By Erica Ayers, MPH, CHES
School Health Coordinator
Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity
When was the last time you were in a school? Has it been a few years or even a few decades? If you visited a school today, like Richard Carroll Elementary School in Bamberg School District One, you might be pleasantly surprised by what you find: a culture of wellness.
Healthy choices offered to students and staff
Schools have responded to the obesity epidemic by making the healthy choice the easy choice for students and staff during the school day. For its part, Richard Carroll Elementary has been participating in the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Healthy Schools Program and the Boeing Center for Children’s Wellness (BCCW) School Wellness Checklist. For three school years, Richard Carroll Elementary has received training and technical assistance from Erica Ayers, the School Health Coordinator with the Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity at DHEC, and Ellen Munson, the Program Coordinator at BCCW, to build healthy, sustainable, learning environments.
Karen Threatt, the Food Service Director in Bamberg School District One, has found value in participating in both programs. “The Alliance for a Healthier Generation has helped us achieve our goals associated with Boeing’s School Wellness Checklist. The Alliance’s Healthy Schools Program Action Plan made it easier for us to grow our wellness culture,” she said.
To promote healthy eating, Richard Carroll Elementary took an innovative route by combining lessons learned from its days as a SC Farm to School site with techniques to reduce food waste. Students started composting foods left over from breakfast and lunch to fertilize their three school gardens where they grow herbs, pumpkins, cabbage, cucumbers, watermelons, and more. This provides students a unique opportunity to taste foods that they have grown themselves.
Access to equipment supports physical activity
To promote active living, Richard Carroll Elementary outfitted an Action-Based Learning Lab where all students have access to specialized equipment that integrates physical activities into learning motor skills, spatial ability, coordination, and social interaction. The school also coordinated a Raiderthon, a fun-run fundraiser where students ran and/or walked laps to raise money for future school wellness initiatives.
To promote staff wellness, an empty classroom was transformed into a yoga studio/meditation space. Staff get together usually once a week after school and use the Smartboard and DVDs to guide them through physically challenging, yet mindfully charged, yoga exercises.
This past school year, Richard Carroll held its first Wellness Week to “Celebrate Being Healthy.” Each day provided fun opportunities for students and staff to eat healthy and be physically active, including Drink Water Day on Monday, Try it (a new vegetable) Tuesday, Recess Rocks Wednesday with new portable play equipment, Bring a Fruit or Vegetable from Home Thursday, and Wellness Walk around campus Friday.
Focus on wellness will continue
These are only examples of what Richard Carroll Elementary is doing to promote health and wellness. Principal Stacey Walter is very proud of what her staff and students have accomplished and ensures that wellness will remain embedded in the culture of the school by continuing to lead their School Wellness Committee and by participating in the district’s Coordinated School Health Advisory Committee.