Promoting Students’ Physical Health and Wellness
It’s flu season, which means that classrooms around the country are stocked full of tissues and hand sanitizer. Teachers are on the lookout for any cough or sneeze – the first sign of the flu.
As a teacher, you’re (hopefully) diligent in helping your students stay healthy during this beast of a flu season. But promoting good health extends further than just preventing sickness. Students’ overall health and wellness affect everything from their academic performance to success later in life. Even if you’re not your school’s physical education teacher, there is still a lot you can do to make sure your students live healthy lives.
In this article, we’ll review some best practices that you can use to promote physical health and wellness before diving into some ways that you can help your students stay healthy before, during, and after flu season.
Set a Good Example
- Encourage hand washing.
- Encourage students to cover their mouths when they cough or sneeze (and make sure you lead by example)
- Have plenty of tissues and hand sanitizer.
- Recognize the first signs of sickness so that you can send home affected students.
So beyond the no-nonsense tidbits on setting a good example, how can you encourage your students to adopt healthy habits? Tissues, hand washing, and sanitizer are only half the battle. You students’ overall health determines how often and how severe they will experience colds and the flu. Also, students who lack access to healthcare professionals are at a greater risk this time of year. In the following sections, review expert advice on how to promote health and wellness throughout the school year.
The Centers for Disease Control has plenty of advice on how to promote student health. Here are some highlights:
- Don’t reward students with junk food.
- Let student have water bottles. Hydration is key to staying well. (And encourage students to use reusable bottles to cut down on waste.)
- Use movement as a learning tool. Exercise and fun are both great for immune system function. And after all, some of your students are kinesthetic learners--it may be great for learning too.
Explore the CDC website to learn more about best practices. Also, the CDC has links to many additional resources, so be sure to check it out!
Healthy Schools Campaign
The Healthy Schools Campaign has many ideas for teachers committed to improving their students' health. Here you can find the following (and more!):
- Advice for teachers: The hurdles some students face when looking for health services outside of school can be frustratingly complex. If you want to help these students, start here to learn what you can do.
- Healthy school initiatives: The Healthy Students, Promising Futures initiative helps connect students in 15 states to Medicaid and other health resources.
- Lists of local events: In March, for example, the Healthy Schools Campaign will host a cooking challenge in Dallas where students will face off in creating healthy dishes. Check the site to see what’s going on in your area!
Although many of the ideas presented by the Healthy Foods Campaign promote school and district-wide initiatives, you can easily cherry pick ideas to use in your classroom.
Action for Healthy Kids
Since 2002, Action for Healthy Kids has worked diligently to battle childhood obesity through promoting physical activity and responsible food choices. On this site you will find:
- Tools for Schools: A list of activities and ideas all teachers can use
- Events: National events that teachers may attend. Action for Healthy Kids awards grants to cover teachers’ travel expenses.
- In Your State: Links to local trainings and conferences.
The organization also has many volunteer opportunities in which interest teachers may participate. In summary, Action for Healthy Kids is a great organization for teachers who are fed up by unhealthy food choices in their schools’ vending machines and lunchrooms.
The three organization we’ve discussed in this article are only the tip of the iceberg. Even when flu season has tapered off, I encourage you to continue researching best practices: healthy habits that your students will practice for the rest of their lives.