Learning First Alliance

Strengthening public schools for every child

Healthy Kids

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Mud pies. Gardening. Digging for buried treasure. Puddle jumping. Burying a time capsule in the backyard. None of these opportunities should be missed in the span of a young life. There are a thousand ways that dirt is not only good — it’s FANTASTIC. Simply put, dirt is an essential ingredient to a happy childhood.

So if you find that your children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, or heck — even yourself are far too clean these daysunplug from your electronic device of choice and go outside and PLAY. It’s good for the body, mind and spirit. (Watch this video from Persil detergent for more inspiration).

And quite frankly, so many children and teens today have no idea what they have been missing. We are raising a very indoor generation, comparatively speaking. So be a little patient with them; it might take them awhile to get the hang of good old fashioned outdoor play and adventure. But they will. It’s in all of us — naturally.

Check out these resources to help get your kiddos or family outside:

Nature Rocks ...

During the school year, families depend on the fact that students receive healthy well-balanced meals. In fact, more than 21 million children rely on the nutritious, free and reduced priced meals provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs. Whether it’s breakfast, lunch, a simple snack or supper, schools and food service professionals do their part to ensure all students have the fuel they need to learn and grow strong during the school year. But what happens over summer break?

At NEA Healthy Futures, we heard from educators and parents that the need for access to affordable, healthy food doesn’t stop over the summer months.

Luckily, Summer Nutrition Programs help to fill the void during summer vacation. This important program has continued to increase over the last three years and in 2014, more than 187 million summer meals were provided at over 50,000 sites nationwide. This represents a 6 percent increase in meals served nationally from the previous year. ...

grieving boyDealing with a death is never easy, but for young children and teens, it can bring a range of emotional experiences that will undoubtedly impact learning.

The vast majority of children will lose a close family member or friend by the time they are 16, and one in 20 will lose a parent. But while a 2012 survey by the New York Life Foundation and American Federation of Teachers (AFT) found that 92 percent of teachers believe grief is a serious problem that deserves more attention in schools, 93 percent of teachers had never received any form of bereavement training and only 3 percent of school districts offer any such training. ...

By Terry Pickeral, Project UNIFY Senior Education Consultant

I recently co-facilitated a webinar sponsored by the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) titled Social Inclusion: An Opportunity for Principal Leadership.

My co-facilitators included Steven Bebee, principal Cactus Shadows High School (AZ), Bill Schreiber, principal Granite Falls Middle School (NC) and Barbara Oswald, Special Olympics South Carolina.

It was a privilege to share and learn from these local and national leaders on how principals lead their schools to integrate and sustain social inclusion.

While US schools understand physical inclusion (ensuring all students have equitable access to facilities, services and activities) and academic inclusion (engaging diverse students in the teaching-learning process of the general education classroom) there is less familiarity with social inclusion ...

Cory Notestine is the American School Counselor Association's (ASCA) 2015 School Counselor of the Year. He worked in Guilford County Schools (NC) at T. Wingate Andrews High School before moving to Colorado, where he currently serves as a counselor at Alamosa High School. Notestine's efforts have resulted in higher college going rates and increased opportunities for students to partake in community college and university courses while still in high school.

Notestine was kind enough to take time to discuss his work and the school counseling program at Alamosa High School in greater depth. He highlighted the importance of the ASCA National Model in guiding the creation of the school's comprehensive counseling program, one that both holds counselors accountable and shows the impact of their work for the students they serve. Notestine also presented his priorities for the next year, when he will be serving as a national spokesman for his profession and his colleagues nationwide.
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In 2014, the Learning First Alliance conducted a number of interviews with leading education professionals. Many of these individuals are considered exemplar leaders in our coalition membership. The five listed below are the most viewed of the interviews that we conducted in 2014 and include a PDK Emerging Leader, a former President from AASA: The Superintendents’ Association and the National PTA President. While all but one of our top interviews this year focus on Common Core, we conduct interviews on a broad range of topics, highlighting leadership and best practices in public education.

We would like to thank our members for helping us connect with these individuals, and we thank all of our interviewees for taking time to share their insights and knowledge with our audience.

Happy New Year!

5. California Teachers Talk: Jesús Gutiérrez, Jr on the Common Core

As part of our Get It Right campaign on Common Core implementation, we are pleased to highlight the perspective of Jesús Gutiérrez, Jr, who is in his 10th year as an educator and was a 2013 Los Angeles County Teacher of the Year. Gutiérrez began his career ...

By Libby Nealis, Senior Program Coordinator, Behavioral and Mental Health, NEA Health Information Network

NEA’s Great Public Schools (GPS) Network recognized the week of December 7-13 as Mental Health Awareness Week.  Resources, discussions and webinars have been shared among members of the Student Bullying Group to examine issues around bullying and suicide prevention and recent federal guidance regarding bullying and students with disabilities

NEA HIN wants to contribute by sharing some facts about children’s mental health and the roles that school can play to address the needs of students with mental health disorders and to prevent and guard against the developmental and environmental stressors that can exacerbate symptoms of poor mental health and lead to more negative outcomes.  ...

By Joan Richardson, Editor-in-Chief, Kappan magazine (PDK International)

Robin Williams’ death by suicide in August could be the best thing that’s happened for mental health awareness in years.

Yes, we lost a comic genius who made us laugh so hard that our bellies ached. But his singular act — and, more to the point, his family’s generosity in acknowledging the truth of his death with the public — focused much needed attention on the anguish of depression and the reality that suicide too often accompanies the darkness that characterizes the disease.

How many times have you known someone or the spouse, child, or sibling of someone who committed suicide? How often have you talked about that event in the hushed tones of embarrassment? How often have the leaders in your schools been directed to avoid being specific about how a student or staff members died when the cause of death was suicide? ...

By Annelise Cohon, NEA Health Information Network

Since 2010, the Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom have been ensuring more learning-ready students thanks to an innovative school breakfast model.

We’ve all heard the saying, “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” However, how many of us forget to make breakfast a priority and walk out the door without eating anything? I’ll admit I’m guilty of not following my own advice and occasionally missing breakfast. However, for many adults and children missing breakfast can negatively impact their entire day. It has also been well-documented that for students, missing breakfast consistently over time can lead to poorer health outcomes and learning issues. Students who miss breakfast perform lower on standardized tests, are not able to concentrate as well, and are more likely to make frequent trips to the school nurse, missing valuable class time. ...

By Tom Ledcke, Special Education Teacher, Roosevelt High School in Seattle, Washington

The challenge of inclusion for students with disabilities has been an ongoing conversation in education. For students in my high school, inclusion has primarily meant physical inclusion only -- students with disabilities attended general education classes with typical peers. However, during lunch and after school they were usually alone and isolated from the usual social experiences that their typical peers enjoyed. My students practiced social fluency skills like eye contact and small talk in the classroom, but they never had the chance to put these skills into action by making true friendships. Participating in team sports or landing a part in the school play was only a dream. While I don't think it was ever out of malice or hatred, ignorance towards the students with intellectual disabilities ensured my students were left out of things and never integrated into the fabric of our school community -- and like any other student who feels isolated or alone, my students could feel that they were "outsiders." ...

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