Healthy students — Healthy community

Students that are physically healthy are much more likely to achieve at higher levels than their inactive peers. Research suggests that the human brain actually undergoes positive changes as a result of physical activity and proper nutrition. With this information, the Marshalltown Community School District understands the importance of healthy students and opportunities for movement throughout the day.

To this end, the District applied for and received a Carol M. White Physical Education Program (PEP) grant. This is a 3-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education. This program has 4 goals: 1) A focus on change at the district level to create policies and an environment which support improved health, fitness, and nutrition for all students; 2) Ways to address the health education of students, to include the integration of topics on healthy eating and physical activities into multiple areas of the curricula; 3) An examination of physical education curriculum as well as individual student fitness needs. We want as many students as possible to move into the healthy zone for abdominal strength, upper body strength, flexibility, cardiovascular capacity, and body mass index; and 4) Promote healthy eating by improving what is included in school meals as well as integrating topics on healthy eating throughout the entire curriculum.

This project involves the entire community, creates enhanced partnerships between community agencies, and builds on work begun by the Healthier Communities Coalition led by the Marshalltown YMCA/YWCA. Each individual school site has a team that meets monthly and involves school administrators, staff, community partners, and parents. The purpose of this team is to analyze and discuss school data, and plan for how to move the school community and district forward to reach our goals.

The collection and analysis of data is key to helping us know where we are and making decisions about how to move forward. Through this federal project we are required to report on a number of measures to include information about fitness levels of students, body mass indices, consumption of fruits and vegetables, and levels of moderate to vigorous activity. Federal privacy laws prohibit the reporting of individual student data.

In conclusion, this project gives our community the opportunity to build the capacity to improve the health and well being of all students. Our primary goal in the district’s strategic plan is to improve student achievement and we firmly believe that students who are healthy and move throughout the day do better in school. Anyone seeking more information or desiring to be part of a school team is more than welcome to contact the district office or individual school.

Matt Tullis is the Director of Equity and Learning Supports, Project Director for the Safe Schools/Healthy Students Initiative, and Project Director for the Carol M. White Physical Education Program grant in the Marshalltown Community School District. He can be reached at the Central Administration Office by calling 641-754-1000.