You are here

Articles: Health & Wellness

Students at the Harlem Children’s Zone and Promise Academy Charter School grow tomatoes, squash, eggplants and other vegetables in a rooftop garden.

Nestled between high-rise buildings in New York City, a lush, green garden full of colorful fruits and vegetables grows on the rooftop of the Harlem Children’s Zone and Promise Academy Charter School. What was just a few small boxes of dirt five years ago has grown into a 1,000-square-foot garden with 30 types of plants, including tomatoes, squash, eggplant, peppers, and berries.

Updated July 1, 2013:

“Do a triangle pose,” a teacher says to her third-grade students during one of their bi-weekly yoga classes. “Good. Now a gorilla pose. Now you’re a mountain.”

This is yoga at Encinitas USD’s nine K6 schools. The poses’ names have been changed to be less religious. They are part of a complete physical education program designed to help students stay calm, focused and physically active throughout their day, says Encinitas USD Superintendent Timothy Baird.

After the Newtown tragedy last December, an outpouring of gifts from around the world inspired Sandy Hook Elementary School first grade teacher Kaitlin Roig. She created a new social curriculum that teaches students about compassion, kindness, and caring for others—an antidote of sorts for the hatred and pain inflicted upon their school children, their families, and their community.

In December 2012, in the case Zeno v Pine Plains Cent School District, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled that a New York district was liable under Title VI for student-on-student harassment, upholding a $1 million reduced jury verdict.

I have been a school social worker in the small Westmoreland Central School District in central New York for 26 years. And I have experienced what is now documented in research, that schools are seeing more children with mental health difficulties, such as fear and anxiety. These problems occur for various reasons, including family and tempermental issues, and often emerge at an early age.

Most children consume too much omega-6, which is found in soybean oil, and is an ingredient in many processed foods. But they don’t get enough omega-3, a fatty acid found in foods generally consumed less frequently, such as flax seeds, walnuts, salmon, grass-fed beef and soybeans (though not soybean oil). 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most children and adolescents in the United States eat too much sugar, fat, and salt, but not enough fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Further, they consume about half their “empty calories” in the form of soda, fruit drinks, dairy desserts, grain desserts, pizza and whole milk (CDC, 2013).

At the recent annual conference of the International Bullying Prevention Association, I co-facilitated a session with a panel of students who are leaders in preventing bullying in their school. I asked the 600 professionals in the room how many also rely on student leadership to prevent bullying, and barely 30 raised their hands. The students’ insightful and passionate presentation on confronting these real-world problems became the “buzz” of the conference.

Controversy over so-called “fat letters” mailed from district offices to parents, informing them if they have an overweight, healthy weight or underweight child, is erupting across the nation.

Though professional athletes have access to top healthcare professionals and state of the art facilities, tightening budgets in U.S. school districts often leave high school sports participants without protective services or proper care after injury. To address this problem, the Youth Sports Safety Alliance, a group of more than 100 organizations committed to the safety of young athletes, released the first-ever “National Action Plan for Sports Safety,” a guide for districts to protect student athletes.

Art therapy involves creating art to help individuals of all ages cope with traumatic experiences and stress, according to the American Art Therapy Association, a national organization whose Connecticut members have been working to assist young people, their families, and the local communities to address the trauma resulting from the Sandy Hook shooting. Above, a drawing from a first grade Sandy Hook student who was at school the day of the shooting.

School psychologists are often the first professionals to reach students with mental illness, and part of their role is to help identify threats that can lead to events such as the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., which left 20 children and six adults dead, including school psychologist Mary Sherlach, who was one of the first responders. But as district budgets are cut and school psychologists retire, their difficult and crucial role working with troubled students may be endangered.

The tornado that tore through Joplin, Mo. in May 2011 killed more than 150 people, demolished thousands of homes and businesses, and damaged or destroyed 10 public schools. Though students were affected by the tragedy, many remain afraid to ask for the mental health services they may need.

Students nationwide are protesting the new nutritional guidelines for school lunches that went into effect this year thanks to the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. From parody videos to cafeteria strikes, students are speaking out against the smaller, healthier portions, which include almost twice as many fruits and vegetables as last year, and less saturated fat and sodium. They are hungry, they say, and the healthy options aren’t tasty, leading some to discard their fruits and veggies.

According to its 2011 National School Climate Survey, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) reports that anti-gay language amongst students is continuing to decline and, for the first time, bullying against others based on sexual orientation has begun to drop. GLSEN surveyed more than 8,500 students between the ages of 13 and 20 from more than 3,000 school districts in all 50 states. The reason for the safer environment? An increase in support from school leaders, bullying prevention programs and LGBT organizations.

Pages