Children have the greatest opportunity to achieve their full learning potential when they are healthy and in an environment that nurtures not only their cognitive growth, but also their physical and social growth: Healthy children are ready to learn.
We expect schools to help our children succeed not only academically but also physically, emotionally, and socially. There are many valuable initiatives in this area, and resources are stretched. In tandem with broader community-school efforts, the real opportunity lies in harnessing the potential at the school level. Each school has unique assets and challenges, and teachers, parents and children in each school have the solutions to these challenges. Helping these key players identify and implement solutions will strengthen not only the school’s capacity, it will also foster ownership and resilience within each child, teacher and parent, which will carry forward into our community.
Since children spend an average of six hours per day in school, schools are fundamental to fostering the whole child’s development. We count on our schools to provide healthful, safe learning environments. We expect a lot of our schools, and there are federal, state and local regulations, as well as district policies that delineate these expectations. At the individual school level, the capacity to maximize the potential in these expectations is widely varied. For example, all schools which receive federal funding for the Free and Reduced-Price Breakfast and Lunch programs are required to have a wellness policy on record. The federal law dictates the minimum of what needs to be included in the policy—it does not specify how to implement or enforce it. Some schools do not have the resources or the know-how to take action.
Successful Healthy Children is intended to assist students and teachers in developing the know-how, and to take action, building on the individual school’s existing strengths. Working with students at the individual school level builds confidence in their abilities and creates buy-in for their own success, in the classroom and in life. It also fosters connections between families and the school, enhancing capacity for sustaining healthy-learning initiatives.