By Kristin Boza
Sutherland Elementary School, 10015 S. Leavitt St., initiated a parent-driven wellness committee that began to explore how to enhance recess time and improve school lunches. Now, the committee has taken on additional actions to ensure students are learning how to incorporate a variety of wellness activities in their daily lives.
“Last year, our parents took the lead on Wellness Committee actions and set up a meeting between the Aramark/CPS food service and our parents and concerned staff members; what emerged was a commitment by Aramark and CPS to work with our school to provide fresher, more appetizing and nutritious options for our children,” said Sutherland Principal Meg Burns. “We have piloted several new alternatives that includes less warmed-over foods and more fresh vegetables and plant proteins. Due to their efforts, our entire lunch program has been transformed.”
The committee found their purpose and decided to continue their efforts to support Sutherland students in being well, which included fundraising for recess equipment and partnering with the Windy City Rollers roller derby team to provide recess equipment bags for each classroom, and heightening awareness about food allergies.
“Our PE teacher, Coach Muir, has been extremely supportive of our Wellness Committee and is working with them on developing a program of ‘old school’ recess activities. Coach Muir also works with our students to remain active and engaging each other in productive, fun, and safe playground games, while also utilizing our school-wide tools of Calm Classroom and yoga instruction to help support physical and mental fitness for all of our children,” Burns said. “We are also growing our wellness programs beyond physical wellness and working with staff to provide after school yoga, learning garden activities, and outdoor education.”
The Wellness Committee is also engaging parents in quarterly workshops designed to inform and support healthy practices. They are also building a strong social emotional wellness program that includes yoga “detention” in place of standard detention. “This is unique to Sutherland, although CPS is definitely advocating for alternatives to standard discipline and punishments,” Burns said. “We have taken the lead in developing our own very comprehensive program.”
When children are active and engaged in physical and emotional well-being, they will perform better in school, cause less disruptions, and have fun with their friends while building positive relationships.
Healthy Tips from the Sutherland Wellness Committee
Snacks. Healthy snacks are important for a child’s growth. Apples and pretzels are great alternatives to cookies, candy, pop, or sugary drinks.
Fitness. Setting fitness goals gives children something to work toward. Sutherland students are working on fitness goals in gym class that set benchmarks for strength and respiratory fitness. Push-ups, sit-ups, flexibility and running endurance tests give students an idea of where they stand and what they need to do to get stronger and more effective.
Follow the Kid’s Heart Challenge Guidelines: Have children follow the “5 for Life” guidelines: 1. Exercise for 60 minutes a day. 2 Drink water instead of pop. 3. Control sodium intake. 4. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables. 5. No smoking or vaping.