Four BCPS elementary schools – Bear Creek in Dundalk, Halstead Academy in Towson, Hillcrest in Catonsville and Pot Spring in Timonium – are among nine Maryland schools that were honored for being among the nation’s healthiest schools.
The schools received National Healthy Schools Awards from the Alliance for a Healthier Generation as part of a weekend-long celebration in Washington featuring former President Bill Clinton. In all, the group recognized 250 schools from 30 states across the nation for their efforts to fight childhood obesity through practices that aim to improve health and wellness and increase physical activity.
“A healthy child is a child who is ready to learn, and we are proud of the lead these schools have taken in showing all of us in Baltimore County the importance of a healthy diet and plenty of exercise,” said BCPS Superintendent Dr. Dallas Dance. “Schools can and do play an important role in ensuring that children develop healthy habits for a lifetime, and I hope that the practices at these schools will inspire others to follow their example.”
Staff from the schools were honored during a recognition ceremony on Saturday, September 13, at the Washington Hilton, 1919 Connecticut Avenue NW, Washington, D.C. 20009.
In addition to the ceremony, the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Leaders Summit in Washington featured panel discussions, fitness events and a welcome reception featuring President Clinton.
According to the group’s website (https://www.healthiergeneration.org/), each recognized school qualified for a gold, silver or bronze award by meeting or exceeding stringent standards set by the Alliance for healthy eating and physical activity programs and policies.
The award is the second health-related honor for Pot Spring Elementary School in Timonium. On September 1, Let’s Move Active Schools recognized the school for its efforts to create an active school environment, one that helps students learn and grow through the integration of physical activity before, during and after the school day. “Each year, the school sponsors Food Plate Fridays, the Race for Education pre-conditioning program and other wellness school initiatives,” said school nurse Rebecca Colt-Ferguson. Through those activities, she adds, “I begin to see more community engagement, awareness and acceptance of wellness activity.”
Hillcrest Principal Theresa McVey said her school had developed a variety of creative programs to promote movement, including yoga centers in classrooms and a running/walking loop for students during recess. “We are extremely pleased and happy to focus on wellness when statistics appear so bleak for children in terms of childhood obesity and other health issues” she said.
Cheryl Thim, principal at Bear Creek Elementary School, said collaboration among school offices, the community, and faculty made the difference. “The staff, students, and families joined together in make healthy changes,” she noted. “The impact has been tremendous and the real reward has been establishing the foundation for a lifetime of healthy habits for our students and community.”
And at Halstead Academy, school nurse Nancy Quick said the effort began in 2012 to improve nutritional choices and fitness levels not only at the school but throughout the entire Halstead community. Strategies included adding fruits to breakfast offerings, introducing students to vegetables and fruits, sponsoring a health fair and starting community walking clubs and staff fitness classes.
“Receiving the bronze award is extremely gratifying, and we are excited to move forward,” Quick said. “The entire community is much more aware of healthy, nutritional eating practices. We have a great deal to celebrate and have truly come together to become a ‘Healthier Halstead!’”