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New Faces of Health at Schafer Elementary School

Schafer Elementary School
Lombard, Illinois

In 2015, Schafer Elementary School in Lombard, Illinois, welcomed a new principal, Edith Rivera, and a new school nurse, Ruth Toyama. They started to discuss the idea of creating a garden at Schafer, and the seed for school wellness was planted.

In the summer of 2016, Schafer’s PTA president shared an email she received from Action for Healthy Kids regarding an upcoming Game On grant opportunity to improve the school’s nutrition and physical activity initiatives. Then in 2017, a new PE teacher, Eric Willis—who also ran a landscaping business during the summer—joined the staff. The Schafer team saw all the pieces falling into place and decided it was the perfect time to not only start a school garden, but also to make health and wellness a priority at the school.

With the support of Action for Healthy Kids, Schafer was finally able to put its aspirations into motion during the 2018-2019 school year. The school brought in a live yoga instructor to work with second- and third-grade students one day a week, and Mr. Willis started a 50-mile club that encourages students to walk a mile during recess each day to reach the 50-mile goal. Schafer also added morning wellness announcements and a wellness section in its weekly e-newsletter for parents and staff, which included ideas for fun family challenges like doing planks during commercials for the Olympics. At the same time, Nurse Ruth began promoting DuPage County Health Department’s “5-4-3-2-1 GO!” campaign, encouraging students to get five servings of fruit and vegetables, four servings of water, three servings of dairy, two hours or less of screen time, and one or more hour of physical activity per day.

During Every Kid Healthy Week in April, Nurse Ruth planned a different activity for each day of the week. On Monday, she organized a taste test where PTA members helped chop, peel, and serve vegetables and fruits to all 458 students. On Tuesday, students were encouraged to bring water bottles and drink two full bottles at school (and continue with more at home). On Wednesday, every student received a healthy snack. On Thursday, Schafer distributed flyers throughout the school on the effects of screen time and the importance of limiting it to two hours or less a day. Lastly, on Friday, the school held its first Walk & Bike to School event, with every student walking a mile.

Students responded to the Every Kid Healthy Week activities enthusiastically. Genesis Reed asked to see Nurse Ruth so he could show her how he had been drinking water all day. And Adrian Garro shared all the ways he likes to be healthy, such as drinking milk and mango juice, eating fruits and lean meats, and running.

“I love everything about being healthy!” he said.

Students weren’t the only ones excited about Schafer’s new nutrition and physical activity initiatives. Teacher’s aide Eren Perez began looking forward to hearing the wellness tip every morning, teachers Estela Arenas and Susan Scott joined students in their weekly yoga sessions, and Nurse Ruth and some of her colleagues began walking during their lunch break and logging their miles.

Thanks to the innovation and passion of Schafer staff members and the support of Action for Healthy Kids and Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital, students and staff alike have learned valuable health and wellness lessons that will stay with them for a lifetime.

“This is just the beginning,” said Nurse Ruth. “We can’t wait for the new year to add on to what we started this year.”

This grant was made possible through funding from Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital.