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Why Winning a New Playground for a School Matters

Colorful Playground

There are about 70,000 elementary schools in the United States and a few weeks ago a couple of them had a whole lot to celebrate. The “Healthy Playground Makeover Sweepstakes” announced that two lucky schools are the winners of a $30,000 grant and new playground. If you are a parent with a child in elementary school, you know how much recess and outdoor play means to the everyday happiness of your child. You may have even entered on behalf of your school or shared the news with your PTA. It’s a big deal!

As members of the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation (HWCF), we promote this annual event and the Together Counts™ program that’s behind it. What a phenomenal opportunity for these schools to receive a brand new playground for kids to take part in all of the fun and physical activity that comes along with the playground experience. The OrganWise Guys are all about energy balance and encouraging playtime outdoors as part of a healthy lifestyle, so this is something we support completely!

With so much need in schools these days, it is no wonder that nearly 400,000 entries were received in this year’s sweepstakes. According to the latest report from the National Center for Education Statistics, 27% of all elementary schools in the United States have outdoor play spaces ranked as “fair” or “poor.” That number jumps to 34% in schools where 75% or more of the students are at or below poverty level, or classified as “Title 1” eligible. To sharpen the point—“fair” is defined in the report as meeting “minimal conditions but is not dependable, breaks down frequently, or has other limitations.” Even worse, a rating of “poor” states that “a particular feature or system as it exists is inadequate to meet even the minimal needs of the school.” Terrible, right?

In light of these bleak statistics, it feels good to share the news that two deserving Title 1 schools were the top 2015 winners of HWCF’s sweepstakes.

When Artspace Charter in Swannoanoa, North Carolina learned they won the grand prize, they were literally jumping for joy and dancing in the hallways.

The winning entry for Southside Elementary in Nortonville, Kentucky was submitted by Christina Estrada, who teaches 1st grade, and has been at the school for 6 years. She’s a great example of a dedicated teacher who went above and beyond to drive change at her school.

Encouraging outdoor play is just a part of what you’ll find at TogetherCounts.com, the hub of free energy balance resources for families and schools. You’ll find information on community partners, including Playworld Systems, who make the free playground program possible year after year.

Please follow news of these special schools and more at https://www.facebook.com/togethercounts

How Illinois is Keeping It Moving

As we always say, we just LOVE to get emails, stories and pictures of The OrganWise Guys (OWG) program in action. We recently received a fun email from Dustin Hall, of University of Illinois Extension in Montgomery County. She shared with us the results of a fun unit on Peri Stolic, also known as the large intestine, where the students had finished the OWG stories and movies and were asked to draw the pictures below following a discussion of what the large intestine’s job.

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Dustin Hall says, “I go to all the elementary schools in the county and teach K-2nd grades. I visit each classroom twice a month. From the stories, to the movies and the hands-on activities, my students have learned so much this year and the teachers have already asked me to return next year. They like that it is a multi-year curriculum. I like that the program uses messages that the children can understand and it is not so technical that the message gets lost.”

Thanks Dustin for sending in this great success story and the personal testimony that these products do make a difference! We appreciate you!




Teacher Appreciation Gift: Last Minute Idea

by Julie Green

by Julie Green

Looking for a last minute teacher appreciation gift idea? We like to share this fun idea every year, because it’s really a cost-efficient, yet meaningful way to show teachers your appreciation for all the hard work they put in day in and day out!

Kids are getting excited that the end of the school year is soon approaching. It’s almost summer time!! As a parent, the end of the school year means some added expenses that may not be in the budget, including costly teacher appreciation gifts. If your child has several teachers, or you have several children with one or many teachers, this can be a costly undertaking.

Teachers love gifts, but mostly gifts from the heart of the children they have taught. An Acrostic Poem from a student will always be a cherished gift; it is a creative way to communicate feelings of appreciation in an artistic way.

Our illustrator helped us create this one, but your child could decorate with paint, crayons, cut out pictures, fabric, etc. Be original and have him/her put their own personality into the project. To make it more formal, you could put the poem in a frame with the school year and date on it. Not only will your child be proud of the gift, but the teacher will also be impressed and have a personal and positive memento to cherish.

OWG acrostic Poem

For even more ideas, last week we shared some other ways to celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week. What is your favorite go-to teacher appreciation gift?

Teacher Appreciation Week: Simply Say Thanks

Teacher Appreciation Week

Next week (May 4-8) is Teacher Appreciation Week, and with it, comes the stress of finding that perfect thing that says thank you to the teachers who influence, inspire, and challenge our children 180 days (or more) each year.

In working with teachers and conducting a very unofficial poll, I have found that a majority of them are motivated and inspired by feeling appreciated. While gift cards and other gifts are nice (and I’m sure will be happily accepted by most), the most meaningful and impactful gifts for teachers are those that reassure them they are making a difference in the life of your child (after all, that’s why many of them entered into this profession). Bonus for us as parents, true appreciation gifts don’t take a lot of money, just some creative thinking on your part.

Additionally, please don’t forget about those teachers that interact with your child on a regular basis but aren’t the classroom teacher, including music, PE, art, reading, computers and other teachers. They can have just as great of an impact, if not greater, than that of the classroom teacher and also deserve to feel appreciated during this week. I don’t know about your child, but my son thinks his PE teacher is the coolest person on this planet (and my appreciation gift to him will include this statement).

So, my challenge to you during Teacher Appreciation Week is to provide each teacher your child interacts with a statement about how they have made a difference in your child’s life. A simple story, a statement about how your child’s work has improved because of them, or a quote directly from your child about what they like about them. Tuck this note of appreciation into your gift card or other gift and I promise you the teacher you’re giving it to will truly feel the meaning of Teacher Appreciation Week. They will treasure that note and feel the appreciation they so deserve and the motivation they need to continue to deliver quality education and inspiration for the remainder of the year.

I think a quote from Margaret Cousins does an amazing job of summarizing what we, as parents, can do for our teachers; “Appreciation can make a day, even change a life. Your willingness to put it into words is all that is necessary.”

small MGriffin headshot copyToday we feature OWG guest blogger and childhood obesity consultant, Melodie Griffin. Melodie’s passion lies in the prevention of childhood obesity through the school and early learning settings. All programs Melodie promotes are fully approved by her home based lab rats, five year old son, Howie, and two year old daughter, Hope. You can connect with Melodie on her Facebook page, WellConnect LLC.


Celebrate Every Kid Healthy Week

We just returned from the Every Kid Healthy Coalition Summit in Washington D.C. It was so great to share ideas and best practices with other like-minded organizations collectively working to help kids live healthier lifestyles.

So, please join us in celebrating Every Kid Healthy™ Week from April 19-25! Launched by our partners at Action for Healthy Kids in 2013, Every Kid Healthy Week is an annual observance when schools, students, parents, and community members come together to recognize their school’s wellness achievements through fun, engaging, and health- focused events. Over 1,000 schools are participating in 2015!

Want to get involved? If you work or are involved with your local school, this is your opportunity to host a super-lively health-promoting event! Events can range from health and wellness fairs, to healthy food taste tests, to fun runs, schools gardens, and more. Make sure to register your event in the Get in the Action Center to promote it and recruit volunteers. Parents, grandparents, and community members, you can get involved too! Just register as a volunteer to find a local event that can use your help. Additional information and resources can be found at EveryKidHealthyWeek.org.

Together, we make a difference in kids’ lives. Join us in taking the Every Kid Healthy Pledge to show your commitment and get the information and free resources you need to create healthier school environments for kids. You can take the Pledge here!