Active Schools Overview
Schools are one of the primary locations for reaching children and youth. The school environment has the potential to affect physical activity and healthy eating efforts both because of the population reach and the amount of time children spend at school each day. Schools can promote physical activity through comprehensive school physical activity programs, including recess, classroom-based physical activity, intramural physical activity clubs, and physical education. The principals and afterschool program directors are key partners in this initiative.
Active School Policies:
Recess Before Lunch
It is of utmost importance that elementary school-aged children consume a balanced diet and get enough physical activity. Children who are eager to get to recess after lunch often choose unhealthy items from their lunch and throw out nutritious foods which take too much time to eat. Often children will only eat their high-fat entrees quickly in order to get outdoors to play. When children eat their lunch after recess, we find they eat their entrees as well as the healthy foods such as milk, vegetables, and fruits.
In 2011, the Zeh School in Northborough was one of the early adopters when it changed its schedule to move recess before lunch. Since then, the Proctor and Peaslee schools have also moved recess before lunch. All of the schools are very happy with the change in schedule. The cafeteria staff has noted a decrease in food waste. Teachers have found that the transition from lunch room to classroom has become much calmer, with students ready to engage in their learning activities more quickly.
School Wellness Policy Subcommittee
School health advisory subcommittees are one means of planning consistent and focused efforts to influence children to lead healthy and productive lives. Using policy/guideline and health education assessment tools developed by JSI and approved by the newly formed School Wellness Policy subcommittee, Building a Healthy Northborough (now MetroWest Moves) established and is now monitoring healthy eating and physical activity guidelines in the Northborough schools. A full list of the guidelines can be found by clicking here.
In addition, the School Wellness Policy subcommittee assessed which components of the Massachusetts Health Framework are being taught in each of the four elementary schools.
Active School Programs:
Take 10! Program
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that young people ages 6 to 17 participate in at least sixty minutes of physical activity daily. During the school day, children need a break from sedentary activities in the classroom. Physical activity breaks can be incorporated into the class as a way of integrating learning objectives with physical movement and can increase youths’ daily physical activity levels, engage the body and mind, and assist them in focusing on the next learning activity. Take 10! is an evidence-based classroom physical activity program for elementary students that integrates age-appropriate academic learning objectives in language arts, math, social studies, science and health with movement in space-restricted classrooms. Take 10! requires little additional teacher preparation. The Take 10! program is being implemented in all four Northborough elementary schools.
Since being introduced in fall 2011, Take 10! has quickly become a central part of the classroom experience in Northborough’s four elementary schools. As part of this program, teachers integrate short physical activities into academic lessons. These brief breaks get students up out of their seats and help develop lifelong healthy behaviors.
Beginning in October 2011, thirty-seven Take 10! binders were distributed to Northborough teachers at all four elementary schools. Since then, principals have stated that many of the teachers use Take 10! as part of their regular routine. Between October 2011 and April 2012, Northborough teachers reported holding 140 sessions of Take 10! for a total of 21 hours and 27 minutes.