Fostering intellectual growth through healthy school programs
By WENDY ALTSCHULER For Sun-Times Media
Certain behaviors, such as eating unwholesome foods and not being physically active, which are often established during childhood, may be a factor in today’s major causes of health problems. Youth wellbeing programs play a crucial part in promoting healthful habits while enhancing academic performance. Schools are in a unique position to improve both the education and health status of American kids because schools are the only institutions that are able to reach nearly all children.
Baker Demonstration School in Wilmette has a strong commitment to a well-rounded hale and hearty education. Several healthy initiatives are implemented including a school-wide 5K run for kids in first through eighth grades.
“With a strong belief in the importance of strong minds and bodies, and a commitment to teamwork and sportsmanship, Baker has long held to a schedule of daily physical education. Students in grades first through eighth are accustomed to running laps, doing sit-ups, pull-ups, step-ups, and finishing up class sweaty and ready for more,” said Addie Goodman, director of advancement at Baker Demonstration School. “All of this leads to comfort and confidence when going out for sports teams and trying new things both on and off the field.”
During the summer, Baker has an excellent program called Baker Summer Discovery Camp. Kids are involved in project-based hands on learning activities alongside daily swimming classes.
“Afternoons are filled with activities that draw on creativity, ingenuity and execution,” said Goodman. “From creating a gigantic slip and slide and figuring out optimum water pressure to developing their own version of Quidditch using sticks and a badminton birdie, Baker Summer Discovery diverts from the standard. Trips to the beach and special activities such as student-led scavenger hunts make for exciting, enriching and exhausting summer experiences.”
Holy Cross School in Deerfield is a Catholic school with a strong value system that has been thriving for 74 years. During the normal school year, children can get involved in many sports including volleyball and basketball. Kids have even participated in a walk-a-thon. In the summer, many students in fifth through eighth grades participate in a football camp.
“We feel it is critical that students get adequate training and practice prior to the beginning of the football season,” said Janice DiVincenzo, principal at Holy Cross. “We utilize state of the art equipment and implement best practices for training of youth in this sport. Our Booster Club supports the annual refurbishing of equipment.”
Montessori schools are widely known for bringing nature and physical activity into the curriculum as a way to cultivate intellectual progress. The Seton Montessori School in Clarendon Hills and the Montessori Children’s House of North Barrington (MCHNB) are savvy to the benefits of bringing students into the great outdoors as a learning opportunity.
“Allowing children to delight in the wonder of the natural world at an impressionable age serves to help them become a steward of the earth and aware of caring for their own health in years to come,” said Anna Perry, executive director of Seton Montessori School and Montessori Children’s House of North Barrington. “MCHNB has a beautiful 3-acre wooded campus that has been designed to celebrate nature, and it’s laid out in a way in which all of our children can run, play and explore.”
Students at MCHNB are free to go on nature walks, discover wildlife and help in the vegetable and flower gardens. Many school projects at both Montessori schools are held in the outdoor spaces as well.
After the school year for children from birth through age 6 has concluded, MCHNB offers a summer camp for children ages 2-7.
“Accredited by the American Camp Association, the program offers additional play and gross motor activities including swimming lessons, arts and crafts, soccer skill building, and the full Montessori curriculum,” said Perry. “In our 40 years as a school community, we have put health, movement and connecting children with nature at the forefront of our educational programming.”