Fun Ideas to Promote Healthy Lifestyles in School

GES2Grafenwoehr Elementary School PTA was very fortunate last year to be a Healthy Lifestyle 101: Energy Balance grant recipient, and we are super fortunate to receive the grant again this school year! Last year, our PTA focused primarily on increasing opportunities to engage in physical activity.  Our school is small and, being located in the Bavarian Region of Germany (we are an American school on a US military installation), the weather often keeps kids indoors for recess—with no space to move around and be active.  While physical activity is still an important aspect of our Energy Balance program, we are also working to encourage students and families to make healthy eating choices.  Here is a sampling of some of the PTA grant programs that we’ve already implemented for the 2014 – 2015 school year:

Fall Family Fun Run – Families spent a Saturday morning at our community fitness center to run a 400m, 1-mile, or 5 km run/walk.  Some kids were very ambitious and ran all three!  We plan to hold an end-of-the-year fun run in June.

Gardening Program – This is a school-wide program spearheaded by our Host Nation (German) teacher.  We started off this two-year program with a full-blown “gardening party” day.  Parents, teachers, and students spent an afternoon engaged in physical activity by working together, pulling weeds and planting some new shrubs.  In the spring, some of our Energy Balance grant funds will be used to plant vegetables and fruit trees.

GES_3Try Day Friday – This is an event we just tried in October and will now continue once every quarter.  During each Try Day Friday event, all students have an opportunity to learn about and taste a fruit or vegetable.   For the first quarter, students tried mango.  Most students had never tasted one before, but now the majority of them think they taste great!  This program is a great way for ALL students to participate in our grant program, since it takes place during the school day.

Grizzly Family Café – Another new program, the Grizzly Café gives parents an opportunity to reserve a space each month for a special one-on-one lunch with their child.  As our parents lead very hectic lifestyles, it isn’t always possible to eat a sit-down family meal together.  There are a multitude of benefits children receive by eating with their parents, so this is a great way to give busy parents an opportunity to spend quality time with their child.

GES PTAHalloween & Healthy Tasting Table…only if you dare! – This evening event combined our annual Halloween costume parade, our general membership meeting, and a chance for families to try some healthy foods.  Students, parents, and siblings got the chance to try quinoa with roasted vegetables, baked kale chips, pomegranate, pomelo, a healthy soup, fruit smoothies, and other healthy foods.  Brave kids learned that eating healthy is not only good for them, but can taste great!

I’m really excited about our PTA’s health and wellness programs this school year.  Even if your PTA did not receive an Energy Balance grant this year, it is possible to implement any of the programs I discussed.  You only need one person with an interest in health to advocate for positive changes within your school and get the excitement going.

Celebrate Books with Take Your Family to School Week

Blog_Linda_TYFTSW_2March is National Reading Month. Learn more about bringing a literacy-themed event, including PTA Family Reading Experience to your school.

Living overseas in Europe has many benefits like traveling, learning a foreign language, and experiencing a different culture.  But, for Americans living in Germany, finding a good selection of English books is a rare treat.  For some families, purchasing new books is not always in the budget.

When I applied for the National PTA Take Your Family to School Night grant, our PTA decided immediately that one of our events would be a reading night, because we’d already scheduled an international bookseller, Triskele Literary Services, to come to our school for a book fair during Take Your Family to School Week—perfect timing!  What a great way to use the grant money, I considered, by giving students a night to celebrate the love of reading and get a free book to take home, too.

Blog_Linda_TYFTSWOur GES PTA Reading Night was a partnership of teachers, PTA parent volunteers, and community volunteers, including several soldiers from our school’s partner unit, the 44th Expeditionary Signal Battalion.  Volunteers were on-hand to read stories to students, to play word games (Mad Libs, crossword puzzles, and word finds), and to help the students make a fancy bookmark.  Students were invited to come dressed as their favorite literary character.  Not only did I see Laura Ingalls at the event, but The Cat in the Hat attended, as did Harry Potter and Little Red Riding Hood.  A few weeks before the event, students were invited to make a poster publicizing their favorite book.  They were invited to create a poster that would encourage their friends and classmates to read the book they loved best.  Over 70 posters were submitted and were displayed during the event, and three lucky winners got to choose an additional book as their prize!

Grafenwoehr Elementary School Reading Specialist, Lisa Heinzmann, said: “The children had happy smiles on their faces as they left the event, clutching and holding dearly, a brand-new book (of their very own) to read over and over again!   There is truly nothing like the gift of a book!”

GES PTA Reading Night was a huge success.  We hope to be able to hold another reading night next school year!  Our second TYFTSW event will be a bullying awareness and education event featuring a special performance of Eddie ‘N Friends, a play by Sadie Burger that will be presented by the Grafenwoehr Performing Arts Center.  Following the performance, there will a chance for questions and discussion lead by community behavior health professionals.

Linda Scheuermann  is the Health & Wellness Membership Chair at Grafenwoehr Elementary School PTA in Germany. On February 20, 2014, GES PTA hosted a PTA Reading Night as a Take Your Family to School Week grant recipient.