The story titled The Healthy Snacks School is an interesting case-in-point about how each of Loudoun's 72 schools (soon to be 75) operates independently in many ways. Consider the following:
This is the Healthy Snack School, and everyone seems to be on board with Principal Patricia McGinly's program. Students are starting to read labels. They detected corn syrup in the cafeteria's chocolate milk; now McGinly is on the hunt for a brand that shuns the offending ingredient.Note that there is no system-wide directive here, no new policy. There is just the principal deciding that this will be an area of emphasis at her school. I emphasize this to parents repeatedly: If you want something done, don't start by lobbying the Superintendent to change the rules for every school, start by convincing a principal to change the approach for one school and let the success of your pilot program spread to other schools. That's the way almost every new program at LCPS comes about, even for those implemented by the senior administrators.
Despite the reporter's assessment that "everyone seems to be on board with" the program, my guess is that not every parent at Belmont Station likes these new rules. This can't be an easy culture shift, and I'd be interested to learn more about the growing pains.
Emphasizing the importance of study before implementation, the story called Learning To Eat profiles the study by a local researcher of the impact of various educational practices on students in four schools (the students volunteered to be a part of the study).
A 24-week study of the effect of teaching nutrition and offering structured exercise programs at four Loudoun elementary schools led researcher Karen Gabel Speroni to conclude that school nurses might use their position as "role models and spokespersons to foster increased activity and improved nutritional education in their schools and communities."The study even had conclusions for the School Board, according to the story:
She recommended to the school board, at the conclusion of her study, that choice may not be the best path to health. Better, she suggested, to put out the "best choice" tray – the child can still choose between the two main entrees, but everything else will already be on the tray. The diner will not have the option of passing up the fruit and the vegetable.I don't recall seeing the study or its conclusions, I hope that we will have a chance to review both in an upcoing Health, Safety & Wellness Committee meeting.
Finally, because health isn't all about the food, there is another story about innovations in physical education, again profiling Belmont Station as a host to a pilot program.
The children at Belmont Station get to work out with balance balls, exercise ladders and other equipment that helps them develop their core muscles. This program enables exercises to be tailored to each student's ability level. "This way, they all look like they're doing the same thing, and it doesn't single out kids," Jones said.With limited time in the school day and ever-increasing pressure to improve academic performance, one of my favorite questions to ask is "how can we increase cross-discipline programs?" (Director of Instruction Peter Hughes is probably really sick of hearing me say that by now). The story cites a perfect example of this:
"We try to make anything fun and integrate academics whenever possible,” Comins said. An example, he said, was when they create a dance where the steps correspond to the water cycle. By remembering the dance, they remember academic material.I applaud the parents, students and principal of Belmont Station Elementary for striving and innovating, not waiting for changes to be implemented at the top but instead setting an example for all the schools around them. I also applaud the Times Mirror for focusing on these important school issues.