Healthy Students, Ready to Learn
Promoting Healthy Behaviors
Anchorage School District launched a new Wellness Initiative at 21 Elementary Schools this year to encourage healthy eating habits and physical activity in schools.
Two Trailside Elementary students play a game during recess. (Robert DeBerry/ASD)
Schools serve as important avenues for the promotion of healthful eating and physical activity behaviors.
The Anchorage School District is providing learning opportunities to support these behaviors by implementing wellness practices and using effective physical and health education curriculums.
There is evidence to support that healthy students perform better in school. For example, student participation in the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) School Breakfast Program (SBP) is associated with increased academic grades and standardized test scores, reduced absenteeism, and improved cognitive performance (e.g., memory).1 Similarly, students who are physically active in school tend to have better grades, school attendance, cognitive performance (e.g., memory), and classroom behaviors (e.g., on-task behavior).1
Although there are many aspects of a healthy school environment, the Wellness Initiative focuses on the school nutrition environment, physical education and physical activity. These three areas are particularly important because of the effect they have on the health of students now and throughout their lives. The ASD has outlined clear actions that can be taken in schools that will help students make healthy choices.
Wellness Initiative Pilot
- Maintain overall integrity of K-5 ELA/Reading intent
- 10 minutes seating time to eat breakfast
- 20 minutes seated time to eat lunch
- 54 minutes of physical activity (90% of the CDC recommendation) provided every day which includes 30 minutes of recess and a combination of physical education, school-wide activities and in-classroom activities
Wellness Initiative schools will also participate in an evaluation process that engages various stakeholders (parents, students, staff, etc.).
Pilot Project Director: Dr. Mark J. Stock, Deputy Superintendent
Project Implementation Lead: Melanie Sutton, Teaching & Learning
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Health and Academic Achievement. Atlanta, GA: US Dept of Health and Human Services; 2014.
ASD Wellness Initiative Looks at Benefits of Extended Lunch and Recess
The Anchorage School District along with the parent organization ASD60 created the Wellness Initiative, a pilot program that is looking at the benefits of increased physical activity throughout the day and increased time for students to eat. There are 21 schools in the voluntary pilot program.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines on physical activity, sedentary behavior and sleep for children under five years of age, “children under five must spend less time sitting watching screens, or restrained in seats, get better quality sleep and have more time for active play” if they are to grow up healthy.