Engaging Parents in School Wellness: Creating Healthier School Environments

January 17, 2014

Schools can engage parents in wellness to improve the food and fitness environment

Today we’re kicking off a series on how schools can engage parents in promoting wellness. It’s a particularly timely conversation considering that U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan appeared earlier this week at the Education Summit for Parent Leaders, addressing this very topic.

Research shows that when parents and schools work together, students win — parent engagement leads to higher grades and test scores, better behavior and enhanced social skills. When it comes to creating a healthy school environment, parents are key. By partnering with parents, schools provide the healthy start that kids need to thrive in the classroom and in life.

Schools can do so much to integrate healthy food and fitness into the school day. As part of our Fit to Learn professional development program, principals and teachers gain the skills and knowledge to make healthy habits a routine part of how kids learn. Teachers learn how to integrate movement into lessons, principals come to value the consistent messages sent by healthy fundraisers and celebrations, and at the end of the day, school culture shifts toward the healthier end of the spectrum.

But teachers and principals can’t do it alone. As our Fit to Learn participants know, parents are essential to helping schools implement healthy celebrations and fundraisers, reinforce nutrition education lessons at home, encourage children to be physically active, and more. One favorite lesson: Teachers involve families in math lessons by using pedometers to track the number of steps that students and parents take together.

We’re excited to share other great ideas about engaging parents in creating healthier school environments. Over the next few months, we’ll be addressing the following strategies that schools can use to collaborate with families on student wellness:

  • Provide parenting support

  • Communicate with parents

  • Provide a variety of volunteer opportunities

  • Support learning at home

  • Empower parents to be part of decision-making

  • Collaborate with the community

We’re looking forward to digging deeper into parent engagement. In the meantime, please visit these resources:

  • Strategies on parent engagement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Learn how parent engagement acts as a “protective factor” against unhealthy behaviors.

  • EngageWELL , a chapter of a school wellness toolkit for Chicago Public schools. This chapter, which focuses on parent engagement, was produced by the Chicago Public Schools Office of Student Health and Wellness, in partnership with HSC.

    Read all blogs in this series, here!

Made possible [in part] by a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (Grant Number: 1H75DP004181-01) to the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) Office of Student Health and Wellness, Healthy CPS. The views expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions and official policies of CPS or CDC.