By: Akasha Anderson-Nelms
Our WITS team truly walks the Phil Jackson talk, “We know the strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team.”
In our schools, the “why” of our work remains constant; however, the “how” sometimes needs a customized approach with the help of our team. Our teams of WITS Chefs and Coaches are spread out all over New York City, each working in their own assigned schools. However, as we evaluate day-to-day work, we realize that some schools may need an extra push towards increasing healthy habits within the school’s culture. This is when we pull out the big bag of WITS solutions and bring in not one, but a whole team of WITS staff to “takeover” one school for a day.
The Takeovers are designed to showcase an amplified version of our programming to schools that need more support within either our WITS Cook or Coach for Kids programs, or both! Our presence in the school gets quadrupled with the enthusiastic WITS team, extra branding materials, recess equipment, and even balloons.
The WITS Recess Takeovers bring a team of WITS Coaches together before recess begins and conducts a WITS Play workshop with all the school recess aides. Together, the WITS Coaches lead a roundtable discussion about how to better plan for a positive recess experience, delegate leadership roles to the staff, and fine tune the skills needed to do so. The school aides get to practice how to facilitate new WITS games, how to better work with large groups of children in small spaces, and how to model conflict resolution through play. Once recess starts, our coaches join the aides at various zones on the yard, implementing the plans they designed together. WITS Coach Sarah reflected on the Recess Takeover at PS 85, “I think we had a successful takeover, and the recess aides were willing to hear our ideas as well as share their own!” The collaboration between recess aide and WITS Coach reflects the emphasis WITS places on “people talking to people is how change happens.” This year these recess takeovers took place at three schools all over Manhattan.
The WITS Cafeteria Takeovers similarly brings a team of WITS Chefs together to reinvent the lunch experience, highlight featured lunch menu items, get the kids excited about the food, and teach them in a fun engaging style during the entire lunch service. Our WITS Chefs divide and conquer in different sections of the cafeteria. One WITS Chef joins the school cafeteria staff in the kitchen, helping with food prep and back of house, one walks around with a WITS tasting tray featuring special menu items like butternut squash, another WITS Chef teaches a WITS BIT, which are engaging nutrition lessons like “Taste the Rainbow” or “Sugar Overload,” and others inspire the kids to try something new in a fun engaging food game. These WITS Cafeteria Takeovers bring a whole new positive spin to “playing” with your food. With a team of Chefs in one cafeteria, we are able to maximize our engagement – WITS Chef Deb said of her Takeover at PS 110, “We got to speak one-on-one with every single child who came through the cafeteria that day.”
It is a reminder that we are great alone, but as a collective we are a powerful force.