Chicago Principals Share Strategies to Model Healthy, Active Behavior in Schools

February 15, 2013 | Written By:

HSC’s Fit to Learn sessions, which demonstrate how learning can be part of the everyday classroom routine, are usually lots of fun. But our recent session was really electric.

HSC's Fit to Learn sessions, which demonstrate how learning can be part of the everyday classroom routine, are usually lots of fun. But our recent session was really electric.

In the auditorium at William Ray Elementary School in Chicago, students jumped and cheered — a teacher used a big monitor to let kids choose songs from a popular dance video game. Next, everyone joined in the high-energy, on-screen choreography. 

The morning fun extended beyond the students, too — because of Fit to Learn, the group included Healthy Schools Campaign staffers and a dozen principals and faculty members from around Chicago, picking up new strategies about educating a generation of healthier students. The dancing game was just one example of Ray Elementary’s Morning Fitness activities, which take place at the beginning of every school day for 25 minutes, motivating students and getting them active. Other activities include basketball, fitness stations and classroom yoga. 

Ray Elementary Principal and Fit to Learn advisory committee member Tatia Beckwith is one of a number of educators from across the city of Chicago who have become part of Fit to Learn, our professional development program for teachers and principals to learn more about ways to incorporate more physical activity throughout the school day. In the advisory committee, local principals provide assistance with the vision, direction and launch of Fit to Learn, providing strategic advice, and helping recruit and mentor other principals.

Jenni Rice, a Physical Education teacher at Christopher Elementary School, attended the event as her school’s Wellness Champion to develop new strategies to bolster her school’s new nutrition and wellness initiative. “Our students do not get enough physical activity throughout their day, and considering the population of our students, both regular education and special education, we felt it could benefit them in increasing their achievement,” she says. 

After Morning Fitness, local innovators and experts presented new strategies. Then Carla Tantillo of Mindful Practices, a facilitator of our teacher program, led a fun yoga activity. Allison Slade, founder of Namaste Charter School, shared her philosophy and strategies as well. Learn more about her take on a healthy, fun-filled school day here

Participating teachers and principals not only gained new insights from the day’s discussions and presentations, but the event also served as a motivator to continue with current efforts or expand upon them.

“The more energy you burn off, the more you’ll be able to sit and focus,” says Gerardo Trujillo, principal at Pasteur Elementary School.  (Learn more about yoga for classrooms here.)

Gerardo Trujillo said one of his key takeaways from the day’s events was to work to ensure that he and his teachers led the charge to set an example for students. “You have to practice what you preach,” Trujillo says. 

Our next Fit to Learn Professional Development event, Healthy Habits for Lifelong Learning, will take place Thursday, March 21st, at a Chicago Public School to be confirmed in the coming weeks. If you are interested or would like more information, visit us at or contact Rosa Ramirez at

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