School wellness is a team sport! Teachers, parents, administrators, and community volunteers are critical to planning and implementing nutrition and physical activity opportunities and policies. Students are the key component of a strong team. Elementary students provide a nearly endless source of energy and creativity, while older students can provide valuable opinions during the program development stage and mentoring for younger students. Five Ohio schools tapped the creative juices and endless energy of their students to promote student gardens and initiate new menu items in the cafeteria.
Students in elementary school love hands-on activities. Displaying the fruits of their labor can be a source of pride for the students and the school. Students in 1st and 2nd grade at St. Brigid of Kildare in Dublin created two large mosaic panels and eight stepping stones in art class. These masterpieces are on display in the school garden so that current and future students can benefit from their handiwork. Whittier Elementary in Findlay created a garden-themed mural out of bottle caps the students collected. The mural is in the hallway on the way to the cafeteria, so students are reminded every day of the healthy foods growing in their garden.
High school students can be valuable assets when implementing health and physical activity plans. Westwood Elementary in Wellington benefited from the help of high schoolers, who helped with the planting of the school’s garden. Older students also helped out at Crestview Elementary by lending a hand on planting day, digging and planting seeds next to younger students and families, and by weeding over the summer. High school students also dropped by the elementary school to join the students in some jump roping as part of the school’s Active Wednesdays.
Licking Heights Local School District and Findlay City Schools realized the importance of high school students playing an active role in making schools a healthier place. Both districts invited students to take part in the school wellness committees, which are responsible for making policies to impact the health and wellbeing of students of all ages and staff members. These students bring valued insight to groups consisting of teachers, administrators, parents, and community members.