Interview with Duval County School District
Introduce yourself and tell us how you found out about the AFHK district grant.
My name is Heather Albritton and I am the director of Health and Education in Duval County in Florida. I am a member of the School Wellness Coalition and worked close
ly with AFHK in that area. Once I became aware of the grant opportunity, I jumped on it with persuasion from one of my colleagues.
What other health and wellness initiatives were available in your district before receiving the AFHK grant?
Supporting secondary students through CDC’s dash grant for adolescents which included a focus on sexual health. There weren’t too many initiatives focusing on nutrition education, but there are programs in place focusing on promoting non-bullying, and there are safe spaces for the LGBT community. There is a huge focus on sex services with Duval’s Dept. of Health which includes testing and treatment. Previously, there was nothing too expansive in the field of physical education/physical activity. This was a great tool for us to address that area.
Tell me about your grant project.
We decided to start with a physical activity initiative that we could directly control. There were two schools involved- Hartwood Heights and Martin Luther King Elementary. Dr. Recess came in and did some education with teachers and students and showed them games while tying it together with brain development and cognitive function. He also showed them how important it is to move and get physically active. Dr. Recess spent the day with the students and teachers playing with them and practicing the games. Each school will get equipment to support this and for the classroom teachers to use during recess. The main focus of this project is to increase physical activity during the school day and after school. Students that stay for after school are no longer tied to the constraints of a classroom but can use the equipment to play instead of engaging in remedial academic activities.
What challenges or barriers have you faced during your grant term so far?
Contact and getting with the schools to set up dates/times that didn’t interfere with other school things like testing and matched our schedules. It is important to know that kids can have meaningful play once the district staff leave. We want to make sure they have meaningful resources at hand such as activity books. One major challenge has been a delay on orders/backorders. We are currently still waiting on the last few pieces to arrive.
What have been your biggest successes so far?
For me [Heather], at the assemblies seeing the kids faces light up. They are so excited to be outside and play. There is now greater awareness of physical activity opportunities with teachers and the fact that they are able to participate in the activities with their students. Teachers can do theses things outside of regular PE. Teachers now have a stronger understanding of the connection between the brain and movement. Even if we only reach a few teachers that is more than we started with. We want them to understand the importance of movement.
What are the students saying about the program?
Its exciting to hear their excitement in learning individual and cooperative games. This teaches them skills like following rules, team building, sportsmanship, etc. The children are excited to play it at home with their parents and its really cool for them to make this connection. It’s like Christmas for them.
What are the families saying about the program?
At MLK Elementary, there were some parents that made comments about the new stuff for the afterschool program. They spoke about waiting on the new stuff. We are working with families to set up increased family communication. MLK will have a family night once everything arrives.
Is there anything else that you would like to add?
It’s been a blessing for the principals that don’t have much equipment and they’ve been very appreciative for equipment and support. We are grateful just being able to have AFHK and the parent liaison/family connector portion and the community has vocalized how beneficial that can be. The parent voices are being heard and they are happy and interested about this.