Fit to Learn

Fit to Learn is a professional development program that makes healthy habits part of how kids learn. It engages Chicago teachers and principals in prioritizing health and wellness in the classroom and throughout the school.

Making Healthy Habits Part of How Kids Learn

Research documents what educators know: Healthy students are better prepared to learn. Boosting physical activity, nutrition education and other aspects of student wellness can increase academic achievement and reduce absenteeism. For this reason and many more, we created Fit to Learn.

Fit to Learn is an innovative professional development program for Chicago educators. It provides practical methods for making health and wellness a regular part of the school experience while meeting academic standards in math, reading, science, social studies, art, music and more. Just as important, Fit to Learn is about having fun and developing lifelong skills.


Shaped by Educators

We created Fit to Learn with extensive input from Chicago Public Schools (CPS) teachers and principals as well as academic leaders with expertise in nutrition, fitness and child development. It’s informed by both peer-reviewed research and hours of real-life classroom observations.

Fit to Learn program materials and events are continually updated with the input of past and current Fit to Learn participants as well as the local and national leaders who make up the Fit to Learn advisory committee.


For Principals and Teachers

We offer Fit to Learn for Chicago principals and teachers. Principals can take part in peer-led workshops throughout the year that enable them to learn about and share health-promoting best practices, experiences and challenges with other CPS school leaders and health experts.

Teachers participate in a full-day professional development session during the summer and have access to Fit to Learn lesson plans, booster sessions, networking opportunities and other resources throughout the school year.

Teachers who have participated in Fit to Learn have described the program as “awesome,” “realistic and helpful,” and “right on track.”

Stay Connected!

Sign up to receive news and resources focused on wellness and healthy school environments.

For More Information

Interested in making healthy changes in your classroom and want to find out more information about Fit to Learn? Sign up to receive occasional email updates.

Contact

rosa-circleRosa Ramirez Richter
Director of Chicago Programs + Policy

kristi-circle

Kristi Cox
Training + Program Manager

Benefits for Teachers

Fit to Learn teachers receive time-tested tools and techniques to create a classroom environment that seamlessly incorporates health and wellness. Teachers are also equipped with the skills and materials to share this health-promoting approach with others in their school.

Fit to Learn benefits include:

  • Easy-to-implement lesson plans for grades K-5
  • Resource binder, including tip sheets and case studies
  • Useful materials such as posters and non-food rewards
  • Information about grants and connections to community groups that can provide school service

In addition, participants say one of the most valuable benefits of Fit to Learn is the connection and support from other Fit to Learn teachers and the sense of belonging to a community that is dedicated to learning about and promoting wellness.


Currently Recruiting

We’re currently recruiting for the 2016-2017 school year. Our one-day summer session will be held on Aug. 3 and 4. Choose one day to participate. The same material will be covered each day so you won’t be missing out on any great information! Teachers will receive five Clock Hours for participating in this workshop. Breakfast and registration will begin at 8:30 a.m. Lunch and snacks will be provided throughout the day. Convenient Chicago location to be announced. Register now!


Program Structure

Fit to Learn is designed to work with teachers’ busy schedules in mind. It begins with a full-day professional development session during the summer led by experienced educators. Participants then select three elective booster sessions (about two hours each) to attend during the school year. Teachers receive ongoing support throughout the year with an active online community and through monthly newsletters highlighting success stories and new resources.


Issues and Content

Fit to Learn addresses a range of issues related to wellness and learning, including:

  • Connection between health and academic achievement
  • Integrating health messages into science, math, social studies, reading, art and music
  • Healthy food in the classroom: rewards, fundraising, snacks, parties and more
  • Movement in the classroom: integrating physical activity into lessons and transitions
  • Creating healthy school environments: involving principals, staff, parents and students
  • Engaging and sharing best practices with other teachers

Elective booster sessions additionally address a diverse set of topics including school gardens, yoga in the classroom, indoor recess strategies, teaching science with healthy food and staff wellness.


What Teachers Are Saying

The best advocates for Fit to Learn are those who have experienced the program. Here’s what teachers have to say:

“The benefits are crazy great. The boosters are very helpful and the resources provided are beneficial for staff and students alike.”
—Elizabeth Busch, Hamilton Elementary

“I’ve been able to use a lot of the different ideas and activities.
The resources are really teacher-friendly.”
—Deborah Davis, Hitch Elementary


 Learn More and Get Involved

Interested in making healthy changes in your classroom? We encourage you to contact us and get involved with Fit to Learn.

Stay Connected!

Sign up to receive news and resources focused on wellness and healthy school environments.

For More Information

Interested in making healthy changes in your classroom and want to find out more information about Fit to Learn? Sign up to receive occasional email updates.

Contact

rosa-circleRosa Ramirez Richter
Director of Chicago Programs + Policy

kristi-circle

Kristi Cox
Training + Program Manager

Benefits for Principals

Fit to Learn for principals delivers practical, research-based content that principals can put into practice right away in their schools. Workshops are led by CPS principals who have successfully implemented various wellness initiatives in their schools and regularly feature recognized experts (such as academic researchers) in the fields of education and health.

The program is driven by a core Fit to Learn Principals Advisory Committee of CPS principals who have made wellness a priority in their schools. This means content addresses the challenges and opportunities unique to CPS as well as nationally recognized research and best practices.

Principals learn time-tested strategies to support wellness and learning in their schools. Throughout the year, they also receive information about grants and connections to community groups that can provide health-based school services.

Participants say one of the most valuable benefits of Fit to Learn is the connection and support from like-minded colleagues and the sense of belonging to a community that is dedicated to learning about and promoting wellness and academic success.


Principal Advisory Committee

Dana Butler, Irma C. Ruiz Elementary
Katherine Elmer-DeWitt, Academy for Global Citizenship
Michael Heidkamp, Nathanael Greene School
Flavia Hernandez, McCormick Elementary
Allison Slade, Namaste Charter School


Program Structure

Fit to Learn for principals offers a flexible program structure designed with principals’ busy schedules in mind. We host six professional development events each year; some of these are in-person workshops while others are online webinars. Principals are invited to attend as many of these as they would like.

In addition, principals are invited to take advantage of opportunities for mentorship and individual peer-to-peer support from colleagues who have implemented successful strategies for health and wellness in their schools.


Issues and Content

Fit to Learn addresses a range of issues related to wellness and learning, including:

  • Research connecting health and academic outcomes
  • Engaging parents in wellness initiatives
  • Boosting learning with physical activity
  • Garden-based learning
  • Policies and systems supporting school wellness in CPS
  • Healthy classroom celebrations, fundraisers and rewards

These topics are determined by principals serving on the Fit to Learn Principals Advisory Committee. Each workshop or webinar features practical insight from one of these experienced school leaders.


What Principals Say

The Fit to Learn Principal’s program has enabled school leaders across Chicago to share successful strategies–and even things that they’ve tried unsuccessfully–to help others implement CPS health and wellness policies and best practices across the system.
—Allison Slade, Founding Principal, Namaste Charter School


Learn More and Get Involved

Interested in making healthy changes in your classroom? We encourage you to contact us and get involved with Fit to Learn.

Stay Connected!

Sign up to receive news and resources focused on wellness and healthy school environments.

For More Information

Interested in making healthy changes in your classroom and want to find out more information about Fit to Learn? Sign up to receive occasional email updates.

Contact

rosa-circleRosa Ramirez Richter
Director of Chicago Programs + Policy

kristi-circle

Kristi Cox
Training + Program Manager

By the Numbers

60+ Number of CPS principals involved with Fit to Learn
120+ Number of CPS schools involved with Fit to Learn
300+ Number of CPS teachers who have participated in the Fit to Learn Program
10,000+ Students impacted by Fit to Learn


Fit to Learn in Action

What does a Fit to Learn classroom look like? A few examples include:

Using physical activity to mark classroom transitions
“I try to do it with transitions because it gets their attention right away,” said Valerie Kmiecik of Irma C. Ruiz Elementary. “I’ll say ‘If you’re listening to me, you’re jogging in place’ just to get them moving from one thing to the next.”

Making healthy eating part of the classroom conversation
Teachers might focus lessons specifically on healthy eating, such as a math lesson graphing healthy foods from lunch. Or it might be more subtle. For example, one teacher replaced the “C is for Cake” alphabet card with “C is for Carrot.”

Walking the walk
Teachers know that modeling healthy behavior is one of the most powerful ways to send a message to their students about wellness. That’s why Fit to Learn supports teachers in setting and achieving their own wellness goals. In one school, teachers and students used pedometers to track and increase their daily steps. “It’s not just for the students. It’s for the whole teachers and staff,” said Dale Grandys of Banneker Elementary.

Staying active throughout the school day
Teachers can review any subject in a fun, active way. For example, younger students may practice counting (by ones, by twos, by fives) while doing jumping jacks.

Celebrating with fun, not food
To mark holidays and classroom achievement, set up craft stations and play music in the background. Or host a dance party in your classroom or take the opportunity to make a popular healthy treat such as fruit kebabs.


Teachers Are Seeing Results

“It’s had a big impact. I’ve seen the kids get more energy. Instead of just sitting around and complaining that they’re so tired, we get up and move. They get their second wind.”
—Jill Guzman, Irma C. Ruiz Elementary

“We’ve found physical activity to be a behavior management tool and a way to energize students. If they’re too hyper, it calms them down. If they’re too sluggish, it peps them up. Now, they’re requesting to have exercise in class. They’re noticing that it’s helping them out. They’re staying more focused which is going to make for better academic outcomes.”
—Valerie Kmiecik, Irma C. Ruiz Elementary

Stay Connected!

Sign up to receive news and resources focused on wellness and healthy school environments.

For More Information

Interested in making healthy changes in your classroom and want to find out more information about Fit to Learn? Sign up to receive occasional email updates.

Contact

rosa-circleRosa Ramirez Richter
Director of Chicago Programs + Policy

kristi-circle

Kristi Cox
Training + Program Manager

Fit to Learn Resources

Access related resources below, or go to the Resource Center to access resources across all of our program and policy areas.

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Brief: School Fundraisers: Positive Changes in Foods Sold, but Room for Improvement Remains

In-school fundraisers can be problematic nutritionally because, historically, unhealthy foods such as baked goods, candies, and sugary drinks have often been sold as part of these fundraising events. Food-related fundraising is common and has been in existence for many years, though the past decade has brought a variety of changes to the school food landscape. For example, the Smart Snacks school nutrition standards, which went into effect July 2014, define the portions and types of foods and beverages that can be sold outside of school meals on school campuses during the school day. However, these standards also allow states to exempt some fundraisers at which unhealthy foods and beverages may be sold, which has resulted in a patchwork of fundraiser policies and practices nationwide.

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Fit to Learn Tip Sheet: Nutrition Education

Good nutrition can go far beyond the cafeteria—into the classroom! Nutrition education can be a separate curriculum or it can be woven into existing standards-based curricula.

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Fit to Learn Tip Sheet: Healthy Fundraising

Schools have many options for successfully raising money while keeping school wellness a priority—without relying on sales of unhealthy foods. Learn more about easy ways to hold healthy fundraisers in your school that send consistent, positive messages that wellness really matters.

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Fit to Learn Tip Sheet: Healthy Celebrations and Rewards

Celebrations and rewards are a big part of school culture. Help students make nutritious food choices all day long! Beyond regular meals, snacks are sometimes offered during in-class celebrations or as rewards from a teacher. When schools reinforce healthy habits in the classroom, students learn consistent lessons that can last a lifetime.

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Fit to Learn Tip Sheet: Building Your Team

Although individuals within schools can make big strides toward school wellness, real progress takes a great team. Use these tips to create a strong support system for a healthy school environment.

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Fit to Learn Tip Sheet: Physical Activity

Physical activity during the school day helps students focus better in the classroom, increases social skills and encourages an active lifestyle. Activity in the classroom is also a great way to get students’ minds moving. During class time, teachers can integrate physical activity into lessons.

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Fit to Learn Summer 2015 Curriculum Binder

The Fit to Learn curriculum was created with the goal of striking a balance between inspirational ideas and practical approaches that work within the realities of everyday teaching. We hope you find the curriculum informative and creative, and that you leave the sessions inspired to put your students on the path to healthy lifelong behaviors.

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Teacher Fact Sheet: Worm Composting

A tip sheet from our Fit to Learn Worm Composting booster.

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Do the Rot Thing: A Teacher’s Guide to Compost Activities

By using the activities in this guide, you will be joining thousands of teachers across the country in bringing compost into the classroom as a valuable teaching tool. The activities you’ll find in Do the Rot Thing are hands-on and encourage student exploration and learning. Central Vermont Solid Waste Management District, Montpelier, Vermont, January 2007

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Chicago Public Schools Composting Presentation

A presentation from Chicago Public Schools at our Fit to Learn Worm Composting booster.

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Staff Wellness: Why It Matters and What Can Be Done

This booster will help you create a healthy work environment for you and your colleagues by providing free and cost-effective resources including health screenings, gym memberships and motivational strategies. Guest speaker from the CPS Office of Student Health and Wellness will share tips on reading nutrition labels, healthy role modeling and more. A healthy school starts with a healthy staff!

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MoveWELL Toolkit

CPS aims to develop physically literate individuals who have the knowledge, skills and confidence for academic success and lifelong health. Physical education is recognized by CPS as a core curricular class that is a foundation for health and academic achievement.

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FundraiseWELL Toolkit

Healthy food or non-food fundraisers enable schools to send consistent, positive health messages, reinforce classroom education and contribute to student health by supporting a healthy school environment as well as promoting healthy choices. Fundraisers that involve either healthy food choices or non-food items, such as hosting a walk-a-thon versus a candy sale, can yield significant fundraising revenue and build a sense of community. By engaging in Healthy Fundraising, schools can further their mission of creating environments with students who are prepared to learn.

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EatWELL Toolkit

By including lessons about nutrition in core curriculum, schools can impact students’ decisions about healthy eating throughout their lifetime and reinforce other school wellness activities.

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PlayWELL Toolkit

Providing opportunities for recess during the day increases the likelihood that children will be successful in school and fosters the physical and social development of children. Recess should be a valued and seamless part of the school day that engages all students and requires commitment from all staff.

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LearnWELL Healthy End of Year Celebrations

The end of the school year often includes celebrating summer and congratulating students on completing the school year. Avoid celebrations concentrated around food and emphasize the fun! Keep in mind that schools cannot serve or sell unhealthy foods or beverages during the school day (including fundraisers, celebrations, and rewards) and no foods may be served during school meal times.

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Healthy Fundraising Sample Letter

A sample letter of communicating a healthy fundraiser to parents, guardians and staff. In an editable Microsoft Word template.

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Espanol Healthy Fundraising Letter

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The Movement Movement

A Strategic Plan to Strengthen Physical Education in Chicago Public Schools

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Healthy Celebration Sample Letter

A sample letter of communicating a healthy celebration to parents, guardians and staff. In an editable Microsoft Word template.

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Espanol Healthy Celebration Letter

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CPS Local School Wellness Policy October 2012

Adopted October 24, 2012

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Fit to Learn Milestone Checklist

Teachers should meet at least eight milestones by March 2016. Ideally, teachers will meet four milestones by December 2015 and an additional four milestones by March 2016. Each teacher should attend one full-day Fit to Learn session, participate in at least three booster sessions, practice and share health and wellness ideas with other teachers and participate in HSC’s program evaluation.

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