Connecticut School Health Guidelines Training

School district teams working on their 5 year vision.

School district teams working on their 5 year vision.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to work with 4 school districts in Connecticut that will be working with the CT Department of Public Health and CT Department of Education on physical activity and nutrition programs under the CDC's State Public Health Actions to Prevent and Control Diabetes, Heart Disease, Obesity and Associated Risk Factors and Promote School Health also known as the 1305 or Quad grant.

It was a great opportunity for these districts to learn more about tools and resources that will help them assess where their school is at around programs, policies and practices related to physical activity, physical education and healthy eating. I lead them through many activities including:

  • A 'think out of the box"/ creative visioning activity- what media/people will be saying about them in 5 years from now as a result of this work;
  • practicing your stairwell speech for making the case to create healthier learning environments for both students and staff;
  • filling in a crosswalk tool that allows participants to align federal and state mandates/education accountability measures and initiatives to health goals; and
  • participating in a jigsaw activity to become familiar with the nine guidelines within the School Health Guidelines tool.
Norwich CT team's Visioning Activity!

Norwich CT team's Visioning Activity!

Evaluations were super strong and I had a great time seeing my parents and being back in my home state, during the BEST week ever... GO UCONN! Meeting these school teams was fantastic and I hope I have the opportunity to work with them again over the next 4-5 years!


I couldn't resist. CDC does NOT endorse UCONN Huskies. :)

I couldn't resist. CDC does NOT endorse UCONN Huskies. :)

Let's Move Active Schools Physical Activity Leader Training

Welcoming the participants for the day.

Welcoming the participants for the day.

Yesterday, LMAS held it's first-ever LMAS PAL training at a national conference. Judy LoBianco and I facilitated the full-day event and had the opportunity to work with 40 fabulous new PALs from around the country and even the world! 

The goal of the training is to bring participants through a process in which they gain knowledge and skills to go home and implement a Comprehensive School Physical Activity Program. It's actually not a program, but a philosophy or way of incorporating a minimum of 60 minutes of physical activity throughout a school day. The core of this work is quality physical education programs, taught by a certified physical education teacher who receives on-going professional development (ideal!). But, reality is that most students do not get 60 minutes of physical education a day. So, how do we incorporate physical activity throughout the day? Before and after-school programs, like walk and bike to school, open gym opportunities. We can promote physical activity during recess including incentives for walking or running laps for students. We can incorporate physical activity within the classroom- any classroom, any subject. For example, yesterday I encouraged participants to get up and make shapes and obtuse and acute angles with their bodies. Why not incorporate math and movement? With all those opportunities to include physical activity throughout the day, it should be no problem for every school in America to provide 60 minutes of physical activity (PA) throughout the day for their students. 

Judy LoBianco role modeling "Making the Case" pitch to "principal" Jamie Sparks.

Judy LoBianco role modeling "Making the Case" pitch to "principal" Jamie Sparks.

So, why do it? Well, obviously the obesity epidemic is on everyone's mind. But, there are a lot more benefits to implementing PA programs. Walking and biking to school means less vehicles on school grounds, which may mean less accidents and can result in better air quality that decreases asthma triggers and increases attendance (asthma is the leading cause of absenteeism related to chronic disease in many state). Walking and biking is also better for the environment and creates safer communities when youth are out and about. That is one example and realizing not every school is walk and bike accessible, there are 100s of other ways to incorporate PA throughout the day. The research on what PA does for the brain is there. It jumpstarts it again! It may lead to higher test scores and academic achievement. PA leads to increased motivation, alertness and attention. 

Jump on board! Learn about how you can get in involved in increasing PA for your students (and, I'd include staff in that as well!) by going here!

Kentucky Youth Health Network

Formerly the KY Teen Pregnancy Coalition, the KY Youth Health Network has decided to expand their scope of work to all areas of preventative youth health behaviors. This organization, currently a 501c3, is going through a planning process to develop a new mission, purpose and strategic plan. This past Monday, I was fortunate enough to facilitate a strategic planning session with this passionate Board including representation from the Kentucky Department of Education, Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services, Clark County Health Department (HD), Jessamine County HD, American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky, Kentuckiana Works, Lexington/Fayette County HD and KY River District HD - Lee County. 

By the end of the day, we came up with action steps that will not only be short-term next steps, but long-term actions that will be part of a new strategic plan. We engaged in a fun activity to practice our elevator pitch which led to the development of a word cloud and we were presented with Kentucky's most recent Youth Risk Behavior Survey Data results by Stephanie Bunge at the KY DOE. Stay tuned as this group transitions to a broader perspective on youth health and works to bring on more partners and collaborate with more organizations to create a healthier Kentucky for our adolescents! 

Who REALLY Loves Webinars?

Who REALLY loves webinars? I don't. But, living in a virtual world and working nationally, I have to stay current. And, one inexpensive, easy way to gain more knowledge, connect with new people and stay current is to participate in webinars. SPARK asked me to do a webinar  and I was flattered. The topic was comprehensive school health programs. Sure! I knew that topic. I could do it in my sleep. The bigger challenge? Keeping people interested and engaged throughout the 45-55 minutes. So, I dug deep into my adult learning knowledge and trainer background. Since facilitating the webinar, 7 people have followed up with me including being asked to keynote in another state, and other potential school health consulting work. I even received an email that said, "Thanx for one of the best webinars I have viewed in a while.  Have a great weekend!:-)". It was the first webinar I've ever facilitated and the feedback has been really positive. So, I might as well share some tips, right?

What did I do to engage participants?

1. Before starting, I had a slide with fun info about me, the facilitator. And a funny photo.
2. I used a metaphor
3. Told a story throughout. Storytelling is an effective way to engage the brain.
4. Asked questions (twice) and asked for people to respond. Referred to submissions later on in the webinar. At end, we opened it up to questions.
5. Facilitated a physical activity, even though I couldn't see people participating, I asked them to take a photo with their camera and post it to Twitter using #GearUp4CSH. Offered a prize to two participants who submitted photos!

If you missed the webinar, feel free to listen to it here!

Franklin County Public Schools

A good friend and colleague of mine, Audra, is a middle school health and PE teacher in Frankfort, Kentucky. Recently, Audra was visiting me in Louisville for a late Sunday lunch and we got on the topic of health education and lack of professional development (PD) opportunities for her district. It's not that her administration doesn't support health and PE. It's that there aren't dollars to provide strong PD in both areas. And, with more PD days cut over the years, not much time. And, when that happens… you have educators not implementing best practices, but rather doing what they've 'always done'. And, that isn't what is best for education and learning. A lot has changed in health education even in the past ten years. 

Elkhorn Middle School, Audra's school is an Alliance for a Healthier Generation school. And Audra is the health education champion in her district. Advocating for the subjects of health and PE and working on coordinated school health, a broader school health approach that focuses not only on health and PE curriculum, but policy, staff health promotion, food service, school counseling, environment and more! When Audra mentioned that she had a meeting with her Superintendent, Chrissy Jones that upcoming Thursday morning, I was impressed. I know the district isn't tiny and was thrilled to hear that Chrissy is supportive of school health and meets with Audra regularly When I heard that, my mind kicked into gear.

Recently, I've been doing a lot of research on what makes a school health program sustainable. I've been reading research articles, interviewing evaluators and implementors at the school, district, state and national level. You know what keeps coming up in the research? A superintendent that believes there is a link between health and learning and supports building comprehensive school health environments within a district. There are other factors that support sustainability… having district and school-wide wellness councils, strengthening policies, addressing staff health, building partnerships, etc. But, it keeps coming back to that leadership support. And, the educational leader doesn't have to be intensely involved. But, they do have to support the work. They may push back and have to make strategic decisions based on timing and capacity, but overall, they are a believer that healthy kids learn better. 

So, yes, I thought about all of this as Audra was sitting there talking. I just moved to Kentucky. Work is picking up. Can I donate two days to provide strong PD to all their health teachers? Why not? Why not offer? So, I did. And within a few days, I heard directly from Chrissy. And now, we have a 2-day Using Health Education Standards and Assessment in the Classroom training being offered in July! My expectation is that all the secondary teachers teaching health education (whether they are a health specialist, or science teacher teaching health) are expected to attend the full two days. And, one teacher representative from each of the elementary schools. Systems change takes time. I hope to build their skills in the health education content standards, give them opportunities to score student work using rubrics, develop strong, innovative, fun performance assessments and write a health education unit, maybe even integrated with another subject area. They will leave with so much knowledge and skill gain. I hope to model over 25 teaching strategies and over 50% of what I model and what they learn is applicable in any subject area in school. 

I can't offer tons of free PD training to everyone all the time. However, in a district that has a leader that supports the belief that when students are healthy they will achieve at higher rates, and contacts me directly… I'm there! Kudos to Audra for her continued advocacy and support of health education and coordinated school health. And thanks to Chrissy for her leadership. I'm thrilled for the opportunity!

What does a National School Health Consultant do?

A lot of people ask me what a school health consultant does. Instead of abstractly communicating my mission, I'm going to share my current contracts and I think it will paint a clear picture of what we do!

  • I will be the content lead for a conference dedicated to health disparities and childhood obesity funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in partnership with Clinton Foundation's Health Matters Initiative. Being the content lead means I work with all the content for the conference- videos to speakers to the bios that go into the program. I have the opportunity to have calls to brief all the speakers, moderators and strategic partners making commitments. It's a fabulous role that connects me to great people! This event will be in Newark, NJ, May 9.
  • We are working with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation on a project related to their Healthy Schools Program and sustainability. That work will take me to Portland, Indianapolis and a few other TBD locations from now through mid-summer.
  • We are completing a paper for the Colorado Legacy Foundation on school health supporting education accountability measures… how does addressing the health and well-being of students and staff increase test scores/grades, graduation rates and attendance? This work will be completed very soon and available. I will share once the document is public. 
  • Maine Department of Education has hired me to do a keynote presentation at their School-site Wellness Conference late June at Sugarloaf Mountain. Looking forward to addressing a large audience of school teams. More to come on my speaking objectives and content!
  • I will be facilitating the Kentucky Youth Health Network through a strategic planing process late March. This group, formerly called the KY Teen Pregnancy Coalition works on sexual health promotion and risk behavior prevention among youth in Kentucky. We will be reviewing state level sexual health and risk data among youth, developing a vision, bold steps and a 5 year blueprint for action. The hope is that with clear direction, more funding opportunities will be available to do work within the blueprint/strategic plan.
  • I will be facilitating a webinar on Comprehensive School Health Program/Coordinated School Health for SPARK on March 19th at 6pm EST. The objectives for the 75 minute webinar include:
    -Understand the relationship of health issues to education accountability measures
    -Understand the CSH model and how CSPAP fits into the model, and hear examples
    -Learn how to build sustainable school health programs
    -Be encouraged to set one next step goal around what they learned on the webinar
    More information on how to participate soon!
  • I'm co-facilitating a full day pre-conference at the National AAHPERD/SHAPE in St Louis on April 1 for Let's Move Active Schools; Physical Activity Leader Training with Judy LoBianco, 2013 AAHPERD National Physical Education Administrator of the Year 2013
  • Next week I head to Connecticut to facilitate a CDC School Health Guidelines Training for CT Department of Ed (DOE) and CT Department of Health (DOH) and their 1305 grantee school districts. I will be doing a similar training for Tulsa County Public Schools in June. 
  • Jamie Sparks and I will be traveling to Alaska in October to co-facilitate the Systems Thinking Systems Changing simulation for AK DOE and AK DOH for their 1305 grantee school districts. 

Yup- that's what we do! We have some pending work on the horizon. All our work is very different and very exciting. But, all related making schools healthier places for students and staff!