Success Stories: Local schools encourage student and family fitness

We love success stories! Improving the health and wellness of children is one of the founding principles of The Cooper Institute and the goal of the Healthy Zone Schools program, a partnership with United Way of Greater Metropolitan Dallas.

Recently, two schools shared with us the exciting ways they are getting kids active and healthy.

Goal-Getting Gators

On Halloween, students at Galloway Elementary School in Mesquite, Texas held an obstacle course fundraiser called the Galloway Gator Games. The event was part of CATCH Week (Coordinated Approach to Child Health) and included fun daily dress-up themes and activities such as Stop Drop Dance, Fitness Bingo, Walk to School Wednesday, Gator Games Day, and 10 minutes of extra recess. All of the activities were designed to keep kids active and engaged throughout the day.

Over 100 kids have signed up for the weekly running club with 75 consistently coming and running for over 30 minutes. In early November, students, staff and families participated in the school district’s local Santa Color Run 5k. Meanwhile in P.E. classes, all grades from kindergarten to fifth grade are learning the basics of roller skating.

Nutrition is equally important to the Galloway Gators. Students try new foods as part of the fruit and veggie challenge in the school cafeteria and they receive play passes for good behavior (instead of the practice of taking away recess for bad behavior). The cafeteria also limits the amount of cookies and chips the kids are allowed to purchase in the lunch line.

The Gators are making great progress, but they are still working towards their goals:

  • Increase recess time on non-P.E. class days
  • Increase brain breaks in the classroom
  • Create a fitness room for staff
  • Cut back student consumption of cookies and chips at lunch


Family Fitness Fun Backpacks

In Celina, Texas, teachers at O’Dell Elementary are encouraging Family Fitness Fun by sending home backpacks. Each weekend, one backpack per grade level goes home with a different student to encourage their family to get up and active together. The students return the backpack to the school the following Monday and a new student for each grade level is picked each week.

Backpacks are filled with a variety of equipment, games, and activities for families to use and a questionnaire to get feedback on the pack and potential add-ins for the next semester.

A small portion of the activity money provided by the Healthy Zone Schools program goes towards replacing items or acquiring new items for the pack. Some parents have even donated items since the program began.

This unique idea has been a huge success with students who have really enjoyed the activities and look forward to taking it home. It is a great way for families to continue to spend time together, to reach families who may not have access to equipment outside of school and to keep students active on the weekends.

Written by Breanna Palmeiro