By Marjorie Wolfson
As we come to a close of the 2018 school year, I take a moment to pause and reflect on our mission. For many of us who work in schools, the end of the year symbolizes a time to come together in celebration of our common purpose. Together we strive towards our shared goal of serving and educating kids and families. Together we are helping to inform the next generation, and our hope is that they will live long and fruitful lives. It is our time to take a break and spend time with our families.
I have been honored to have been part of WITS for the last 9 years. In over 120 schools across four states, we disrupt the norm and bring something unique to our communities. One of the reasons that we have been able to grow and reach more families is simply teamwork. The words collaboration, teamwork and partnership are synonymous with our work. Children are the messengers and, together, we are teaching them healthy habits to learn and live better. Together we are pushing towards whole-system innovation and making sense of what’s needed in today’s uncertain world.
As I come to a close in my tenure at WITS, I am delighted to share a few highlights. I have spent almost a decade in schools, developing and observing our programming, speaking to parents, administration, kids, community partners, school food staff, recess aids, and more. Through the years across all of our sites, I have seen communities respond to our work in such a positive way. Because of the importance of formal data, WITS engaged Columbia University Teachers College on a 2-year study to evaluate our work. By using seven schools as “WITS” schools, and seven schools as the Control (schools similar in terms of demographics and size but without WITS programming), the evaluation distinguished the positive effects of our programming on students.
Below are a few key takeaways that are integral to our work:
* There is great value in providing a wellness professional in schools to usher important wellness activities, classes and events.
* Chef and nutritionist-led nutrition education increases the consumption of healthy school lunch.
* Placing chefs and nutritionists at the salad bar encourages children to eat fruits and vegetables (Students in WITS schools ate more fruits and vegetables than students in Control schools – about 40% more).
* Students move more when fitness coaches lead activity breaks during the school day and indoor recess, a very inactive time of day (92% of boys and 94% of girls in Control schools were sedentary during Indoor recess in Winter 2016, while only 28% of boys and 22% of girls were sedentary in WITS schools).
* Wellness professionals can change the culture of schools by developing a holistic plan for year-long wellness events and activities.
It has been my honor and pleasure to work with an inspiring group of people, and I am proud of all that we have accomplished. I am very fortunate to have been part of the WITS community and for this, I will be forever grateful.
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