On a day-long visit to Boston today, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will be holding a round-table discussion about school-community partnerships at the Josiah Quincy Elementary School in Boston’s Chinatown neighborhood. The Quincy school is one of City Connects’ largest elementary schools with nearly 800 students and two site coordinators.
Mary E. Walsh, executive director of CCNX and the Kearns Professor of Urban Education and Innovative Leadership at Boston College, and Pat DiNatale, CCNX director of implementation, will be representing City Connects in the discussion, which will also be attended by Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and Superintendent Carol R. Johnson. Following the discussion, second- and third-grade Quincy students are scheduled to perform a traditional dance in honor of Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month. Secretary Duncan is also planning to pay tribute to Boston Educators of the Year as part of a discussion with them about effective strategies for academic success.
More than 30 community-based agencies and nonprofit organizations who partner with City Connects gathered today to discuss efforts to improve students’ health and wellness.
“It takes a whole child approach to teaching and learning,” said Pat DiNatale, director of implementation at CCNX, “and together we can align our resources to best address students’ strengths and needs, as well as their health and well-being.”
The meeting kicked off with a “Jammin’ Minute,” 60 seconds of choreographed light exercise that is performed in CCNX schools every morning. Representatives from partner agencies like Big Brothers Big Sisters of Massachusetts Bay and Tenacity shared updates and conferred with CCNX’s site and health coordinators about ways to build and maintain the most effective partnerships. Suggestions about student referrals, transportation, and follow-up were sought, leading to sharing of best practices between organizations.
To wrap up the gathering, CCNX health coordinator Carey Jacobs, certified child yoga instructor, demonstrated yoga and meditation practices she leads at the Gardner Pilot Academy, complete with breathing exercises designed to promote awareness of the mind-body connection.
Health is integral to a child’s academic success. Our data show that the City Connects-New Balance Foundation Health and Wellness program significantly improves students’ key indicators of thriving: classroom behavior, work habits, and effort. After the program, students demonstrated greater knowledge and reported making healthier decisions about nutrition and well-being. Ninety-one percent of teachers in CCNX schools believe that the health curriculum has a positive impact on their students’ health choices outside of the classroom.
“For the first time, the nation will have goals, benchmarks, and measurable outcomes that will help us tackle the childhood obesity epidemic one child, one family, and one community at a time,” Mrs. Obama said.
In February, the First Lady launched the Let’s Move! campaign to solve the childhood obesity epidemic within a generation. As part of this effort, the President established the Task Force on Childhood Obesity to develop and implement an inter-agency plan that details a coordinated strategy, identifies key benchmarks, and outlines an action plan to solve the problem of childhood obesity within a generation.
The action plan defines solving the problem of childhood obesity in a generation as returning to a childhood obesity rate of just 5% by 2030, which was the rate before childhood obesity first began to rise in the late 1970s. In total, the report presents a series of 70 specific recommendations, many of which can be implemented right away. Summarizing them broadly, they include:
Giving children a healthy start on life
Empowering parents and caregivers with simpler actionable messages about nutrition
Providing healthy food in schools
Improving access to healthy, affordable food
Getting children more physically active
The Boston Globerecently reported that Massachusetts’ rate of childhood obesity was 13.3% and the overweight rate was 30%. While the obesity rate is lower than the national average of 16.4%, the overweight rate is almost par at 31.6%.
The Curriculum Matters blog covered an analysis conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention today, which found a positive association between physical activity and academic performance. Published this past April, the CDC analyzed 50 studies that contained 251 associations between activity and academic performance; more than half of the associations were found to be positive. The analysis concluded that:
Physical activity can help improve academic achievement, including grades and standardized test scores
Physical activity can have an impact on cognitive skills, attitudes, and academic behavior, such as enhanced concentration and attention
Increasing or maintaining time dedicated to PE may help–and not does appear to adversely impact–academic performance
Based on this evidence, the CDC encourages schools to continue and encourage school-based PE, recess, classroom-based physical activity, and extracurricular physical activities.
This study comes on the heels of the House passing the FIT Kids Act (Fitness Integrated with Teaching) that mandates schools report on how they promote healthy lifestyles and implement their PE curriculum.
Developed by clinicians at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center for students and their families, the Walking Club was a pilot program at the Eliot implemented by Amelia Tonkin, the school’s City Connects-New Balance Foundation health and wellness coordinator. Tucked into Boston’s cozy North End neighborhood, the Eliot doesn’t have a gym, so Amelia embraced the opportunity to motivate her students to exercise outside of school. BIDMC provided a pedometer for each student, as well as one for a family member, to help walkers keep tally their steps; the launch yesterday racked up 4,500 steps alone! The students were joined by State Senator Anthony Petruccelli, who represents the North End and applauded the Walking Club’s focus on exercise as a way to prevent future medical conditions like obesity and high blood pressure. Wally the Green Monster, team mascot of the Boston Red Sox, also cheered on the walkers.
“We know that physical fitness is a vital part of a well-rounded education,” said Traci Walker-Griffith, principal of the Eliot. “We are thrilled that Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is collaborating with our teachers and students on such an important issue. We are also excited that we are able to fold the important educational aspects of this program into our curriculum.”
The Walking Club kit teaches students about the many physical and mental proven health benefits of walking. It includes vocabulary words, a walking quiz, a chart of key muscles used when walking, and a diary to record their exercise. It also explains how to calculate heart rates and evaluate the level of intensity of the exercise.
Despite warm temperatures, the Eliot School students walked 2 miles from their school down the Greenway and back. “The Walking Club will ensure that our students and families engage in health and wellness initiatives available within Boston’s urban location,” said Amelia Tonkin. “By educating our students about the benefits of walking and how to use pedometers, we look forward to utilizing this partnership to keep the Eliot community healthy in an enjoyable way.”
Today, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick signed far-reaching anti-bullying legislation. From the State House press release:
“As Governor and as a parent, I feel very strongly that no child should feel threatened or unsafe in our schools,” said Governor Patrick. “Today, with this new law, we are giving our teachers, parents and kids the tools and protections they need so that every student has a chance to reach their full potential. I am proud to sign this bill and thank the Legislature for delivering on this critical priority.”
The release spells out new anti-bullying measures for teachers, schools, and communities:
All school staff must fully and swiftly detail any instance of bullying or retaliation to the appropriate school official.
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE) will establish statewide academic standards that include age-appropriate instruction in bullying prevention.
Every school, public and private, must publish detailed bullying prevention, intervention, and notification plans in student handbooks.
Districts must provide all school staff–from bus drivers to athletic coaches–targeted professional development to build the skills necessary to prevent, identify and respond appropriately to bullying incidents.
Rules and penalties apply to incidents that occur outside of school in the community and online (“cyber-bullying”)
You can follow the Governor’s office on Twitter for real-time updates like these: @MassGovernor