Mountain Park Elementary School in Roswell, Georgia is creating a healthy school environment through a school garden, monthly taste tests, kinesthetic classroom seating and student-generated ideas!
Mountain Park Elementary School in Roswell, Georgia has always had support from school staff, students and the PTA to implement various nutrition and physical activity initiatives, but having enough funds to sustain the efforts was a challenge. In an effort to expand and sustain their initiatives, Kelly Canavan, physical education teacher, applied for and was awarded a $5,000 Shape School Physical Activity and Nutrition Grant for the 2016-17 school year.
The school focused its nutrition efforts on enhancing the school garden and implementing “Taste Test Wednesdays” once a month. Utilizing the school garden and integrating gardening curriculum into the existing, project-based science unit has raised students’ awareness of farm-to-table foods and availability of fresh foods. It has also increased students willingness to try new foods. On Taste Test Wednesdays, students have been able to try various fruits and vegetables, such as “Rockin’ Broccoli” and “Caulipower Cauliflower.” Otherwise, they may have been reluctant to pick up and eat such vegetables from the school lunch or home.
Mountain Park also engaged their fifth-grade students through a design-thinking process to develop a health-promotion campaign for the school. Design Thinking is a formal method for practical, creative resolution of problems and creation of solutions with the intent of an improved future result.
“Using Design Thinking, students engaged in innovative problem solving to challenge and encourage their peers to make healthier food choices,” said Project Based Learning Coach Mrs. Kelly. “They used empathy to design a prototype that is meaningful to their fellow students and has proven to have immediate results.”
Fifth-graders worked together to develop a survey for their peers and produced the “Empathy Campaign for Health Food Choices,” a prototype for promoting nutrition in their school. Based on the results, they recorded a Taste Test Wednesday segment for the school’s closed-circuit news channel, made health posters, selected names for fruits and vegetables for Taste Test Wednesday and created table decorations for the cafeteria.
To promote physical activity, the school incorporated alternative seating into their classrooms as well as brain breaks. Each grade level chose items they wanted to add to their classroom for a kinesthetic learning station, including wobble rockers, wobble chairs, pads/balance board and standing desks.
“Our school is 100 percent behind active classrooms,” said Kelly Canavan, P.E. teacher, expressing support the school has received from students, staff and the PTA.
With alternative seating equipment and brain breaks in the classroom, teachers from all grade levels have seen a significant increase in focus and attention in the classroom:
“My students, who are easily distracted, seem far less so when they are sitting in the wobble chair for an assignment that requires them to concentrate (like Reader’s Workshop),” said a second-grade teacher. “I expected the chair itself to be a distraction but that has not been the case.”
“The wobble chair for a previously disruptive student was a total positive in this child’s learning,” said a first-grade teacher. “The student was constantly talking to others and very disruptive. After introducing the wobble chair, the student was much more focused and on task. His talking and disruptive behavior went way down.”
To help support these initiatives, students and teachers are actively taking part in championing health in their school. Ms. Canavan believes the success of the Shape grant initiatives would not be possible without the assistance of the staff and students, and in particular Cafeteria Manager Susan Juers, PBL Coach Wendy Kelly, Bookkeeper Karen Devine and the fifth-grade students who created the Empathy Campaign for Healthy Food Choices.
To learn more about Mountain Park Elementary School, visit their website at http://school.fultonschools.org/es/mountainpark/pages/default.aspx.