SCHOOL WELLNESS SPOTLIGHT

In each of our monthly eNewsletters, we spotlight a school or district that is doing something effective and exciting to promote a healthier school wellness environment!  We hope these best practices will be replicated or customized in other schools and districts, and if you need more information or have a best practice in your school to share, feel free to contact us at info@rihsc.org.

MAY 2024

EASY-TO-ACCESS HEALTH INFO AT CUMBERLAND'S COMMUNITY ELEMENTARY!

The school nurse’s office is a hub of activity every day of the week. From tending to kids with asthma, headaches, allergies, head lice, skinned knees, as well as behavioral and emotional issues to administering medications, tracking medical exams and immunizations, and doing health screenings, a school nurse is always very busy!

Bethany Goldberg is the school nurse teacher at Community Elementary, a large 670-student school in Cumberland. Throughout the course of her busy days, she always finds herself answering phone calls from parents/guardians, often with similar questions. So as part of a Professional Growth Goal, she decided to create a website to host everything in one easy-to-access place.

The Community Nurse Website was designed with input from a family survey and includes up-to-date information and answers to commonly asked questions such as illness guidelines, medication forms and links for immunization requirements and allergy policies, details on health education units by grade, and the Nurse Family Newsletters.  

The feedback on the new website has been very positive and as Bethany has learned more about her student population needs, she’s added more resources. While maintaining health records, she discovered students that don’t have a primary care physician or dentist so added a page on the website with referrals to local practices and other resources.

Bethany recognizes that communication takes many forms so she’s added the website to her email signature line, and will include a reference to it in Kindergarten registration and Open Houses, and highlights it in her newsletters so a new culture can develop where parents and students can access much more information themselves and have a reliable source of information for important health matters.

Bethany Goldberg loves her job as an elementary school nurse as it combines teaching and nursing and supporting young families in her community!

APRIL 2024

DOG BISCUITS ARE GOOD BUSINESS WITH COVENTRY HIGH SCHOOL’S “OAKER PAWTRY”

​Coventry High School’s Regional Career Center offers a popular unified culinary arts class, taught by culinary teacher and chef Nicole Burlingame. 

Students with and without learning differences learn and practice cooking skills together, including recipe development and business planning. Rather than perfecting a brownie or cookie recipe (which can’t be sold during the school day in accordance with the district’s wellness policy and state law), these teens and their teacher got creative and had fun researching healthy ingredients for dogs and then producing and selling biscuits using their school nickname “Oakers”, a nod to the original high school’s location on Knotty Oak Road, with an image of the district’s support dog, Cooper.

Nicole’s commitment has always been inclusivity, and her idea of making and selling dog treats was designed to enable full and equal participation from every student, accommodating diverse health and dietary needs. Understanding that some students face challenges with consuming solid foods, her emphasis with choosing this as a project ensures that everyone can be involved in every step of the experience. The Oaker Pawtry has gone beyond teaching basic cooking techniques that students can use in everyday life; it cultivates an environment of teamwork and inclusion.

Eleventh grader Sage Soares, one of the support peers in unified cooking, shares that “I was making dog biscuit dough with Peyton, Jorge, Myles, and Tyler. When grabbing some of the materials, I went to help Jorge and he said ‘no, I can do it’. I was really proud of Jorge in that moment and his newfound confidence in his cooking abilities.”

Sales have been great at the high school with students delivering orders to staff throughout the building. Next up is a “field trip” to the middle school where Chef Nicole and students will pre-advertise their Oaker Pawtry dog treats and get baking to fill orders via a simple google form and deliver door to door.

Who knows what’s next for these budding bakers and entrepreneurs?!

MARCH 2024

SMITHFIELD AND WOONSOCKET PARTNER WITH SOJOURNER HOUSE TO PREVENT TEEN DATING VIOLENCE

During February’s Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month, advocacy groups come together to highlight the importance of relationship education and discuss the devastating impact that domestic violence has on the lives of young people. While many teenagers start to have romantic relationships in high school, very few have a firm understanding of what a healthy romantic relationship should actually look like. Without comprehensive relationship and sex education, most teenagers don’t have access to this information.
 
The Office on Violence Against Women has funded Sojourner House’s school-based advocacy program in partnership with the Smithfield and Woonsocket school districts to provide domestic violence and teen dating violence prevention and intervention work in the middle and high school settings.

Smithfield and Woonsocket students created Valentine’s Day cards for loved ones to acknowledge and appreciate the healthy relationships in their lives. The peer mentor group in Woonsocket High School created orange t-shirts  and participated in Love Is Respect’s Teen Dating Violence Awareness campaign.

Throughout the school year, Sojourner House continues to:

  • Provide school-based advocacy to students who have witnessed or experienced domestic violence, sexual assault, or human trafficking
  • Provide direct education to teens around healthy relationships and teen dating violence
  • Facilitate a variety of peer education programs for young people to discuss boundary setting, consent, the importance of communication, and more
  • Assist school administrators with updating policies around reporting, response, and required staff/student learning
  • Facilitate as requested workshops for faculty and staff (ex: being an approachable adult, mandated reporting, trauma-informed approaches)

For more info on how Sojourner House can support youth survivors and provide young people with the tools and information they need to develop safe and caring relationships, contact Erin Oliviera, School-Based Advocate, at eoliveira@sojournerri.org .

FEBRUARY 2024

PLEASANT VIEW ELEMENTARY BALANCES NOISE AND EATING IN THE CAFETERIA

Anyone who’s been in a school cafeteria knows the challenge of noise management. Kids need time to socialize with friends during lunch but they also need enough time to eat their food. Elementary students, in particular, can get distracted by a noisy cafeteria and end up with a tray still full of food when the lunch period is over.

Pleasant View Elementary School in Smithfield has developed a creative solution to help solve this in their busy school of 550 students with 185 in each lunch period. The cafeteria’s service area opening is framed in a strand of colored electric LED strip lights that can change color with a remote control to act as a visual cue for students to regulate their talking. Principals Terry Viera and Kristin Dohoney previewed the new light system prior to installation so students could get familiar with color changes and modulate their voices:

  • SILENT (red)
  • WHISPER (yellow)
  • INDOOR VOICE (green)

depending on the light display. There are posters on the café walls as a reminder and lunch aides also provide some verbal cues in addition to the lighting for those students who don’t notice as quickly. The system works well according to Pleasant View Elementary teachers, paraprofessionals, and visiting parents … and even students give it a thumbs up! 

JANUARY 2024

NORWOOD ELEMENTARY IS READY TO ROCK INDOOR RECESS

Cold, icy, and snowy weather is a sure bet in a Rhode Island winter, so school playgrounds can become less than ideal or even dangerous. Warwick’s Norwood Elementary principal Sabrina Antonelli says “recess is sometimes one of the most important parts of the day for student socialization and activity,” so she makes sure her students still get daily recess, even if it has to be indoors.

Norwood is part of the Recess Rocks in RI family (a program partnership from BCBSRI, Playworks New England and RI Healthy Schools Coalition), having had a team participate in an initial two-day core training plus a Youth Leadership training. This school year, Norwood hosted the annual RRIRI Active Indoor Recess workshop. Principal Antonelli and staff from other schools across the state were taught games and strategies by the Playworks coach to plan for kids to safely get the wiggles out in an indoor space. Says Antonelli, “the games provide an excellent way to get kids to collaborate and work together, using teamwork, turn taking, sportsmanship, problem-solving, and verbal, as well as nonverbal communication”. A lot of learning happens at recess!!

Norwood Elementary is going into its fourth year as a Recess Rocks in RI school. Last year, they added a Junior Coach program after participating in the Recess Youth Leadership training. Fourth and fifth grade students sign up to assist younger grades at recess and get them engaged in the game of the week that Norwood features. The game can be introduced in class, during SEL time, in PE, or during lunchtime before students head out to recess. Junior coaches learn the game of the week every Monday and can lead it on the playground or indoors during recess.

As part of RRIRI Active Indoor Recess Week, those who attended the workshop or registered and reported daily program activities were eligible to win raffle prizes for their school. Last year, Norwood Elementary won a visit from Providence College Friar student-athletes, who joined the Norwood kids at recess for play and talk about the importance of being active, being a good student, and being a good/kind team player and friend. Join the RRIRI Facebook group to learn some new games and share with others to improve YOUR recess!

DECEMBER 2023

POSITIVE PHONE CALL FRIDAYS: A HIGHLIGHT AT NORTH SMITHFIED ELEMENTARY

Everyone wants to be recognized and get positive attention, right? The staff, students, and families of North Smithfield Elementary School are feeling the pride and joy and seeing the positive impacts of doing just this.

Principal Jennifer Daigneault, Asst. Principal Tracy Lafreniere, and Dean of Students Dena Francescon introduced a new weekly tradition to the school this year. Teachers in the PK-4 school of 600 nominate students (one per classroom per grade level each week) to be recognized for anything positive; academic, behavioral, or social-emotional. On Fridays, these students are called to the office to be surprised with a certificate, nomination paper, and a star sticker along with the all important call home to read the nomination with their principal/dean of students. 

A student was recently nominated with this note from his teacher: “Ryker starts and ends everyday with a huge smile. His enthusiasm to learn new things is contagious and he is an actively engaged student each and every day! He has such a huge heart and cares so much about everyone. Ryker makes sure everyone is included and compliments his peers throughout the day. I can always count on Ryker to be ready and prepared. He is a model student for sure and I am so very proud of him. He puts a smile on my face everyday!”  

Students choose who they’d like to receive the big phone call and family members almost always answer (or call back) knowing it’s the school. They are immediately told it’s for “a happy reason” so they aren’t worried and are positively delighted to hear praise about their loved one. The kids feel so proud as well. Assistant principal Tracy Lafrenier says the new program takes minimal time and effort and has maximum results. It’s quickly becoming one of the favorite parts of the week, as it’s fun and encourages more good behavior and academic skills as well as stronger teacher-student bonds. It’s certainly not just for the “star” students or the “tricky” ones but for all the students who come to school every day trying their best and being a kind classmate but who don’t often get recognized.  

NOVEMBER 2023

CELEBRATING CULTURE AND STUDENT ENGAGEMENT AT HOPE HIGH SCHOOL IN PROVIDENCE

​Hope High School celebrated family, fun, great performances and great food, including a new rice recipe from Sodexo, at their recent annual Multicultural Night.  School and Sodexo staff have been working hard to bring culturally affirming recipes to the cafeteria while getting more input from students on menu offerings. The Multicultural Night highlighted both.

A new yellow rice recipe with sofrito, onion, peas, and Sazon seasoning was developed through a partnership with Sodexo and the Johnson & Wales culinary nutrition program. The student chefs were tasked with creating offerings that meet USDA nutrition guidelines while being more familiar and interesting to a culturally diverse student body. The yellow rice  was introduced to students and families at Multicultural Night and all were able to provide feedback through a survey easily completed on mobile phones via a QR code. The more flavorful rice, reminiscent of popular dishes in Spanish, Caribbean, Indian, and South African cuisines, was a big hit! It will now be on the menu not only at Hope High School but at all schools across the district. This rice dish is just the first “menu-makeover” with plans to do more with JWU and students to tailer offerings to their palates. 

Hope HS’s Culture Coordinator, Matt Barney, is also working with a group of Advisory students and a team from Farm Fresh RI, RIHSC, and RI Farm to School Network to improve students’ food literacy by introducing activities around gardening, cooking, nutrition, and food justice. “Our multicultural night is a wonderful way for our students to engage in celebrating foods from a diverse background. This is also a time for them to think about food on a global level. This program, along with our students advisory, has taken small steps to impact positive changes in our cafeteria over the last year and into the future.”

OCTOBER 2023

FOSTER-GLOCESTER PROVIDES NEW MENTAL WELLNESS RESOURCES FOR PARENTS

We are all mindful of the effects a student’s mental wellness has on their education. In an effort to promote more meaningful ways to proactively support students and engage parents, the Foster-Glocester Regional School District has partnered with The Cook Center for Human Connection. Foster-Glocester believes that promoting mentally healthy students will increase engagement and connections with adults and young people for an overall positive school culture. 

Several years ago, Foster-Glocester received a School-Based Mental Health Services Grant to deliver services to students and families. As a part of the grant, the partnership with The Cook Center will provide access to 50+ direct instruction videos offered by ParentGuidance.org. The videos are free and provide easy-to-use information for parents on topics that address and support a child’s mental health development, anxiety, depression, bullying, social media, addiction, and suicidal thoughts. In addition, the district will be hosting several free virtual events throughout the year on various mental health topics. Participants will hear from a leading clinical psychologist and learn about free resources and simple strategies to help parents support their child’s needs. 

Ponaganset Middle School Psychologist Melissa Dingley shares,“Partnering with The Cook Center will help all of our counselors provide parents with resources that they can use to support their child’s mental wellness. This is a great addition to our district that will benefit our students overall.” The Ponaganset middle and high school websites now feature a Health and Wellness page, easily accessible from the home page, dedicated to resources that establish a continuum of mental health promotion, prevention, empowerment, and family engagement.

SEPTEMBER 2023

NARRAGANSETT MAKES AN IMPORTANT INVESTMENT IN STAFF WELLNESS

Schools across RI have welcomed students and staff back for another year. And while summer vacation provided a bit of rest and recharge, the reality is that in this day and age many educators remain stressed, overwhelmed, and in need of ways to manage their mental & physical health and work/life balance. Addressing educator health and wellness is not only critical for our school workforce but also for our school children. Because everyone knows – healthy teachers make healthy classrooms!

Narragansett School District has started this school year with a new wellness program. The Virgin Pulse well-being platform is an added feature of their BCBSRI health insurance and is being offered for free to all eligible employees. Participants enroll and then access the platform from a computer or smartphone and get motivated with healthy team challenges, customized nutrition tools, and trackers for activity, weight, sleep, and more. There are even virtual yoga sessions and mindfulness meditations. Incentives and rewards such as gift cards are regularly offered to keep participants engaged. 

Tamarah Faust from the Narragansett Human Resources Office thought the program would be a meaningful way to support their employees. “Teachers and staff give so much of themselves for our kids, especially during and after the pandemic, that we hope this will encourage them to take care of themselves and have some fun.” Narragansett joined Foster/Glocester and Providence in offering the Virgin Pulse program to employees to build a healthier, more engaged and productive workforce. A growing body of research has demonstrated that employee health and wellbeing is a good investment and Narragansett is counting on making wellness contagious in their schools this year

JUNE 2023

​IT’S FAMILY FITNESS FUN AT NORTHERN ELEMENTARY!

Physical Education teacher Deb Reddy organizes an annual Family Fitness Fun week at her Northern Lincoln Elementary School. It’s a 15+ year tradition for family members (parents, grandparents, and other special guests) to join their student(s) in PE class at the end of the school year to showcase the program and to encourage families to be active together over the summer months.

The kids are well-prepared to co-lead a warm-up routine with music as Mrs. Reddy welcomes the group and explains the value of regular physical activity and the components of fitness.The gymnasium is set up with activity stations, including croquet, jump rope, ax throwing (safely, of course!), rope climbing, and stepping buckets, and the group cycles through the stations at well-orchestrated intervals.The room is filled with energy, concentration and pride as the kids show off the strength and conditioning skills they’ve learned and practiced in PE class (such as balance, core strength, and eye-foot/eye-hand coordination) as they encourage their family guests to take part. A photo booth set up in the school’s foyer allows the students and guests to capture the moment with a polaroid keepsake.

​This year’s Family Fitness Fun event was made even more creative and fun with school librarian Susan Pepper setting up a “campsite” in the library right across the hall from the gym! Complete with relaxing “firelight”, students could play quieter games with their family visitors, snuggle with a book in one of the tents, roast marshmallows over the “campfire”, and learn about family hikes in RI from the locally published Family Hiking Guide and Journal. It was a perfect wind-down after all the activity across the hall in the gym. What a great yearly tradition at Northern. Congratulations on a job well done to dynamic duo Deb Reddy and Susan Pepper!

MAY 2023

SOME RI SCHOOLS ARE GOING TO THE (THERAPY) DOGS

Therapy dogs have been around for years; used in hospitals, police departments and nursing homes to offer stress relief and comfort. But now therapy dogs are showing up in some RI schools to the delight of students, faculty, staff and the greater community!  

Lincoln Middle School Resource Teacher Katie Vespia started a pilot program with Willow, a medium-sized Australian labradoodle chosen for her good temperament and non-shedding coat, with the support of her colleague Fred Hoppe and district administration. Katie and Fred act as “co-handlers” doing the rigorous training needed for therapy dog certification along with providing a home away from school. Willow loves her days in Lincoln schools and is often an official greeter at the start of the school day or at school events or just hanging out at parent-teacher conferences or AP exams for anyone needing a moment of relaxation or confidence boosting.  

She’s become so popular that she’s often requested as a reward or for students who need comfort or emotional regulation. An 8th grade student who experiences anxiety and panic attacks shared what Willow has meant to her and many other students –  pure joy; keeping them in the moment without judgement or expectation. The Lincoln School Dept. is very committed to expanding this teacher-led therapy dog pilot and is working toward having a policy in place for 2023-24.  

Other districts around RI are seeing the value in therapy dogs too!

  • Central High School in Providence welcomed Fred back in 2018. For five years, this certified therapy dog, a handsome chocolate labrador retriever, has been visiting and comforting students and staff each Friday at Central. Check out this recent Staff Spotlight “interview” with Fred!
  • Chariho Public Schools is exploring an animal assisted education/pet therapy program after witnessing benefits from police and community-related therapy dog visits in their schools. Development Officer Katie Kirakosian outlined a proposal at a recent wellness meeting sharing research, policy & regulation considerations, handler options, sustainability, and next steps for a committee to explore the concept. But without question, all those present including some middle school students, had big smiles on their faces when thinking about welcoming a therapy dog into their school community.   

APRIL 2023

HANAFORD STUDENTS IN EG DISCOVER POTATOES COME PURPLE, PINK, GOLD & WHITE

Students in East Greenwich elementary schools are treated to Discovery Fridays by Aramark Food Service Director Michelle Edwards. She regularly scouts local farm offerings for veggies and fruits that can be included on the lunch menu, such as salad greens, butternut squash, potatoes, carrots and apples. But she’s also looking for unique items that can be highlighted and tasted by ALL students during special lunchtime events.

Discovery Fridays are regularly scheduled throughout the year and much anticipated at each of the district’s four elementary schools. As kids file into the cafeteria, they notice the tasting table and Farm to School banner and wonder what they’ll be trying. While the kids are eating lunch, Michelle reveals the food item and some fun facts about it, including where it was grown. Volunteers then spread out carrying trays of samples. Many kids excitedly raise their hand for one but others aren’t so sure until they see their classmates enjoying it. Some ask questions or remark on what they’ve tasted and some ask for the recipe to recreate it at home. A few pass and say they’ll try something the next time.

Recently, Hanaford students were delighted to taste mini potatoes that were purple and pink (grown at Ward’s Berry Farm), gold (grown at Muck and Mystery Farm), and white (grown at Schartner Farms) that were roasted together for a crispy and creamy savory treat. These were a big hit! In addition to the thumbs up from students, Michelle has heard from parents who are pleased to know their kids are actually trying and enjoying new fruits and veggies at school as it carries over to what they’ll eat at home. Discovery Fridays are a great way for the cafeteria to become a classroom of engaged learners!

MARCH 2023

PICTURE THIS: PAWTUCKET CREATES ACCESSIBLE MENUS FOR STUDENTS

There are many students that cannot read a school menu to make their lunch choice in the morning – they could be too young to read, multilingual learners or in a special education program. Liz McLellan, a veteran special education teacher in Pawtucket, had long been finding and printing photos of lunch items for her students who could not read to create an alternate “picture menu” for them.

​Ms. McLellan switched to a multilingual learning classroom a couple years ago, but still found that photos were necessary for students who did not yet have a broad English vocabulary. She also discovered that many other teachers were going through the same process to make picture menus for their classrooms – a needless waste of time! The picture menus had all different photos, depending on what individual teachers found on Google. Of course, most of the photos did not look like the actual food item when the kids got into the cafeteria, leading to disappointed kids switching their lunch choices last-minute.

Ms. McLellan and her colleague Crystal Rivera decided to work smarter and create one Google slide show to share with every classroom in their building, eliminating the duplication efforts and ensuring that the photos would be consistent for all the kids. But what about the issue of the photos not matching the food in the cafeteria? Enter the Pawtucket wellness subcomittee and Aramark Food Service Director Josh Brochu, who took over the task of creating the picture menu with better, realistic photos of the actual lunch items!

The picture menus are easily displayed on classroom Smartboards for students to use. The kids love it and there is far less confusion with making lunch choices, as the photos match the food in the lunch line. A problem solved with a little cooperation and ingenuity for the benefit of Pawtucket students!

FEBRUARY 2023

PROVIDENCE'S NATHANAEL GREENE MIDDLE SCHOOL GOES CELL-PHONE FREE WITH YONDR PROGRAM

Health Educator Lynne Smith observed a growing cell phone dependence by her students during the school day. The ever-present phones distracted students during class, disrupted their social interactions with each other, became a source of behavior and discipline issues, and even distracted some students from eating at lunch. Lynne learned about YONDR, a lockable pouch system to create phone-free spaces, and advocated for a partnership to improve engagement and attention in the classroom and interpersonal connections throughout the school. School and district leaders signed on and used a grant to fund a multi-year pilot program. Yondr staff organized a staff and parent presentation to introduce the program and answer questions and, of course, students had their own session to cover the program’s intent and step-by step process before the roll-out. 
 
In January, all students were given a Yondr pouch (labeled with their name and some even creatively personalized with artwork) and four wall mounted unlocking bases were installed at the building exit doors. As students enter school, phones are put into the pouches where they are locked and retained by the student throughout the day. At the end of the day, students are reminded to get their pouches ready and “tap and go” at the unlocking bases at the exit doors to retrieve their phones at dismissal. Staff with dismissal duty are available to help with a handheld unlocking disc. 
 
Teachers, staff, and even students are already experiencing benefits of being cell-phone free at school. Many have noticed a calmer environment and culture. More formal surveys are planned to get evaluation data of this pilot program in the future.

JANUARY 2023

CAN KINDNESS MAKE THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE? STUDENTS AT JOHNSTON FERRI MS SAY YES!

The Ferri Middle School Kindness Crew has a mission to improve their community through intentional acts of kindness, providing environments for belonging and safety, and coaching others in leading in kindness. The group of 27 students who choose to join the club meet weekly, during lunch and/or after school, to plan and carry out kindness activities. Crew members have organized “ Kindness Waves” where they blanket parking lot cars at schools or community businesses with positive affirmation Post-It notes to greet people at the end of their work day. Teachers are also “hit with kindness” with surprise visits and small tokens of appreciation.

Members designed Kindness Crew tshirts to wear and sell to other students and staff with designs such as “Kindness is a Vibe”, “Your Kindness Will Change the World”, “Be Kind to your Mind”, and “Kindness Takes Courage”. These tshirts were on full display earlier in the school year on November 13, World Kindness Day. Club members hosted activities and raffles during lunch and a door decorating competition in celebration and encouraged students to sign the “Kindness Pledge” created by the Crew. The Kindness Club also spreads kindness and models for younger students by visiting the Early Childhood Center and reading kindness themed books to the children. These simple acts of kindness are infectious and the Crew has lots of plans including collaborating with students from the High School as well as observing Mental Health Awareness Month in May 2023.

This is all thanks to Ferri Middle School social worker Rose Molina, who inspires these students to create a positive school culture through acts of kindness in their school and community.

DECEMBER 2022

KICKIN' FOR CANS: GLOBE PARK ELEMENTARY SCHOOL IN WOONSOCKET

Every November, the students of Globe Park Elementary participate in their annual canned food drive. This year the students, families and community donated over 1,000 canned food items for their Feinstein Food Pantry.

As incentive for optimal student participation, there were fun awards for the top 3 classrooms. The class that brought in the most cans was awarded a game of kickball with principal Nichelle Kennel while the second and third place winners earned an extra recess with the school social worker or PE teacher; all prizes selected by the kids themselves.  Globe Park proudly recognizes Ms. Bootland’s 4th grade class as this year’s first place winner for “Kickin’ for Cans & Kickball with Kennell”!

The Globe Park Elementary Feinstein Food Pantry humbly serves any community member who is in need and reaches out to any of our staff for support or assistance. How wonderful to see the Globe Park community’s generosity and compassion and their focus on healthy and fun play!

NOVEMBER 2022

PEER 2 PEER: MAKING A DIFFERENCE AT SOUTH KINGSTOWN HIGH SCHOOL

A club that began at South Kingstown High School in 2018 is more important today, post-pandemic, than ever before. The Peer 2 Peer Depression Awareness Campaign, developed in 2009 by the University of Michigan Depression Center, is designed to help youth with depression, anxiety and other mood disorders by teaching students and staff alike how to recognize the symptoms and encourage those in need to seek help – to reduce stigma, raise awareness, and promote early detection. 

The program’s premise is that adolescents struggling with mental health issues are more likely to respond to their peers than well-meaning adults. Student team members are educated about mental health conditions and then build an awareness campaign to spread their knowledge and understanding to others in the school. At South Kingstown High School, this program is guided by Student Assistance Counselor Katie MacKrell, led by a dedicated student executive board, including senior Aubrey Costello and junior Arden Ford, and supported by the Chris Collins Foundation. The Chris Collins Foundation was formed after the death by suicide of Chris Collins, a student at South Kingstown who had sadly struggled for years with his mental health. Chris’s parents, Mark and Beth Collins, wanted to help in raising awareness of adolescent mental health issues and partnered with the U of Michigan Depression Center to bring their evidence-based program to SKHS.

Mary Kutcher, a science teacher at SKHS, has seen the positive impact of the P2P program on the school environment. “The Peer-to-Peer mascot is a huge stuffed bear named Pierre, who has a backpack with stickers and mental health awareness materials.  I have had the mascot in my classroom and the students have been very interested and receptive. This type of outreach is reducing the stigma of mental health needs and letting kids know it’s okay to need help, which is very important for teenagers who tend to think they are the only ones having a problem.”

And social studies teacher Anne Hathaway agrees. “The Peer to Peer program has had a tremendous impact on South Kingstown High School. It inspires students and adults to work together, promoting the message that, no one is alone, and there is always hope. Navigating the realities that we all face today is difficult, no matter what our ages are. I am thankful for the program and the necessary tools that are shared with our school community. Cheers to Pierre [the bear] – he’s the best bear ever! We all look forward to having him in our classes to share his inspiration. Gratitude and appreciation to all.” 

Inspired by the success at the high school, Curtis Corner Middle School has also created a Peer 2 Peer club, helping to recognize and treat mental health issues even earlier, giving kids who are struggling with issues a better chance at happiness and success. To find out how your school can get involved in the Peer2Peer program, reach out to chriscollinsfoundation@gmail.com

SEPTEMBER 2022

​NEWPORT'S PELL ELEMENTARY’S NEW HYBRID BREAKFAST

​Pell Elementary teachers learned the benefits of breakfast in the classroom (BIC) at the start of the school day during the pandemic. All students had food to fuel their brains so there was greater equity and it became a community-building activity and a more organized way to start the school day. The teachers only wish was that some of the popular breakfast items (pancakes, breakfast sandwiches, scrambled eggs) could be added to the BIC menu. This was a challenge for Chartwells food service staff, who had to box and transport 500 breakfasts to classrooms each day. 
 
And that’s when principal Traci Westman had a brilliant idea!  A HYBRID BREAKFAST MODEL where breakfast would continue in the classroom but once per week each grade level (K-4) would be scheduled for hot breakfast in the cafeteria. With only one grade level in the cafeteria each morning, there would be plenty of space, food service staff, and time for students to comfortably enjoy and practice healthy eating and cafeteria etiquette. Paraeducators would be on hand for oversight and teachers would have the option to join their class for breakfast in the cafeteria. There are even plans to invite special guests to join the kids for their weekly cafeteria meal with superintendent Colleen Jermain being the first to volunteer and share a read-aloud story.
 
The new hybrid breakfast model, in partnership with Chartwells, starts the first full week of school – students and teachers at Pell Elementary will get the benefits of both classroom and hot cafeteria breakfasts this year!

JUNE 2022

WARWICK'S ROBERTSON ELEMENTARY STUDENTS LEARN TAEKWONDO!

When Robertson Elementary PE/Health educator Brianna Brigidi joined forces with Master Lee’s U.S. Taekwondo of Cranston, her classes of third and fifth graders learned some fancy moves; more importantly, they learned about focus, teamwork and the importance of physical activity through this ancient Korean form of martial arts.

Instructors from Master Lee’s worked with students for four weeks at no charge as a way of helping students in the community and sharing Taekwondo with some who otherwise wouldn’t have the chance to participate in classes. Master Lee’s school coordinator Miss Vada C and instructors Master Chan and Master Yeon worked with Ms. Brigidi to safely introduce Taekwondo into her PE lessons and properly align it with the curriculum and standards at Robertson. 

Proud students showcased their newly acquired skills at an outdoor ceremony on May 11th, with families, reporters, Superintendent Lynn Dambruch, and Assistant Superintendent William McCaffrey in attendance to marvel at the Taekwondo progress made in just four weeks! Families were recruited to take part in the culminating board breaking with their children. Ms. Brigidi said she could see that the students, while having fun with a new activity, also showed increased self-esteem and confidence, proving that martial arts is more than just learning self-defense skills. It also teaches focus, social skills, respect, courtesy and perseverance, critical social-emotional qualities to develop for lifelong success. 
 
Congratulations to Brianna Brigidi, her very supportive principal Brian Dillon, and the team from Master Lee’s U.S. Taekwondo, who donated their time, for giving Robertson Elementary students this unique and valuable experience!

MAY 2022

NORTH KINGSTOWN HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS ARE INVESTED IN FARM TO SCHOOL

North Kingstown Schools are proud of their longtime active Farm to School programs. Local produce, dairy and other products (salsa, tomato sauce, etc.) from local farms and area food producers regularly show up in cafeteria meals. Schools use gardens and growing activities for hand-on teaching and learning. All to build community with families and celebrate the vitality of a local food system.   
 
One group of interested and incredibly industrious students wanted to personally explore local growing and eating right at their high school. Students from the Climate Club, Engineering Club and Art Club joined forces to conceptualize, design, build and decorate a Grow Cart. They did a lot of research into seeds, soil, light, fertilizer and water and put a lot of elbow grease into the construction of a functional and attractive cart. It was even designed with removable lights so it has indoor/outdoor capability!

The students’ hard work, which is supported by the school food service program and administration, certainly paid off! The Cart has a place of honor in the school cafeteria and has already successfully produced lettuces and herbs that the students harvested. Fresh rosemary, chives, parsley, dill, mint, lemon verbena and cilantro grown right in the cafeteria have been introduced in recipes and garnish on many lunch plates. Delicious! The Grow Cart will relocate to Davisville Middle School in June where summer school students will plant, grow and harvest throughout the summer.

APRIL 2022

​LITTLE COMPTON FOCUSES ON STAFF WELLNESS

​Wilbur McMahon School in Little Compton hosts an annual Wellness Week, organized by superstars Carolyn Sedgwick, Director of Human Resources and PE/Health Educator Noelle Kiernan, which includes daily initiatives for both staff AND students. They’ve graciously shared their awesome DAILY STUDENT ACTIVITIES and RESOURCES HERE for anyone to gain inspiration and ideas for your own future school wellness week.  Be sure to take a look!
 
And recognizing that the wellness needs of staff were more important than ever this year, they adopted a unique theme and thoughtful gestures to demonstrate their commitment to staff wellness.
 
Positivity and Phytonutrients
 
POSITIVITY: Every day a “small change” that can create lasting positivity was highlighted. These included:
Mindfulness/Meditation – free gift subscription for all staff to headspace.com
Journaling – to record positive experiences
Random Acts of Kindness – starting with a schoolwide food drive that collected nearly 1000 items for the local food pantry
Gratitude – writing down three things to be grateful for every day
Exercise – good for mental health, with giveaways of exercise bands, jump ropes, pedometers, and fun balls
 
PHYTONUTRIENTS: Phytonutrients are natural compounds found in plant foods such as vegetables, fruit, whole grain products and legumes, identifiable by the color of the food where they’re found. Phytonutrient health information was provided and aligned with the students’ color of the day.

Food Service provider Chartwells contributed fruit and herb infused water, free salads and free tacos on Taco Tuesday for all staff. Superintendent Laurie Dias-Mitchell brought in healthy breakfast items on Thursday to nourish staff members’ minds, bodies, and souls, and on Friday, assorted quiches were served for breakfast in the staff room. Perhaps the highlight of the week was when the Parent, Student, Teacher (PST) organization sponsored a massage therapist. Staff members were able to sign up for 15-minute chair massages throughout the day. This may just have to be a new tradition for Staff Wellness Week at WMS!

MARCH 2022

PAWTUCKET CELEBRATES NATIONAL SCHOOL BREAKFAST WEEK

It’s National School Breakfast Week (March 7-11, 2022) and many RI schools are celebrating to create greater awareness of this important school nutrition program.  All kids should start their day of learning with the fuel needed to be focused, energized, and happy.  And now, due to USDA Covid waivers, the School Breakfast Program (SBP) is available to ALL students at no charge! Serving breakfast at school is an equitable way to ensure every child has access and help time-strapped families with busy morning routines.  Check out RIDE’s Healthy School Meals School Breakfast Expansion Toolkit for strategies to improve breakfast and increase participation.

Pawtucket Schools and Food Service Provider Aramark have teamed up for a special elementary school week to celebrate this most important meal of the day!  Breakfast is provided at the start of each school day, whether delivered to classrooms or from centrally located grab & go kiosks, depending on the needs of each school.  Teachers often use breakfast time to explore simple nutrition themes while getting the classroom set for the day. Each day of this week a special breakfast item is being offered to students along with some fun novelty items. Hot breakfast sandwiches will surely be a hit during the cold weather, and locally produced items including  include Shri oat rounds and muffins, CranPeary smoothies (local cranberries), and NEW FreshPrep oat pudding parfaits will be highlighted. Kids will love the stickers, wristbands, and reusable cups and bring them home to share the message of the importance of breakfast.

FEBRUARY 2022

RICHMOND ELEMENTARY: A HEALTH & WELLNESS SPECIALTY SCHOOL

​Principal Sharon Martin, staff, students, and families at Richmond Elementary School share a common interest and commitment to physical and mental health.  It permeates everything at the school and they are known as a Health & Wellness Specialty School in their district of Chariho. Each month of the school year, a different health topic is addressed including nutrition, cardiovascular and muscular endurance, flexibility, hydration, mindfulness, and sleep. Throughout the year, principal Martin enlists the student council (grade 4) to help lead a school-wide challenge. The December Challenge for past two years has been all about fruit and veggies.  

Students are motivated to try and enjoy a greater variety of fruits and vegetables, along with some friendly competition. Classrooms are divided into teams (aptly named after fruits & veggies) and students track what they eat in school and at home on log sheets. Student council members oversee collecting, totalling and displaying this data for everyone to monitor, and even provide simple nutrition lessons such as MyPlate and Healthy Food Choices to their classmates. Everyone gets involved in the Challenge and excited about the announcement of the winning team. Team Banana tallied up 911 servings!! Winning teams are treated to virtual field trips and presentations from Sky Dog Farms, where students grew pea shoots, and Steere Orchard, where they tasted locally grown apple varieties.  Richmond Elementary creates an environment where health and wellness is integrated, supported, and celebrated! 

JANUARY 2022

PORTSMOUTH MIDDLE SCHOOL: ALL STUDENTS BENEFIT FROM PLAY & MOVEMENT

​You might not think of RECESS as being a part of a middle school day but Portsmouth Middle School staff and administrators recognize the value of outdoor play and socialization for all their 5-8 grade students.

Daily 25 minute recess periods for 5th and 6th graders have always been scheduled to give students a movement break and free time away from the structure and guidance of an adult. As soon as the doors open for recess, the children go running out to the fields and blacktop with equipment in hand full of excitement and relief to get outside. Teachers love seeing them run around, play organized games of football, soccer, 4 square, or basketball or use their imagination to make up games or use activities/skills learned in PE.

Some students use the time to simply walk around and be social with friends.  And now, as a result of covid times, staff and administrators have added a 25 minute MOVEMENT BREAK for 7th and 8th graders, around three times a week.  Students can get outdoors, get their bodies moving, socialize with classmates, and have a break from mask wearing.  A movement break in the middle of the school day is the perfect way to give ALL students time to reenergize and refocus for afternoon classes while practicing important social skills.

DECEMBER 2021

WESTERLY HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT CLUB: CREATING A CULTURE OF RESPECT AND INCLUSION

“I pledge to look for the lonely, the isolated, the left out, the challenged and the bullied. I pledge to overcome the fear of difference and replace it with the power of inclusion.  I #ChooseToInclude.” Students at Westerly High School recently took this pledge to heart as part of an annual Choose to Include Pledge Day. This year, in addition to taking the pledge, they also had an opportunity to take part in an expressive activity.  Each grade 9-12 was assigned a word – Respect, Acceptance, Inclusion or Unity – and students were asked to describe what the word meant to them on a cut-out paper apple. The paper apples were collected for display on tree murals painted in the school hallways for viewing and reflection.

This year’s club co-presidents, Juniors Chloe Turano and Dominick Lombard, have been members from the beginning, and have noticed their classmates are taking the mission more seriously and realizing being kind and understanding is important to everyone’s mental health, maybe as a result of the Covid pandemic.  “We’re going through this together and we’ll be stronger together”, noted Chloe and Dominick. School social worker Terry Castagna, the club’s advisor, initially brought the idea to Westerly after being inspired by a similar program at Foster-Glocester’s Ponaganset High School. She says, “This club is really about the students leading the school into a more caring, non-judgmental, inclusive culture.”   

NOVEMBER 2021

​RECESS ROCKS HALLOWEEN IN NORTH SMITHFIELD!

North Smithfield Elementary is a Recess Rocks in RI rockstar!  A school team completed the RRIRI core training in 2020 and the RRIRI youth leadership training just last week on October 28th.  They continue to utilize many strategies and games, including “Rock, Paper, Scissors”, for more meaningful, safe, and inclusive play for their students.  “Rock, Paper, Scissors” is taught as a tool to solve minor disputes on the playground or even in the classroom and kids (and teachers) love it.  The Diel family (pictured here), with a 2nd grader at NSES, took this strategy to heart at home as they modeled it for Halloween this year.  How creative!
 
Play is more important than ever this year to help kids get active, have fun, and build valuable social and emotional skills. RI public and charter elementary schools can get engaged with Recess Rocks with FREE resources, including staff training, consultation sessions, and digital services, thanks to generous funding from Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island.  

SEPTEMBER 2021

​UNSUNG HEROES – SCHOOL NUTRITION PROFESSIONALS

​From classroom teachers to bus drivers and principals to school nurses, we’ve applauded the extraordinary efforts of school staff over the past 18 months of the COVID pandemic. One group of school staff that aren’t often in the limelight and who’ve been essential to the health and safety of kids are our food service workers.  These men and women rallied from the very start to help feed children through these extraordinary times and continue their dedicated work into another school year.

Our national partner No Kid Hungry produced a video highlighting the efforts of Atlanta Public Schools, but it certainly captures the commitment RI’s school nutrition professionals have as well, and WE THANK THEM for continuing to feed our kids through these very challenging times. 

Please watch – it is heartwarming and inspirational! 

JUNE 2021

NORTH PROVIDENCE HIGH SCHOOL GETS ZEN WITH MISS JEN

Social worker Jennifer Hockenhull arrived at North Providence High School last year with a passion for working with differently-abled students and a belief in the power of self-care. She’s learned that the body-mind connection is an important component to teen well-being and academic success. She began developing programs to enhance mental health and to give students time and space to decompress – quickly becoming known as “Zen with Miss Jen”.

Students from Life Skills classes, students with IEPs, or any number of students who come to her for services take part in guided imagery, breathing exercises, conflict resolution, mindfulness and more, and gain practical skills to help stay grounded and alleviate stress and anxiety. This was especially important this past school year with all of the additional concerns and burdens on young people due to the covid pandemic. She witnessed the positive impact of the services on her students and says “the entire NPHS community understands the need for social-emotional education and support” and feels incredibly supported by all of her colleagues to continue and expand her work.

She’s already thinking of an after school program to offer expressive therapy and yoga.  She wants there to be a fun place where students can go to be in the moment without heavy expectations and learn and practice the skills of self-care. Go, Miss Jen!

MAY 2021

​WASHINGTON COUNTY HEALTHY BODIES, HEALTHY MINDS (HBHM) GETS NORTH KINGSTOWN KIDS HOPPING

​Imagine the delight the young students at Fishing Cove, Quidnessett, Stony Lane and Davisville Academy in North Kingstown will have when they return to their school playgrounds in September and find new and colorful hopscotch courts ready for jumping, skipping and playing with classmates. While hopscotch is plain old fun for kids, the simple game involves balance, eye/hand coordination, rhythm, strength and more.  And these special HBHM hopscotch templates include the 5-2-1-0 Every Day messaging…. 5 or more servings of fruits & veggies, 2 hours or less recreational screen time, 1 hour or more of physical activity and 0 sugary drinks. So health and wellness concepts are reinforced and spark conversations while students and adults are out on the playground together! 

Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds will paint (yes…their staff does the work!) the 5210 Hopscotch template at any school in Washington County over the summer.  Contact Cindy Buxton at cbuxton@southcountyhealth.org for more information.  

APRIL 2021

WESTERLY MIDDLE SCHOOL DISCOVERY GARDEN IS SPRINGING BACK TO LIFE

Not only are many students and school staff at Westerly Middle School anxious to see their garden spring back to life but they’re super excited about plans for expansion thanks to a grant from the Westerly Education Endowment Fund (WEEF). The 30×30 foot garden with 8 raised beds designed to grow a variety of vegetables, herbs and edible flowers and a central star-shaped perennial bed will soon accommodate designs for unique pollinator, bird, memorial, and reading spaces! 

The vision for the garden began in 2016 when long-time colleagues Michelle Diaz and Desiree Derix dreamed of an outdoor learning space where students could engage in any number of academic and social lessons through observation, discovery, experimentation, and cooperation in the natural world. These two dynamic educators received an initial WEEF grant and funding from the People’s Garden Project to make their vision a reality and to welcome students in an after-school Garden Club.

COVID may have interrupted the gardening activities for a time but the work has begun again. a new grant from the district Education Endowment Fund is helping to support infrastructure improvement. A shed, workbench with sink, and covered gazebo are either finished or under construction (student and/or community volunteer designed and built), enabling the new creative gardening spaces to be designed and planted.  It’s clearly a labor of love for Michelle and Desiree but it shouldn’t be intimidating. they don’t think anyone interested in starting a school garden should be intimidated.  “It’s really as simple as asking for help” says Michelle, who credits the support of many parents, teachers, community volunteers and the building principal as the secret sauce of success.  And also custodian Bob Cahoone who she says is totally indispensable! 

MARCH 2021

​WE SALUTE SUPER HERO SCHOOL NURSE TEACHERS

When schools abruptly shut down last spring, students, families and staff were concerned about COVID-19 and the impact on their loved ones and larger community.  Right away North Smithfield Elementary school nurse teacher Salpi O’Neill went into action and hasn’t stopped!

North Smithfield administrators valued Salpi’s health expertise and she had a strong role in the district’s safe reopening plan in September. Her commitment to developing and enforcing COVID health practices and protocols, overseeing daily student health attestations, family outreach and contact tracing, BINAXNow asymptomatic testing, and healthcare coordination has given the school’s families and staff confidence. And in addition to all of the new COVID responsibilities, Salpi continues to manage student health screenings (dental, hearing, and vision) and the KidsNET district database, manage student chronic health conditions, offer injury care, administer medications, assist with pre-K and K student registrations and provide the safe haven for children who are anxious, irritable, worrisome and experiencing physical complaints without medical explanations.  All in a routine day’s work.  But Salfi loves her job and couldn’t imagine working anywhere else! 

Props to ALL school nurse teachers and districts that value all SNTs’ public health expertise to ensure a safe and healthy school environment!  

FEBRUARY 2021

SMITHFIELD PUBLIC SCHOOLS OFFER PARENTS REAL LIFE. REAL TALK.

Children and teens naturally have a lot of questions about bodies, relationships, and sexuality!  And parents/caregivers should be the primary educators for their children, but how many feel comfortable and confident with the topic? 

To help parents navigate this sensitive space, the Smithfield wellness committee offered a virtual Real Life. Real Talk. presentation with Planned Parenthood of Southern New England.  Twenty intrepid parents joined via zoom to learn how to have open, honest, and age appropriate conversations with their children about sexuality and relationships. Learn more out about the Real Life. Real Talk. presentation or other teen sexual health and relationships programs by contacting  Brittany.Huffman@ppsne.org.

DECEMBER 2020

CRANSTON PUBLIC SCHOOLS: USDA 2020 PHOTO CONTEST WINNER!

School meals look a bit different now due to the circumstances of Covid 19 so we’re even more excited to recognize an award-winning entrée served in Cranston high schools earlier this year! The USDA sponsored a photo contest and received over 250 recipe entries from 38 states featuring creative uses of direct-delivered USDA foods.  And one of our very own Rhode Island districts was named a winner!  CONGRATULATIONS CRANSTON! The Pork Carnitas Bowl over Cilantro Lime Rice with Lime Crema recipe was developed and served by Aramark to students at both of the Cranston high schools earlier this year.  

It was an immediate hit and Aramark had plans to include it on the menu rotation. But with serving disruptions and modifications due to COVID, meals for now are mostly prepackaged and served grab & go style. So Cranston high school students will have to wait a bit longer to dig into this flavorful and healthy take on a Mexican carnitas. It will surely be worth the wait!

NOVEMBER 2020

LITTLE COMPTON’S WILBUR MCMAHON SCHOOL BUILDS COMMUNITY THROUGH SEL PROGRAMS

Without doubt, the COVID-19 pandemic has heightened the need and commitment to the school’s SEL program.  But Wilbur McMahon has had dedicated time and space to address real-time issues and social-emotional skill development and practice for several years.  K-5 classrooms incorporate the Open Circle curriculum and the 6-8th grades incorporate Choose Love into their Advisory periods, giving all students and staff time to feel grounded, express feelings, be heard, get connected and develop healthy relationships. 

The staff has all received training but get continual coaching from principal Sonya Whipp and school social worker/counselor Mary Elizabeth Miller. Classroom teachers also get instructional support during the SEL blocks. Health teachers join the K-5 Open Circle time and the school’s specialists (music, art, library, tech, reading, language) support homeroom teachers during middle school SEL advisories. This has allowed kids and teachers to mix differently and get to know and interact with each other in new ways.  The focus on SEL gives all Wilbur McMahon staff intentional time to feel the pulse of how students are doing, engage them and adapt to their needs depending on what’s happening.

OCTOBER 2020

LAPERCHE ELEMENTARY IN SMITHFIELD ENJOYS LOCAL KALE FOR NATIONAL FARM TO SCHOOL MONTH

LaPerche students used a variety of senses to guess the ingredients in the kale salad prepared by Chartwells as part of a Discovery Kitchen event on October 7th. Principal Julie Dorsey led the “Guess the Recipe” game during outdoor lunch to make sampling the kale salad fun for all.

Students were successful at identifying 11 of the 12 ingredients but the orange juice stumped everyone! Not only did they discover a love for the healthy new salad but they also learned fun facts about kale and Confreda Farm in Cranston, where it was grown. Smithfield Public Schools has been awarded a USDA Farm to School grant to build momentum and sustainability for the local purchasing and educational initiatives that promote healthy eating in all of their schools.     

SEPTEMBER 2020

FREE MEALS FOR STUDENTS & SOUTHSIDE CHARTER "TAKES IT OUTSIDE"

Most everything about school looks different this year, including school meals. Because large groups can’t gather, students must eat where they can socially distance in small groups, which usually means the classroom. But some schools are getting creative and using safer outdoor spaces for lunch, including SouthSide Elementary Charter School in Providence, thanks to grant funding from Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign. Who doesn’t love al fresco dining?  Even Governor Raimondo is promoting the use of outdoor adaptations with the #TakeItOutsideRI campaign!

Indoors or outdoors, ALL students in schools that participate in federal school meal programs (all district public schools and charters; check with your independent school) can access free meals through December 31 of this year, due to a USDA decision giving greater flexibility to schools as a consequence of COVID-19.  Free meals are available at Grab & Go sites (see LIST) for distance learning students and at schools for in-person students. Most programs will adjust menus and available options as they adapt to the new environment and changing conditions.

JUNE 2020

VIRTUAL DISTRICT WELLNESS MEETINGS

Barrington, Chariho, East Greenwich, Little Compton, Narragansett, Portsmouth, Smithfield and South Kingstown held virtual wellness meetings while we’re all working from home, with fantastic attendence by committee members! 

Much of our yearly school wellness activity begins with our RIHSC Breakfast for School Wellness Leaders event in the fall and ends with final district wellness meetings scheduled at the end of the school calendar.  In between, there’s a whole lot that happens in school communities across the state to support healthy environments that help all children thrive.  But this year is certainly ending differently. Who could have ever imagined virtual field days, masked meal pickups and drive-in graduations? 

Yet in the midst of these challenges, ongoing distance learning and planning for an uncertain reopening in September, these 8 districts have managed to convene wellness meetings of committed staff, parents and community members.  These meetings have addressed concerns and creative adaptations to physical, mental and social-emotional wellbeing during quarantine and school closures and the anticipated needs when schools reopen and welcome back students.  Count on RIHSC to support these district wellness efforts as we all move forward together.   See you – in-person or virtually – in September! 

MAY 2020

INNOVATION IN THE TIME OF COVID-19

Our “new normal” for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year has pushed us all to be creative in adapting to distance learning, getting meals to kids who need them, and communicating with students, families and school colleagues. A few of the great ideas we heard about include East Providence school buses delivering meals to students at their regular bus stops; school nurse teachers using videos and newsletters to connect with students and staff and offer help;  and PE educators using dance competitions and video sharing platforms to record and share dance moves with each other. 

We are sure there are countless other innovative and wonderful ways food service and school folks have come up with to meet the needs of their students and have a little fun….until the normal we know returns!

APRIL 2020

COVID-19 AND DISTANCE LEARNING IN THE NEWS

Governor Raimondo closed all schools, insituted distance learning, and issued a stay at home order for the state of Rhode Island in mid-March. As a result, school food service leaped into action to provide grab & go meals for students. It was a herculean effort by school food service and the RIDE Child Nutrition staff, who quickly organized a safe statewide meal site system to provide food for students during school closures.  

School administrators, teachers, psychologists, aides, custodians AND students also deserve a high five for making distance learning work through the end of the school year work while we all STAY HOME and safely social distance.

MARCH 2020

THESE CENTRAL FALLS KIDS KNOW THE COMPONENTS OF HEALTH-RELATED FITNESS

Cardio Endurance, Muscular Strength, Muscular Endurance, Flexibility and Body Composition all are associated with functional health (which is a term used to describe elements of physical fitness that are associated with overall good health and not athletic ability or athletic skill).  Participating in regular health-related fitness helps prevent disease and illness, helps control weight, improves mood, boosts energy and promotes better sleep. 

Veterans Memorial PE teacher Kirk Hamel is a true believer in starting physical literacy early and introducing his young students to the concepts of health-related fitness through fun and engaging calisthenics and activities. Fitness assessments (both pre and post testing each year) are incorporated privately, accurately and quickly while other students are doing personal calisthenics to ensure there isn’t an environment of competition and all students are comfortable.  Students can begin to set personal goals that are realistic and attainable for their own body while gaining an intrinsic value for the benefits of physical activity. 

 Kirk’s ultimate goal is to instill a positive experience, foundational understanding and commitment to fitness with his students. It’s all about developing healthy habits that can be a springboard for a lifetime of health and wellness and can even impact the behaviors of parents/guardians at home! 

FEBRUARY 2020

​STUDENTS ADVOCATE FOR PLANT-BASED MEAL OPTION

The Met (state-operated public Metropolitan Reginal Career and Technical School), in partnership with One Meal a Day for the Planet, has begun offering a hot, plant-based meal option every day.

The Met’s decision to serve one plant-based meal a day came as a direct response to student voice and choice. A few Met students, over a period of two school years, completed rigorous project work to justify and develop a plan for adding plant-based options to their school menu. Chief among the student’s rationale was the need to adapt school food to growing student preference for plant-based foods and to address and mitigate the linkage between animal agriculture and human-made climate change.

The Met School Food Service has worked with the students and One Meal a Day for the Planet to prepare tasty recipes in accordance with USDA school meal nutrition standards that can easily be added to the menu.  And these new plant-based choices, including baked pasta with grilled vegan sausage & mixed veggies, curried rice, beans & veggies, and broccoli, kale & spinach bake seem to be pleasing students and staff alike!

JANUARY 2020

​MAKING HEALTHY MATTER FOR TIVERTON SCHOOL STAFF

Tiverton Assistant Superintendent Amy Donnelly-Roche recognizes how an Employee Wellness Program can help keep teachers and staff healthy, productive, less stressed and more engaged. And when teachers and school staff prioritize their own health and wellness, they’re more likely to support healthy school policies and can positively influence the behaviors of students.

Asst. Superintendent Donnelly-Roche works with the RI Interlocal Risk Management Trust to identify and organize a menu of physical activity, nutrition and wellbeing offerings, free of charge for all participants. These can be self-directed challenges (via an online portal), workshops, or ongoing classes such as Decompression Yoga, which are scheduled with community businesses. 

A January workshop, Mood Foods, with Chartwells Executive Chef Steve DaFonseca, will demonstrate how the right foods can make you feel your best and an upcoming February workshop, Drums Alive!, will be a fun and active way for people to celebrate Heart Month. Go, Tiverton!

DECEMBER 2019

INSTAGRAM PAGE HELPS TEENS GET HEALTHY

​A group of students participated in the GENYOUTH AdCap Innovation Health & Wellness Challenge and developed the idea for #ClippersFitrition, a social media platform where healthy fitness and nutrition challenges would be promoted with the Cumberland High School community, students and staff.  The Instagram page has gained over 600 followers in the first two months! Two challenges, one focused on fitness and one on healthy eating, are posted each month with followers sharing photos of themselves taking part to be entered into a raffle to win prizes, such as water bottles, fitness gift certificates and baskets, that have been funded with the AdCap prize money. Plans are underway to establish other sources and utilize school-related prizes like dance/prom tickets and parking passes.
 
Recent Challenges have included creating lean protein salads, going on a hike or completing a ten minute run, all with specific directions on the Instagram post. The November nutrition challenge asked followers to repurpose thanksgiving leftovers into healthy lunch options and they’re looking to collaborate with their Sodexo food service program with healthy cafeteria challenges as well! Even principal Adolfo Costa has been up for the challenge and fun by posting a recent photo of his 10 minute run while vacationing in London!

NOVEMBER 2019

MRS. ROSA'S MILK CLUB AT AQUIDNECK SCHOOL​

School Nurse Teacher Cheryl Rosa noticed lots of kids in her elementary school cafeteria drinking chocolate milk.  She tells them “there are sometimes foods/drinks and there are everyday foods/drinks” as part of her health lesson to teach kids about making healthy choices.  But the appeal of chocolate milk was so strong, she thought up a creative and effective way to get her students to drink more plain milk and save the chocolate for a special treat. Mrs. Rosa’s Milk Club was born!

She purchased a supply of colored pencils engraved with “Mrs. Rosa’s Milk Club” that act as prizes for students who choose and drink plain milk.  And she visits the cafeteria during lunch to see who is drinking plain milk and gives them a blue (same color as the 1% lowfat plain milk carton) plain milk club slip that gets put in the Milk Club bucket with their name.  At the end of the week, she randomly chooses two slips with the names of students who win the pencil prize. And it works! Cheryl says more and more of them are forgoing the extra sugar and sweetness of the chocolate milk in favor of getting used to plain milk, an important source of calcium and vitamin D.  

OCTOBER 2019

"DON'T QUIT" FITNESS CENTERS OPEN IN 3 RI SCHOOLS!

The National Foundation for Governors’ Fitness Councils gifted 3 RI schools with $100,000 fitness centers. Slater Middle School in Pawtucket, Citizens-Pothier Elementary in Woonsocket, and Gilbert Stuart Middle School in Providence were selected to receive the free state-of-the-art equipment after submitting the winning video applications (among many in RI) in the “Don’t Quit” campaign, last spring.

Council chairman and nationally known fitness icon Jake Steinfeld was on hand at all three schools, delivering inspiring remarks and encouragement to the students. The schools’ collective vision for providing their students (and staff and families!) greater access to fitness opportunities before, during and after school goes hand-in-hand with their commitment to academic focus and learning outcomes.

SEPTEMBER 2019

START THE SCHOOL YEAR WITH A HEALTH PROMOTION PLAN!

Kick off the school year with a list of fun and healthy events, even if it’s just a couple, to get kids moving and engage families! The Learning Community, a K-8 charter school in Central Falls, along with its longtime Phys Ed teacher Ella Rodriguez, has an impressive history of healthy living events and initiatives throughout the school year!

TLC begins in the fall with Parents Food for Life and Kids Food for Life, nutrition education and cooking classes for students and their families.  March is Nutrition Month, which TLC celebrates with an annual Family Nutrition Night, which draws 200-300 people each year! May is Fitness Month, and TLC encourages parents, older siblings, teachers, school staff, and community members to stop by and participate in a PE class with the students. New to the school in 2019 was UNICEF Kid Power, a unique program that combines classroom activity breaks and helping malnourished children around the world – “brain breaks with a lifesaving purpose”. The culmination of TLC’s Fitness Month activities is the Let’s Move! Fitness Festival. For 9 straight years, over 350 students, family and community members, and school staff gather to get active and have fun! What a great way to combine exercise, fresh air and family/community engagement. Nice going, Learning Community 🙂

JUNE 2019

ACES AT ROCKWELL ELEMENTARY IN BRISTOL

What could be more simple, more fun and encourages EVERYONE to GET MOVING?!  Rockwell Elementary School, as part of a Bristol-Warren Regional Schools program, has been organizing an annual Project ACES event for 30 years.  That’s a long run for any annual event so you know this one has tremendous appeal and is worth the effort!!  

Project ACES (All Children Exercising Simultaneously) is a global program that was started by a New Jersey PE teacher in 1989 and has since grown a following all over the world!  Bristol PE teachers heard about it that first year and planned a district-wide event which carries on today.  The simple idea is for ALL school children (and adults too!) to exercise at a designated time and date in May.  The Bristol-Warren schools go BIG with music, invited dignitaries and family, and the continued involvement of PE teachers who teach fun dances to the students in PE class leading up to ACES day.  It’s a tradition that everyone looks forward to and promotes the importance of being physically active. 

MAY 2019

​"LUNCH & LEARN" AT MIDDLETOWN HIGH SCHOOL

At Middletown High School, students can head to the library at lunchtime for “Lunch & Learn” Wednesdays. They bring their bagged lunch from home, stop in the café to purchase lunch or eat the veggies & hummus, fresh fruit and cheese & crackers provided in the library.  And while they eat, they learn about topics from stress reduction and mindfulness strategies, mental health awareness, building healthy relationships, balancing calories and nutrition to the importance of sleep and the truth about vaping.   

​Students discuss topics of interest and concern to them and work with the Prevention Coalition to identify presenters and get the word out to their classmates through posters, flyers, email and word of mouth. The series has been well-received by students and staff alike.  Says principal Gail Ponte: “It’s great that students are looking for ways to make themselves healthier in mind, body and spirit in this 24/7 busy world!”

APRIL 2019

TEACHING NUTRITION: REWARDING & FUN FOR E.G. HIGH SCHOOL SENIOR

Caroline Reilly, a three-season athlete at EGHS, values healthful eating and loves working with children, so teaching nutrition to kids was a natural topic for her senior project.  While working alongside her mentor, URI Snap-Ed Registered Dietitian Paula Paolino, Caroline volunteered at two different summer programs; the YWCA in Woonsocket and the Learning Community in Central Falls. Each week, she guided children through interactive learning activities featuring fruits and veggies, taught them how to prepare simple healthy snacks and got them active with some games.  Her favorite activity was the “Fruit and Veggie Dance Relay” where everyone learned about fruits and vegetables while performing a variety of dance moves!  Check out this terrific video Caroline made for URI to use in their programs to encourage more kids to eat healthy.

Congratulations Caroline!! Job well done.  

MARCH 2019

HEALTHY NEW DISHES FOR ATHLETES (AND EVERYONE)!

The Athlete’s Choice program at North Smithfield High School is a partnership with PE teacher Christina Lima, students and Chartwells Food Service. Chartwells chefs developed breakfast and lunch recipes specifically designed to nourish and fuel athletes.  

First, PE students learned during class how food is transformed into energy and building blocks for their bodies. The better the food, the better the energy and fitness!  Next, they tasted and selected a number of dishes for sampling to their classmates during lunch, which has resulted in regular cafeteria taste-testings of new, delicious and healthy choices that everyone (not just athletes!) can love, such as Korean BBQ Rice Bowls and Philly Steak & Cheese Rice Bowls. YUM. And students’ feedback counts – the most popular dishes then become regular menu items! ​Well done, North Smithfield High School and Chartwells!

FEBRUARY 2019

COLLABERATION = HAPPY, HEALTHY KIDS READY TO LEARN

​Narragansett Elementary School offers before/after school care onsite provided by the South County YMCA with Mr. Chris, who heard about and then attended a BOKS training.sponsored by the University of Rhode Island. BOKS (Build Our Kids’ Success – www.bokskids.org) is built on the simple fact that physical activity, especially before school, can improve both classroom performance and behavior. It teaches motor skills, functional fitness movements and teamwork, while building confidence and healthy habits.

Mr. Chris incorporates the BOKS curriculum  with the students twice a week.  “Everybody can participate and play,” said Mr. Chris, as he led a group of eager and active kids through a jumping routine. “The kids know when it’s a BOKS day and always come prepared wearing sneakers.”  Teachers also notice when it’s a BOKS day and notice that the students who participate are more settled and ready to learn when the instructional day begins.  

Mr. Chris wants more NES students to have fun and get the BOKS benefit so he’s working with the PTO to offer spots to students who aren’t a part of the YMCA childcare program. Nice work South County YMCA and BOKS!

JANUARY 2019

COVENTRY'S MIDDLE SCHOOL CHOOSES LOVE

At Alan Shawn Feinstein Middle School in Coventry, ASFMS staff discussed ways to address social-emotional learning (SEL) with students. They came up with several great ideas to implement this school year, and the programs are in full swing!

The biggest commitment is the school’s adoption of the Jesse Lewis Choose Love Enrichment Program, a no-cost social and emotional learning program, delivering a ready-made curriculum aimed at making school culture one of safety, peace and love, while addressing the bullying issue and creating a sense of belonging to the school community for both students and staff. Additionally, each day at ASFMS begins with a mindfulness exercise during morning announcements to give students a sense of calm and ready them for a day of learning. Faculty meetings begin the same way. There is a yoga room for students who could benefit from some extra relaxation and the Alternative Learning Center is equipped with softer lighting and music, creating a peaceful atmosphere to decompress. 

ASFMS is dedicated to educating the “whole child” by teaching their students vital academic AND social-emotional skills they can use for a lifetime. GREAT JOB, ASFMS team!

DECEMBER 2018

HIGH FIVES TO SCITUATE

On “HIGH FIVE FRIDAY”, Scituate elementary school students get a super special greeting when they walk into school. On Friday mornings, Scituate High School students travel to one of the town’s three elementary schools to welcome the kiddos to school with a receiving line of high fives, and then join them on the playground for before-school recess. 

We visited Clayville Elementary on a recent Friday to see the program in action, when six members of the SHS girls volleyball team came to interact with the Clayville kids. What a great, feel-good program that touches on social emotional well-being as well as healthy physical activity with the extra before-school recess!.The high schoolers giving the high fives are just as enthusiastic as the elementary students receiving them!

​What a way to start the day!

NOVEMBER 2018

CAFETERIA IMPROVEMENTS MAKE A DIFFERENCE AT WEST WARWICK HIGH SCHOOL

Surroundings matter! In order to promote healthy eating, it’s important to have great-looking and great-tasting nutritious food, but it’s also a big plus to have a bright, colorful and inviting cafeteria space!  West Warwick Public Schools and their food service provider Sodexo have accomplished both.

West Warwick High School, in partnership with Sodexo, upgraded their cafeteria, with new tables and decor in the school’s vibrant black and orange school colors, along with video menus and colorful flags of the world painted on the walls. The beautiful new cafeteria serves as a backdrop for a new Sodexo food initiative implemented at WWHS called Taste4. It features five food stations emphasizing fresh, build-your-own food bars with expanded flavorful menu choices.  West Warwick and Sodexo have also invested in a “Leafy Green Machine”, a farm-in-a-box built entirely inside a 40-foot shipping container. They are harvesting 300 heads of fresh lettuce a week for school lunches! 

Great food in a revamped, eye-catching cafeteria – perfect!  Shout out to West Warwick Public Schools and Sodexo’s Donna Walker and her team!

OCTOBER 2018

​MEXICAN FIESTA PARTY AT CENTRAL FALLS HIGH SCHOOL

What a treat to visit Central Falls High School and see this delicious food! And yes, it’s SCHOOL LUNCH, courtesy of Chartwells and Food Service Director Solange Morrissette. Students, staff (including Central Falls superintendent Victor Capellan) and visitors alike enjoyed the feast, which included locally grown corn on the cob, both plain and chili lime, pork carnitas tacos, beef tacos, corn and pineapple salsa, and cilantro lime rice! Delicious, healthy meals that incorporate local foods are indeed possible.

North Providence High School was treated to the same fiesta the next day with FSD Donna Humphries….and it’s on the menu again this month! Nice job, Chartwells!

SEPTEMBER 2018

SLATER MIDDLE SCHOOL’S "STEAM" GARDEN FLOURISHES!

We loved seeing the “tweet” from Slater PE teacher Brian Kampper thanking the custodians at Slater Middle School in Pawtucket for tending to their garden all summer.  It’s flourishing!!  The garden was started with funding help from Fuel Up to Play 60, a school Fun Run fundraiser, and a few dedicated teachers and students. Health and STEAM classes plant, harvest and use the garden as an outdoor classroom that brings learning to life.  And plans for indoor gardening during the winter months with hydroponics and aquaponics will extend the learning for even more students. Check out more Slater garden photos and the “Salad Party” they had after their first harvest. Our School Garden Resources webpage has lots of resources to get started with a garden in YOUR school.

JUNE 2018

​LINCOLN HIGH SCHOOL VALUES STUDENT WELLNESS LEADERS

For years, the Lincoln wellness committee has ensured that students have a seat at the table.  Quite literally. Student representatives have been a part of this well-run committee for many years and are very much a valued part of discussions and decision making.  Lincoln wellness meetings are scheduled in the morning at the high school, coinciding with Advisory Period, to make it easier for student participation.  

Cameron Deutsch has been a faithful member of the committee for two years.  His insight and perspective was often solicited and his contributions respected.  He brought forward the topic of a later high school start time and completed his Exhibition Project during junior year on the subject.  His experience as a valued member of the Lincoln wellness committee has piqued his interest in running for school committee in the future!  

MAY 2018

ELEMENTARY STUDENTS IN SOUTH KINGSTOWN TASTE TABOULI

​All 200 K-5 students at Wakefield School were able to experience the texture of various grains and taste tabouli (a salad made with whole wheat bulgar) while learning about the benefits of eating whole grains during a nutrition education lesson.

PE teacher James Champion and Chartwells Director of Dining Services Jack Jones team up every few months with fun presentations designed to encourage kids to make healthier choices in the cafeteria and at home.  It’s all part of the school’s commitment to the 5210 healthy program and it’s making a difference!  Most of the students were happy to try the whole grain tabouli and some asked if it could make a regular appearance on the lunch menu!

APRIL 2018

WOONSOCKET SCHOOLS ARE SHARING NOT WASTING

Students in Woonsocket’s 10 schools can now share any unwanted, unopened food or beverage instead of throwing it in the trash.

Each school cafeteria now has a SHARING TABLE which is simply a basket and cooler (with ice pack) available to students to either leave or take items during breakfast and lunch. The food service staff from Sodexo ensures any leftover items are thrown away at the end of the day and the coolers and baskets are cleaned and sanitized.  Now more kids are getting the food/drink they need and less perfectly good food/drink is being wasted.  A win-win!

MARCH 2018

WHAT A WAY TO START THE DAY!

Nancy Crowell from North Smithfield Elementary School has been a Phys Ed/Health teacher for 28 years and knows the benefits of regular physical movement for good physical and mental health.  She recently began offering a free before-school Eccentrics stretch class for her colleagues as she finds it a great way to start the day!   

The class meets weekly at 7:00AM in the library where it’s warm and quiet and the lights can be dimmed.  Teachers arrive wearing comfortable clothing with a yoga mat.  Nancy leads a series of gentle stretches and strengthening exercises that help relieve tension, soothe joints, improve mobility, posture and balance and increase ENERGY!  No heavy sweating involved so teachers can go right into the classroom at the start of the school day. Participating teachers love it and feel great.  Nancy has been asked about an after-school class for those who can’t make the early morning hour so she anticipates helping more teachers find better health right at school.

FEBRUARY 2018

PELL PUMP IT UP!

Traci Westman, principal of Newport’s Pell Elementary School, combined her desire to get kids physically active before the start of school with her need to be creative with the school day schedule. Pell Pump it Up was the result!

Starting this school year, twice a week for 15 minutes at the start of school, all 700+  K–4th graders gather on the playground (or in the gym and hallways during inclement weather) with PE teachers leading calisthenics (such as jumping jacks, squats and lunges) … some teachers even join the fun. There are a lot of moving kids, so adults are assigned to spots on the playground/hallway to ensure safety, and high energy music has been introduced to get the kids more “in the rhythm” of the new program. The kids love it! The next step is to survey classroom teachers to see if students are better prepared to learn on Pump it Up Pell days, but our guess is ABSOLUTELY.  

JANUARY 2018

PEDAL POWER! ROCK THE BIKE

How’s this for an innovative (and fun) concept: a blender attached to a spin bike, pureeing fruit for a healthy yogurt smoothie. That’s exactly what is happening in Providence middle schools! In order to increase school breakfast participation, school food service company Sodexo purchased the bike, which is outfitted with a pedal-powered blender, perfect to puree fruits to top yogurt smoothies!  Talk about a double whammy of healthy behavoir – excercise and great nutrition together, with green energy thrown in for good measure. 

Sodexo Providence kicked off the initiative in December, raffling off water bottles and Rock the Bike t-shirts, and the events continue this month at two more Providence middle schools – Greene and Gilbert. Then off to rotate around to other middle schools in Providence, giving students and  staff the opportunity to Rock the Bike! For more information on the Rock the Bike Blender Bike, visit rockthebike.com/fender-blender-pro/

DECEMBER 2017

​BARRINGTON INVITES STUDENTS TO “THINK YOUR DRINK”!

People, especially kids, don’t realize the enormous (and unhealthy) amount of sugar in some of the beverages they drink on a daily basis.  Barrington school nurse teachers and Chartwells School Dining Services wanted to educate 5th and 6th graders on the on the topic AND offer delicious alternatives to sugary sodas and energy drinks.

Chartwells’ nutritionist Nancy Roberts and executive chef Steve DaFonseca conducted several “Think Your Drink” presentations at Barrington Middle School and Hampden Meadows Elementary with a visual display of the actual amounts of sugar in their favorite beverages. After the formal presentation, the Chartwells’ staff took questions from the kids and offered them infused water samples to try as an alternative to their favorite sweetened beverage. Making the switch from sugar-sweetened drinks to plain or infused water is a great step towards better health!

NOVEMBER 2017

CUMBERLAND HAS RI'S FIRST LEAFY GREEN MACHINE!!

​What is a Leafy Green Machine??  It is a modified shipping container capable of producing a football field’s worth of vegetables every seven  weeks……right outside of Cumberland High School!

The Leafy Green Machine (www.freightfarms.com) is a hydroponic growing facility that, with an innovative, climate-controlled atmosphere, will supply Cumberland schools with consistent year-round harvests of fresh produce for school meals. How great is that?!  Cumberland has purchased the LGM and Sodexo Food Service Director Shauna Spillane and Food Service Manager Gina Rodriguez will oversee the growing and harvesting of the leafy greens and use them for fresh, delicious salads. Shauna told us, “We have planted and are in the germination stage for another 2 weeks, after which the seedlings will be placed into vertical columns, ready for harvesting 4 weeks after that. It’s a 7-week turnaround from seed to harvest. We are so excited – we’ll be harvesting over 700 heads of lettuce and kale a week!”

OCTOBER 2017

​MINDFUL MONDAYS - CAPTAIN ISAAC PAINE ELEMENTARY STARTS THE WEEK RIGHT

At Captain Isaac Paine Elementary in Foster, they are transitioning into a new school week with a mindfulness activity during morning announcements! Principal Kristen Danusis and teachers participated in a 90-minute training and practice on implementing mindfulness into their classes, led by one of the school’s terrific parents. They practiced kid-friendly yoga postures and various team building and mindfulness activities, which they then could teach their students.

The school has now launched “Mindful Mondays” with a mindfulness practice included in morning announcements. Danusis says, “It’s a great way to get our heads in a good space to begin school and build new tools to help students sustain focus, reduce stress and anxiety, and build problem-solving and collaborative learning strategies! Here’s to a great year!”

JUNE 2017

​​EAST PROVIDENCE HS STUDENTS LEARN ABOUT BREAKFAST FOOD CHOICES

An East Providence health teacher and Chartwells (East Providence schools’ food service provider) teamed up to develop an interactive lesson that would get teens thinking about their breakfast choices. Comparing fast food chain options with homemade healthier options (bacon, egg and cheese sandwich vs steel cut apple oatmeal / coffee coolatta vs berry smoothie), the students learned about food labels, did a nutritional analysis to determine the nutrients and calorie count of each, and tasted the healthier items. ​Finally, they rolled up their sleeves (and put on their gloves) and prepared their own smoothies. Not only did they learn that healthy foods can taste really good, but making your own breakfast is easier on the wallet as well!  

And thanks to this project, the students launched a smoothie bar and their Berry Berry Kale Smoothie actually ended up on the school breakfast menu for all students to enjoy! 

MAY 2017

​USE FUEL UP TO PLAY 60 FOR HEALTHY SCHOOL ENVIRONMENT IMPROVEMENT!

Teachers, school nurses and administrators:  Do you want to help your students make healthy changes to their school environment?  Check out what Program Advisor, Colleen Crotteau is doing at her school through Fuel Up to Play 60. The Fuel Up to Play 60 team at Claiborne Pell Elementary School in Newport has been busy putting “plays” into action. In September, Pell received a FUTP60 grant ​for $3760 to implement “Highlight Healthful Foods Everywhere in School” and “Ramp Up For Recess”.  With the smoothie makers purchased with the grant money, Pell hosted a HEALTHY Banana Split smoothie taste test……and tasters LOVED it!  The team is also supporting their community – it raised $165 to purchase milk for local food banks.

As part of this program, Pell has also partially implemented Breakfast in the Classroom, with plans to expand, and will be painting the playground for a circuit of activities, which will increase movement at recess. Students are really excited to be part of the Pell Champions Fuel Up to Play 60 Team.

Ready to make a change? Visit FuelUptoPlay60.com and NewEnglandDairyCouncil.org to learn more and/or contact Jane Vergnani at jvergnani@Newenglanddairy.com or 401.667.3991 to schedule a meeting.

APRIL 2017

​​KIDS COOK HEALTHY WITH CROCKPOTS AT NORTH PROVIDENCE SCHOOL

A school survey indicated that many students at Marieville Elementary must often prepare their own meals at home. A wonderful crockpot program was borne out of the desire to teach them how to prepare a healthy meal and learn about knife and food safety.  As part of the North Providence Marieville Health Equity Zone (www.nphez.org), crockpots were purchased for students and each week a new recipe is cooked in the crockpots during the day. ​The students taste-test the meal, receive the ingredients necessary to cook the meal at home in their free crockpot, and prep any necessary foods during class.

Survey results confirm that students are consuming more fresh, hot and healthy meals at home because of this innovative program!

FEBRUARY 2017

HAMPDEN MEADOWS STUDENTS ARE LEARNING ABOUT HEALTHY COOKING!

Barrington’s food service provider Chartwells, in cooperation with the assistant principal at Hampden Meadows Elementary School, “cooked up” a plan to recognize students for good behavior in school. Instead of candy or a pizza party or other unhealthy reward, Chartwells Barrington’s Food Service Director, nutritionist and chef organized a healthy cooking class for 21 lucky students. The students thoroughly enjoyed making (and eating) Spinach Pasta Salad, a recipe they hopefully will make for their families as well, using their new healthy cooking skills at home.

Way to go Chartwells and Hampden Meadows for a reward that’s not only healthy, but teaches students skills and a delicious recipe they can use forever! 

JANUARY 2017

​NORTH KINGSTOWN HIGH SCHOOL IS MAKING EXERCISE AS CONVENIENT AS POSSIBLE!

In order to encourage more physical activity for their students and staff, physical education teachers at NKHS, including Julie Maguire, Jonathan Quinn and Karen D’Abrosca, along with the help of student members of the school’s Leadership Club, have mapped out a walking track on the second and third floors of their high school. They measured the exact lengths of the hallways and calculated ​how many repetitions around the “track” would constitute one mile. Colorful laminated signs, designed and created by Ms. Maguire and NKHS student groups, are displayed along the way.

North Kingstown takes school wellness seriously, and this indoor walking track is a great illustration of their commitment, and a fun and easy way to get kids (and staff) moving!

DECEMBER 2016

DO THE HUSTLE!

Westerly’s district-wide “Holiday Hustle” has become a fun and healthy school tradition. The Holiday Hustle is a challenge to staff and students to complete 20 minutes of physical activity every day between Thanksgiving Day and New Year’s Day. People get so busy during the holidays and forget that regular exercise is a healthy antidote to stress, fatigue and feelings of depression. It also enhances focus and concentration, and helps boost energy – we can all use that!  The Challenge brings Westerly’s staff and students together, motivating and encouraging each other to remember the importance of physical activity, especially at this hectic time of year. 

Participants can join an accountability group and log activity into a Holiday Hustle Spreadsheet, and even blog inspirational messages and fun reminders to each other! This annual wellness challenge was inspired by a former student’s Senior Project and is organized each year by the High School PE Department. Way to go, Westerly! 

NOVEMBER 2016

​HAPPY 10TH ANNIVERSARY TO FOGARTY WALK A THON!

Over the past ten years, Providence’s Fogarty Elementary School Walk-a-Thon has been a popular cornerstone of the fall for students, staff and families.  Organized for the past decade by classroom teacher Liz Palumbo, the Walk-a-Thon eliminates the need for unhealthy junk food fundraisers and instead involves the whole community in a healthy, active and fun event. Instead of keeping 40-50% of proceeds for selling junk food, this fundraiser allows Fogarty to keep 100% of money raised in their school!  Last week, students and staff spent time walking laps around the schoolyard in the beautiful fall sunshine and raised $2500, which will help pay for field trip transportation costs, special class activities and fitness equipment for recess.

“It’s great that the students see hundreds of people walking around the field in support of their school,” said Fogarty Principal Courtney Monterecy.  Muyideen Ibiyemi is a Providence School Board member who enjoyed his first Fogarty Walk A Thon.  “I had the unique opportunity of walking with enthusiastic, dedicated and fun-loving children, and I met new friends. Programs like this should be accorded the best support.” Congratulations to Fogarty Elementary for a decade of teaching their students and families about fundraising with wellness in mind!

OCTOBER 2016

​RECESS IS REALLY ROCKING IN RHODE ISLAND!

It’s not only an essential part of the school day for the health of RI children, but now…it’s the law.  Barrington Public Schools made sure parents, teachers and students know about the new law and that recess is valued through Back-to-School and Open House notices. Superintendent Michael Messore sent out the following email to all staff and parents:

Recess Regulations – Rhode Island (RI) passed new regulations requiring all elementary schools to provide students with 20 minutes of sustained recess. Although our schools offered students 20 minutes of recess in previous years, we have updated our schedules to include additional time for transition, to ensure that students have an opportunity for a sustained 20 minutes of play during the lunch block in grades K-5. In addition, K-3 schools provide students with an additional 10-minute morning recess break to encourage movement and play. 

Kudos to Barrington!!  What is your school/district doing about recess? Share your thoughts on Twitter with the hashtag #RecessRocksinRI

JUNE 2016

​FUN RUN AT THE INTERNATION CHARTER SCHOOL

What’s better than these happy, active kids being doused with colorful powder?? When having this much fun also raises $1400 for their school! The International Charter School in Pawtucket ran their first Color Run on Blackstone Boulevard in Providence. Under the guidance of Kim Davis, Wellness Committee Chair, and Jenny Catrambone, Wellness Committee member and parent ​the fundraiser, held in conjunction with Rhode Runner Sports, brought out over 320 runners from the school and surrounding community.

This fun, colorful and healthy event raised $1400, which will support wellness-related initiatives at the school. With an initial investment of $250 (for supplies) and many wonderful volunteers, the event was a tremendous success and will be an annual tradition at the International Charter School!

MAY 2016

SNAP-ED NUTRITION EDUCATION PROJECT AT SPAZIANO - STUDENTS INFLUENCE MENU!

​A group of 5th graders at Spaziano Elementary School in Providence experienced firsthand how persuasive student voices can lead to positive change in school cafeterias.  As part of a six-month nutrition education project led by the URI SNAP-Ed Program staff, 50 students at Spaziano completed environmental scans in their school cafeteria this past fall to learn about the types of fruits and vegetables currently served for school lunch, and barriers to eating them. After group discussions and at-home interviews about family recipes, the students then worked in the classroom to develop their own recipes and conduct taste tests with their classmates.
 
Working with the URI staff and food service provider Sodexo, the fifth grade classes chose a final winning recipe from 40 submitted produce-based recipes to feature as a new school lunch menu item. On Spaziano Garlic Roasted Potatoes Day, students tasted the winning recipe during lunch and voted on whether this recipe should be incorporated into the regular meal program, with an overwhelming majority voting YES. Sodexo Providence has agreed to add Spaziano Potatoes to all elementary and secondary school lunch menus this spring.

As a result of this positive and exciting student-led learning experience, the URI SNAP-Ed Program team hopes to repeat the project in another Providence elementary school next year!​

APRIL 2016

INTRODUCING SHRI BARK TO RI SCHOOLS!

Efforts to build collaborations among RIHSC members have led to some good news for RI students: Shri Bark is now being offered as part of a healthy breakfast program in all of Aramark’s Rhode Island school districts, with many Chartwells and Sodexo districts to follow!  Shri Bark is a healthy snack developed by the talented and health-conscious people at Shri Yoga, made of all ​natural ingredients like toasted oats, honey, cherries, cinammon and shredded coconut, with none of the preservatives, trans fat, hydrogenated oils and artificial colors that kids don’t need.  And it’s baked right here in Rhode Island!

Shri Yoga founder Alison Bologna couldn’t be more pleased that so many youngsters across RI will now have access to a healthy, filling and delicious breakfast round.  We salute Shri Yoga and Shri Bark!

MARCH 2016

JUMP ROPE FOR HEART AND HEALTH

Melville Elementary in Portsmouth participated in the American Heart Association’s “Jump Rope for Heart” to the tune of $14,000, the most they’ve ever raised during this annual event!  The students learned about healthy heart habits and that exercise can be fun, while at the same time raising funds to support cardiovascular research and education. Phys Ed instructor Pam Storme, pictured here, led her students to this impressive total.

​Congratulations, Melville!