Healthy Schools, Better Learners: Partnering for Success in New York City
Dr. Howell Wechsler
If you walk through the halls of New York City’s PS1x Courtlandt School you’ll find all the makings of a vibrant learning environment—enthusiastic teachers, spunky students and colorful classrooms. Located a mere mile from Yankee Stadium in the South Bronx, PS1x is not just your average public school; PS1x is a healthy school.
The school’s vision—“to be happy, healthy and peaceful”—manifests in its emphasis on wellness. In the classroom, teachers incorporate movement into daily lessons to ignite students’ minds for learning. At recess, students partake in organized physical activities, such as dancing or basketball. Staff meetings begin not simply with a roll call, but with a heart-pumping warm-up. Parents and community members join in the school’s monthly health challenges, which promote healthy habits like meditation or increased daily movement.
The result? Happier and healthier students and staff.
For more than a decade, the Alliance for a Healthier Generation has worked with over 40,000 schools nationwide—many of them in New York City like PS1x—to transform them into healthier places. In that time, administrators and teachers have reported a consistent message: healthy students are better learners. Healthy students have higher attendance rates, improved behavior and increased test scores. We’ve also learned that the more students and parents actively participate in school wellness efforts, the greater the impact, as healthy habits often continue beyond the final bell and into young adulthood.
An emphasis on student and family engagement is one of the many reasons why we’ve proudly partnered with the New York City Department of Education, the nation’s largest school district serving more than 1.1 million children in over 1,800 schools. The Department of Education holds a steadfast commitment to improving and promoting health and wellness, rooted particularly in the inclusion of students and families. I serve as a member of the district wellness advisory committee, which in 2017 approved a strengthened wellness policy that included Healthier Generation’s recommended best practices in school meals, physical education and health education.
Thanks to the generous support of longtime kids’ health advocate, Target, we’ve been able to grow our impact in the city over the past two years and support more schools like PS1x in reaching their wellness goals and reaping the benefits of teaching happy, healthy students.
This past semester, we had the opportunity to expand our impact even further. Target partnered with Healthier Generation and the Department of Education to distribute $100,000 in Target GiftCards™ to support city schools in creating and sustaining healthy environments through increased student and family engagement.
Thanks to these Target GiftCards™, schools like Hunter’s Point Community Middle School in Queens will be able to bring their healthy hopes to life; for example, through the investment of table tennis equipment to diversify offerings in physical education class or the creation of a student dance program that culminates in a community-wide showcase.
Looking ahead, the opportunities to replicate these schools’ results in more city schools are endless. Through our continued, strengthened partnership with the Department of Education, we look forward to helping more schools in all five boroughs become healthy—giving every student the chance to build the healthy futures they deserve.
Any New York City school can become a healthy school by signing up to access Healthier Generation’s free resources, tips and trainings. Get started on your journey, today! #
Dr. Howell Wechsler is the CEO of Alliance for a Healthier Generation.