On February 16, a group of health champions from Betsie Valley Elementary School will make their way down to Detroit’s Ford Field to celebrate school wellness. Betsie Valley is within the Benzie Central School District and is one of 34 schools selected to receive the Fuel Up to Play 60 “Rally for School Health.” Fuel Up to Play 60 is a national in-school nutrition and physical activity program launched by the National Dairy Council and the National Football League with support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Betsie Valley will plan to send students, teachers and their principal to what is described as a “day-long, action packed rally that will empower and teach students and adults ways to continue making changes at their school that support healthy eating and physical activity.” The day will feature motivational speakers, guest appearances by Detroit Lions players, and other special guests. The rally is supported by the Michigan Department of Education, Department of Health & Human Services, and Michigan State University Extension.
To learn more about the exciting work happening at Betsie Valley, I chatted with my MSU Extension colleague Connie Hemingway and Asa Kelly, educator, coach and member of the school health team.
Fuel Up to Play 60 encourages the formation of a school health team with representation from a variety of school and community stakeholders. Who is represented on the Betsie Valley team and how were members recruited?
Asa: Betsie Valley has a Healthy School Team comprised of teachers, parents, student leaders, administration, and community members, including Connie from MSU Extension.
Just as National Football League teams use a playbook to figure out their on-the-field strategies, Fuel Up to Play 60 school teams are encouraged to identify strategies to encourage healthy eating and physical activity. What “plays” has Betsie Valley implemented?
Connie: The Betsie Valley student team chose Farm to School as their healthy eating “play”, with plans to invite farmers into classrooms to share their role in providing healthy food to local families, as well as tying local food taste tests into those visits. They also hope to paint a farm to table mural on the cafeteria wall, but are waiting for a potential grant funding notification to get that completed. For their physical activity “play”, they have chosen “Ramp Up Recess,” where the student team is planning games at recess and inviting all students to come join. They also have plans to paint game activities and a fitness trail on the playground concrete, build and paint a “buddy bench”, and purchase some new equipment and appropriate storage.
How has Betsie Valley communicated their success with supporting a healthy school environment within the Benzie Central School District and/or regionally?
Asa: Successes have been shared with students at community meetings, newsletters home to families, and our school Facebook page. Connie has shared results of food tasting events, kick off events, and student input with other MSU Extension staff, Michigan Dairy Council, and Farm to School participants. We have promoted this wonderful program through local newspaper and media outlets.
What is the Betsie Valley school team looking to next? How can the greater community further support their school health goals?
Asa: Betsie Valley continues to apply for different grant funds to support ways to increase physical activity and promote healthy food choices. We are looking to start a running club. Students will be able to track the number of laps/miles that they run or walk. This will be available at recess times and to classroom teachers. We are also looking at opportunities for kids to mentor other kids at how to make friends on the playground. We are creating a buddy bench for students that need a friend to play with on the playground or are looking for a game to play. Additionally, we are looking at ways our student leaders can improve the lunchroom experience. They will create PowerPoint presentations on healthy choices, sugar content in common foods, and promote fruit and vegetable consumption.