Spreading School Health at Sun Valley Elementary
Sun Valley Elementary School
Sun Valley Elementary School in Birmingham, Alabama is constantly striving to change the culture of school health and implement programs to benefit students. Over 50% of the student population is overweight and the free/reduced lunch percentage is over 90%. Thanks to a Game On grant, supported by CSX Transportation, Sun Valley was able to take the first step in its action plan, including a school vegetable garden, in-class physical activity breaks using GoNoodle, monthly student dances to promote physical fitness and movement, and physical activity and nutrition education materials for parents and students.
Through these activities, increased awareness and student participation was quickly evident. Student behaviors improved and the community rallied around the initiatives and supported the focus of Sun Valley’s health goals. The GoNoodle activity breaks added 15 minutes of physical activity during the day for students, a significant increase in physical activity for students compared to years prior. The vegetable garden helped students become more aware of the food they consumed and more willing to try different vegetables they wouldn’t consider previously. Students worked in the garden which provided a hands-on learning opportunity and a heightened level of excitement to try the nutritious foods they had grown.
Teacher Kelly McGuire said, “The children have become more aware of where their food comes from.” School Principal, Susan Chalmers, recalled she was sitting with a student while waiting to go home from school when it began to rain. The student grabbed Mrs. Chalmers face and excitedly said, “We need this rain for our garden!” Mrs. Chalmers shared this level of enthusiasm with her staff as confirmation the program was having its intended effect.
Beyond school faculty, parents have shared their own pictures and stories about starting gardens at home with their children due to the excitement generated by the program. Ultimately, the yield of the garden was so abundant that students hosted a school-sponsored farmers market to sell produce to students, faculty and community. The event was so successful that the school plans to expand the garden and host an even larger farmers market next year.
Remarkably, the impact of the Game On grant to Sun Valley not only impacted its students and faculty, but the community as a whole, and made it possible for the impact to grow in years to come.