  • How to run your reading group meetings

The guide shares the experiences of three reading groups from Colorado, Texas, and South Carolina. There is a recommended book list and places to find other similar lists. The appendices provide information for teachers on laying the groundwork for a reading group, a planning workbook, and a sample teaching strategy.

There are benefits in creating a reading group for both adults and children for everyone involved, including improvements in school climate, in family and community engagement, and in reading and language skills. Other benefits are:

  • Reading groups support children in processing current events and hard truths about the world around them.
  • Reading groups help children situate present events within a larger historical context of social injustice.
  • Reading groups facilitate social emotional learning.
  • Reading groups develop critical thinking and literacy skills.
  • Reading groups build family and community engagement.
  • Family engagement bolsters students’ academic performance.

Check out Teaching Tolerance’s Reading for Social Justice guide and start planning for your reading group.

Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child

Children’s success in school isn’t limited to just academics. PTA has known this since our founding, focusing our advocacy efforts not just on children’s needs at school, but at home and in their community as well. Now, the education and public health sectors are aiming to better align their efforts to improve each child’s cognitive, physical, social, and emotional development through an effort known as Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child (WSCC).

The WSCC model is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) framework for addressing health in schools. The model is student-centered and emphasizes the role of the community in supporting the school. It consists of ten components of student health:

  1. Physical Education and Physical Activity
  2. Nutrition Environment and Services
  3. Health Education
  4. Social and Emotional School Climate
  5. Physical Environment
  6. Health Services
  7. Counseling, Psychological, and Social Services
  8. Employee Wellness
  9. Community Involvement
  10. Family Engagement

The WSCC model aligns with the Family & Community Engagement goal from Illinois PTA’s new Strategic Framework. Our goal is “Illinois PTA will look at the whole child, building bridges to other organizations and communities (ethnic, socio-economic, etc.) to provide PTA programs, education, support, and resources to all families.”

A new report recently evaluated how well the WSCC model is covered in state statutes and regulations across the country in each of the ten components. Illinois was one of ten states determined to both broad (defined as being rated moderate or comprehensive in 8 model components) and deep (defined as being rated as comprehensive in 6 or more components. Illinois’s statutes and regulations were ranked low in two components, Nutrition Environment and Services and Employee Wellness.