By Michilea Patterson, The Mercury
Right before students are due to return for the fall session, tri-county area educators learned how to incorporate play into the school day during a wellness seminar at the Pottstown Middle School.
About 160 people representing 13 area school districts attended the 2016 “Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds Institute” last week. The two-day event shows educators and school administrators how to incorporate physical fitness as well as other healthy activities into the school to create a better learning atmosphere. The Pottstown Area Health & Wellness Foundation organizes the annual institute.
“The event has served as a catalyst for area educators to coordinate their efforts and ultimately drive health into the culture of their classrooms and school buildings,” said Ashley Pultorak, the foundation’s program officer for capacity building, collaborations and new projects.
“We are blown away by the growth of local leadership in the arena of school health and are so grateful to continue to partner with these amazing educators,” she said.
The healthy institute has been in Pottstown for the past four years but this is the first year it was at the middle school. Pultorak said the school was a great building to have the event. She said the foundation liked that the middle school had traditional classrooms and allowed the entire institute to be held under one roof.
One of the main goals of the wellness seminar is to explain through speakers, presentations and group activities how movement in the classroom helps students to learn better. On Tuesday, attendees had the option to choose from 25 breakout sessions on topics such as active learning, social and emotional learning, employee wellness and school partnerships. Some of the active learning sessions included using fitness tools such as jumping rope, yoga, brain break games and more.
The institute went beyond including healthy activities in the classroom. The event’s keynote speaker Dan Rhoton, of the youth program Hopeworks ’N Camden, spoke about how children going through traumatic experiences may appear as uncooperative in the classroom. These traumatic incidents are known as Adverse Childhood Experiences and can lead to future health challenges. Examples of Adverse Childhood Experiences are a parents’ divorce, witnessing domestic violence and emotional abuse. Pultorak said Rhoton’s speech explained the best way to reach children that may be experiencing trauma.
“He talked about asking ‘what happened’ instead of ‘what’s wrong with’ a child. Dan (Rhoton’s) message is about giving youth the tools they need to be resilient and the important roles that educators play in the lives of children facing adversity,” she said.
On the last day of the institute, several area schools were recognized in a celebration for participating in a regional wellness competition. About 20 schools competed in the contest that included a wellness checklist. The competition was adopted from the Medical University of South Carolina’s Boeing Center for Children’s Wellness. The goal of the contest is to reduce childhood obesity by creating a healthier school environment.
Franklin Elementary School of Pottstown won first place earning the Wellness Checklist Achievement Award trophy and received $3,000 from the Pottstown Area Health & Wellness Foundation. In addition to Franklin Elementary, there were three other schools recognized at the celebration for their efforts in the competition. The schools were Brookside Montessori in Bechtelsville, West Pottsgrove Elementary and West-Mont Christian Academy in North Coventry.
The Pottstown Area Health & Wellness Foundation is a nonprofit organization with a mission to enhance the wellness of area residents. For more about the foundation, visit the website www.pottstownfoundation.org.