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Students more active, healthy following Kaiser Thriving Schools grant

HIGHLANDS RANCH – As work under a one-year grant provided by Kaiser Permanente wraps up, the hope is that the opportunities created, including fitness classes, will spark a change in schools and classrooms around the Douglas County School District.

Studies show that healthy students perform better in school. Through the Kaiser Thriving Schools grant, Douglas County kids and adults alike were encouraged to integrate more physical fitness activities before, during and after school hours.

The Douglas County School District Healthy Schools team worked to create student-led health teams in eight pilot schools, as well as funding fitness classes, classroom physical activity kits and professional development for teachers throughout the District.

“We are just trying to provide and create opportunities for schools to embed physical activity as part of their culture, and bring in opportunities for them to move before, during and after school in effective ways, so they’re not taking away from their learning, they’re just enhancing it,” explained DCSD Healthy Schools Lead Andrea Willis.

“A lot of kids sit for most of the day,” added Laurie LaComb, DCSD’s Thriving Schools Grant Coordinator. “We have a lot of tools to combat that and allow teachers to get kids moving through the day, without disrupting instruction or weave it into their instruction.”

The grant helped to purchase physical activity bags for classrooms, which include activity suggestions, juggling scarfs, beanbags and more. On a daily basis, you can see the students in motion and utilizing these tools in Sara Schumacher’s classroom.

“I decided to incorporate a lot more movement in my classroom, so I could see how that would effect the kids and how it would affect their learning,” Schumacher explained.

Schumacher says the activities, which only last about two to three minutes, three times a day not only get her first-grade students’ muscles working, but also stimulates their brains.

“I saw some great things starting to happen in my classroom. Behavior was getting a lot better, kids were able to move around a lot more and during quiet working times, kids were able to stay focused a little longer, so I started encouraging Fox Creek and other teachers to do it,” Schumacher said.

WATCH: DCSD Healthy Schools Initiative participants talk about impact program has had on students and learning.

“Purposeful movement in the classroom can offer students the opportunity to process, reflect and discuss learning with their peers,” Willis explained “In addition, offering short brain boosters helps students re-engage in learning, refocus attention and increases blood flow to the brain. There is so much research behind movement and learning.”

The team was also able to offer more than 50 different fitness classes, including Zumba, strength straining and yoga, at different schools and sites across the District. They estimate that they served more than 5,000 individuals, including 2,500 students.  

Additionally, the team was trained by the Colorado Department of Education to teach eduactors about teaching with the brain in mind. As a result they were able to provide professional development courses to help make the connection for teachers between activity and learning.

“When we come out of working with these staff members, they say ‘that was so valuable. That was one of the best things we heard all year,” LaComb said.

It is clear that the program has made a big impact in the eight DCSD Healthy Schools Initiative pilot schools.  Recently the student-led health teams at each school came together at the Highlands Ranch Mansion for Spring Fling, an opportunity to share some of the projects they have implemented.  The projects ranged from the creation of running clubs and implementation of “Brain Breaks” to movement competitions and “Wheel or Walk Wednesdays.”

2014-2015 DCSD Healthy Schools Initiative Pilot Schools
Bear Canyon Elementary 
Health Coach: Kimmy Romine

Cherry Valley Elementary
Health Coach: Jan Francis

Cimarron Middle School
Health Coach: Beau Davies

Cougar Run Elementary
Health Coach: Amy Moyle

Fox Creek Elementary
Health Coaches: Sara Schumacher & Cindy Townsend

Heritage Elementary
Health Coaches: Sue Antonsen & Kimberly Stephens

Pine Lane Intermediate
Health Coach: Kelly Wilbert

Soaring Hawk Elementary
Health Coach: Tonya Tuley

DCSD’s Healthy Schools team has applied for another Kaiser Thriving Schools grant. In the meantime, it is utilizing some of the remaining funds to offer some fitness classes during the next school year.

The hope is that the work already underway has lit a passion for health and wellness within our schools.

“Grants are never meant to last forever,” Willis explained. “They are meant to get the ball rolling in the right direction to create systems change.”

Willis and her team hope to continue to encourage schools to plant gardens, consider healthy snack policies and create a culture of health and wellness.

To that end, the District has created a Wellness Advisory Council that is working to release a report next year, which will provide a five-year framework for making health and wellness a greater focus in the District.

“We are trying to bring this to the front burner, because health and wellness is really on the back burner in most places,” Willis explained.

Learn more about DCSD’s Healthy Schools program or sign up today, by clicking on the link.

April 28, 2015 | By rmbarber | Category: Health Wellness and Prevention

District News

graduates standing in line outside, smiling

DOUGLAS COUNTY – Graduation rates in the Douglas County School District (DCSD) continue to climb. Data released today by the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) shows the on-time, four-year graduation rate is now 90.4 percent.

DCSD students also made an impressive showing at graduation. The class of 2017 earned more than $82 million in scholarships.

DCSD has one of the highest graduation rates in the Denver metro area. According to CDE, DCSD graduation rates have risen steadily from 81.9 percent in 2009 to 90.4 percent in 2017.

Five female students standing on stage smiling and laughing at the awards ceremony

The top two-percent of female athletes in Douglas County School District (DCSD) were honored at the annual Girls and Women in Sports Luncheon last week at Chaparral High School. This year represented the 30th national celebration of Girls and Women in Sports Day, created to encourage and promote the participation of girls in athletics. The girls who were honored were selected by their school’s coaches, athletic directors and principals for their outstanding achievements.

Superintendent Search text based logo

Working through the recent winter break, the Douglas County School District Board of Education has kicked off its search for DCSD’s next permanent superintendent. Following a thorough vetting of potential search firms, Ray & Associates (no relation to Board Director David Ray) has been hired to conduct the national search. The cost of the firm, excluding travel expenses, is $40,000. The money will come from the school board's budget, which is used for costs such as legal expenses and conferences.