Improving the health of our students is more than just a good idea or a nice gesture; it’s a crucial investment in the future of Mississippi. Our “Health is Academic” initiative is designed to ensure that all of our school children are fit, healthy and ready to succeed!
Take a look at how our schools are already working to improve the health of Mississippi’s students:
Healthy School Environment
During the 2008-2009 school year, Clinton School District performed a district-wide assessment of all aspects of school wellness through school health councils and the child nutrition director for the district. The assessment included all aspects of health and physical education classes, school parties, cafeteria food, the school environment, and family and community involvement. Their desire, with the strong leadership of superintendent Dr. Phil Burchfield, was to impact the health of students in a positive way. From the assessment, they formed a plan to provide healthy fruits and vegetables for their students and ensure that nutrition education was being taught in class. They increased the amount of physical activity that was taking place during the school day so that students were active as well as excelling in a learning environment. They wrote many articles for the local newspaper asking parents and the community to volunteer and assist them in providing a healthy environment for their children when they are at home or out of school. They also encourage weight loss among teachers through incentive programs so that a healthy lifestyle would be modeled throughout the faculty at each school. All activities were implemented with no additional funding, and students, as well as teachers, have definitely benefitted as a result.
Amory Middle School in Monroe County has been selected as one of the top 10 healthiest schools nationwide by Health Magazine. Amory tied for second place with Rawhide Elementary in Gillette, Wyoming. To learn more about Amory Middle School and their innovative approach to improving student/staff health wellness visit the Health Magazine website or the Inside the Backpack website.
Four additional water dispensers
were installed throughout East Kemper Elementary to allow for easy access to water for students. Kemper County High added two new water fountains and renovated their old gymnasium to establish a fitness center.
Oak Grove Lower Elementary in DeSoto County now allows water bottles in the classrooms and no longer sells soft drinks, gum or candy to students or at school fundraisers. “When our children drink plenty of water, they think better and are more alert,” says Teresa Jenny, principal at Oak Grove Lower Elementary.
At the Amory Middle School in the Amory School District a water policy was adopted to allow for water consumption in the classroom to encourage proper hydration.
The health education program at Oxford High School is far from ordinary. Students are using the skills that they learn in health education class to transform their own lives and their community as well. As a result of quality instruction, students are receiving preventive testing and life-saving treatment from their local health department for a wide array of illnesses, such as sexually transmitted diseases and hypertension. Students who might otherwise think that they are the “perfect picture of health” are finding that they have health conditions that could have caused premature death if left undetected.
Parents are also making healthier choices. Parents are exercising more with their children and making wiser choices when grocery shopping as a result of the education that their children receive. The high school students have also started a district-wide recycling program to promote a healthy school environment by partnering with elementary students to recycle in their classrooms.
Finally, students have worked in groups to produce their own alcohol awareness videos to teach healthy refusal skills to prevent drinking and driving and binge drinking. These videos were given to the local cable station and are being used in elementary and junior high schools to promote good decision-making behaviors when dealing with alcohol. One student said, “I used a lot of what I was taught [healthy refusal skills] to avoid getting into the partying thing.”
The students, faculty
and parents of Bayou View Elementary in the Gulfport School District participated in a “Wellness Wednesday” every week. Students researched healthy facts and foods, sampled nutritious snacks, participated in physical activity and learned about other important health choices.
At Van Winkle Elementary in the Jackson Public School District, the Junior League of Jackson provided monthly health education lessons to fourth graders. The classes taught students about good nutrition and exercise and encouraged them to share the information with their parents.
At Oak Grove Elementary in Lamar County, physical education instructors taught a six-week health and nutrition class, which included information about good eating habits, wellness, positive lifestyle choices and the importance of physical education.
At W.L. Smith Elementary School in the Petal School District teachers worked with students to set personal goals for a healthier lifestyle and monitored progress weekly.
Mississippi Districts Win HealthierUS School Challenge Awards
Celebrating Mississippi Successes in Child Nutrition Programs
During the 2008-2009 school year, Sudduth Elementary School began a program to feature a “vegetable of the month” in their cafeteria each month to encourage student consumption of vegetables and trying new foods. At the suggestion of the principal, Libby Mosley, teachers and cafeteria staff worked together, utilizing the U.S. Department of Defense fresh vegetables, to create bulletin boards, taste testings, teacher fact sheets, cafeteria table tents, and even a “sweet potato drop”. Featured vegetables were zucchini, sweet potatoes, potatoes, pinto, black and green beans, carrots, cucumbers, broccoli, and tomatoes. Menus were sent home with students each month to highlight the vegetable for that month. As a result of this activity, vegetable consumption increased in Sudduth Elementary, and teachers had the opportunity to collaborate with others to meet a common goal that would benefit their students.
Moorhead Middle School in the Sunflower County School District improved the visual presentation of fruit and entrees in the school cafeteria as a means of encouraging healthy food selections.
New Albany Elementary saw an increase in fruit and vegetable consumption due to nutrition education and new marketing in the cafeteria.
Pearl Upper Elementary educated students and parents
on the importance of having a
good breakfast, making nutritious choices and choosing healthy
snacks. They encouraged each student to eat a daily breakfast
and kept charts on the wall of
each classroom to track progress.
At Stern Enhancement School with the Greenville Public Schools, students were taught how to make healthy food choices. Students and faculty have reported losing weight and some students have been telling parents what to buy in the grocery stores.
Deep fryers have been completely removed from all the school cafeterias in the Columbus Municipal School District as part of its commitment toward healthier food preparation. All elementary schools in the Starkville School District have made the same commitment.
All soft drinks were removed from vending machines and replaced with healthier choices to include water, milk, sports drinks and 100% juice at Magnolia Junior High School in the Moss Point School District and in Marshall Elementary School in the Carroll County School District.
Clarksdale Municipal School District and Margaret Green Junior High School of the Cleveland School District completely revived their school breakfast programs.
Madison Station Elementary School in the Madison County School District focused on promoting their school breakfast program– doubling participation from 157 to 314 students.
A new snack program was introduced at Hernando Elementary School in Desoto County Schools where apples, oranges and bananas were sold to students for 25 cents.
Nurses from the University of Mississippi Medical Center provided
a wellness program to all third graders at Johnson Elementary in the Jackson Public School District to teach students about the importance
of exercise and good nutrition.
At Tunica Elementary a weekly fluoride rinse program was initiated for students in grades K-5, and an oral care program with toothbrushes were given to students in grades 1-2.
Charleston High School in
East Tallahatchie built a Frisbee golf field to provide a fun and unique way for children to increase their physical activity. “The kids try to throw the Frisbees into the baskets,” says Stephanie Coker, the school nurse. “They love it! The equipment can be used both indoors and outside.”
At Kirkpatrick Elementary in the Clarksdale Municipal School District, children lost weight after participating in a “Walk Around the World” competition during recess and free time. Teachers observed that the exercise improved their students’ focus in classroom and helped decrease discipline problems.
Amory Middle School received the "Active Lifestyle Model School Award" after successfully participating in the President's Fitness Challenge.
Grenada Middle School in the Grenada School District implemented a morning exercise routine for the entire school via school-wide video telecasting. These exercises took place while standing beside desks in each classroom.
Physical Education Instructors were hired to provide PE classes at almost all the schools in the Clarksdale Municipal School District.
At Pass Road Elementary School in the Gulfport School District each day students spent 5 minutes in their class room performing assigned physical activities (bicep curl, jumping jacks, squats, etc). Teachers reported that these “FANtastic Movement Moments” helped students become more alert and better able to focus.
Alexander Junior High School with the Brookhaven School District implemented intramural basketball and volleyball sports programs and walking and aerobic/dance activities before school each day.
30 minutes of physical activity are now a part of every student’s day at Shadow Oaks Elementary School in Desoto County Schools. And students receive special recognition from the Principal by joining her in a power walk at recess.
Counseling, Psychological and Social Services
Sudduth Elementary School in the Starkville School District has adopted a special “Danger to Self or Others” preventive procedure. These staff training and reporting measures were adopted in response to the expression of suicidal thoughts
by several young children. “Most people assume young children do not have these thoughts, but they
are capable of having them and need to be taken seriously,” says school counselor Dawn Lowry. “This plan helps to prevent a potentially harmful situation.”
Family and Community Involvement
On April 16, Pecan Park Elementary’s PTA sponsored their Second Annual Family Academic/Wellness Night from 5:30-6:30 PM. Only students who brought a parent/adult with them could participate. The whole family was encouraged to attend. When students registered, they were given a color-coded card based on their grade level. Students and parents were then instructed to walk around the track one time (a quarter mile track) to receive a sticker for their card. Then the child chooses an academic (vocabulary, math, puzzles) or another type of activity, such as the “Project Fit America” (PFA) (sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield) station or the KaBOOM!! Playspace station (The Home Depot) to receive another sticker. After the child completed an academic/PFA activity, they walked around the track again. Each child could earn up to eight stickers (4 for successfully completing the academic/PFA stations and 4 for walking around the track 4 times). Students then redeemed their stickers for prizes. All participants are given fresh fruit (provided by our Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program grant from MDE) and water. The entire event was put together in one day by partnering with 250+ community volunteers and school staff members. Faculty, staff, and parent volunteers conducted the activities.
Parents, staff, parent volunteers, teachers, extension agents, and school administrators met in the school gym of Pontotoc Elementary for an update on their implementation of coordinated school health and plans for future activities to take place in their school. After the presentation, attendees got the opportunity to climb a rock wall, play Dance, Dance Revolution, basketball and the “Shipwreck” game. As a result of having this event, key players in the implementation of school health at Pontotoc Elementary were given the opportunity to voice their ideas and willingness to help meet their school’s goals for achieving optimal wellness and academic achievement for their students. This will also increase community and family involvement in the things that take place outside of school that promote the health of their students.
The Mississippi Cooperative Extension Service provides a short nutrition counseling tutorial at each monthly PTO meeting at Charleston Elementary in the East Tallahatchie School District.
The Amory Elementary School received a “Safe Routes to School” grant to make it easier and safer for more children to walk and bike to school. For more information on the Safe Routes initiative, go to
In order to involve parents in school wellness Charleston Middle School of the East Tallahatchie School District and Natchez-Adams School District sponsored "Family Fun and Fitness Nights".
The staff and faculty of Grenada Upper Elementary will be featured in the January 2008 issue of Weight Watchers Magazine for the brilliant example they set in losing a cumulative total of 916.5 pounds since last school year.
The staff lounge at Mileston Elementary in the Holmes County School District eliminated sodas from their vending machine, which now offers water, milk and juice to staff members.