Growing Healthy Hearts Program Promotes Healthy Lifestyle Choices
Published on 10/28/20
District News Franklin Elementary School
“Hey, Heart Lady… I ate an apple!”
“I rode a bike!”
“Look at my new water bottle!”
“I took the recipe you gave me home and we ate as a family!”
“I asked my dad and he said he will quit smoking!”
“I had a disagreement with my classmate and we figured it out without a teacher!”
American Heart Association Youth Market Director Meg Corey is used to this: SCSD students running up to her to share a hug and their enthusiasm over making healthy life choices.
Thanks to a partnership with the American Heart Association (AHA), St. Joseph’s Health and other local agencies, 4,000 students in seven SCSD schools have been learning to make healthier choices. The program uses monthly topics to help students learn healthy habits: physically, nutritionally and emotionally.
“When they run to you to tell you something, it means they want you to know they listened and that they’re doing it,” Ms. Corey explained. “It doesn’t get any better than that.”
Growing Healthy Hearts is a whole-school program: everyone – from the principal to the teachers to the PE staff – are on board with the mission: encourage all students to get 60 minutes of activity each day, and incorporate the monthly ‘healthy habit(s)’ into various aspects of school culture.
Each month, the AHA provides schools with a letter to send home to families, introducing the month’s healthy habit. They range from physical to nutritional and social-emotional. Then, the habit is talked about throughout the school… it’s tied into lesson plans, school tweets, morning announcements, incorporated into Dojo dollars programs and more. Thanks to the St. Joseph’s Health sponsorship, each student also receives a small take home piece (a keychain toy, coloring sheet or recipe) to help remind them of the month’s habit.
Nico, for example, represents being kind, responsible and helping others. Sofie is a reminder to ‘color my plate’ – to make sure you eat fruits and vegetables, and to choose water over sugary beverages.
“We know that kids learn from connecting with things – visual or hands-on,” Ms. Corey added. “These characters tie to social emotional, nutritional or physical activity needs. It takes a long time for a program to make an impact, and we don’t just want to change the kids; we want to change families and make sure they have access to this healthy knowledge. But we know that if the kids are excited about something and are doing something, the families will follow. And we also know that the kids are talking about this and are remembering what they learned. It doesn’t get any better than that. That’s the goal of creating lifelong habits!”
Franklin Elementary Physical Education teacher Amanda Ferriter said seeing students circle their families into the health-related discussions is her biggest reward.
“The most exciting thing for me is when the kids share about how they talk with their families about what they’ve learned,” Ms. Ferriter said. “We provide incentives for the kids to bring back some of the family engagement pieces. I learned so much about our families. The kids were so eager to share! As a teacher, to know that the bridge from school to home and back was being made is rewarding. To know that the students were the ones to facilitate this makes it even better.”
Thanks to the program’s success, the SCSD and St. Joseph’s Health have recently been recognized by the Eastern States Region of the American Heart Association with the 2020 Health Equity Leadership Award! The award recognizes leadership and efforts which have reinforced American Heart Association’s commitment to achieving maximum impact in equitable health and wellbeing. What a great opportunity for our scholars to learn to make healthy choices!