“Fitness is Fluid”: Lessons From Fit to Learn

August 15, 2013

Fit to Learn helps teachers lead the way on wellness.

With students spending more than 7 hours a day on average in school, a healthy school environment can make a big impact on student wellness. And teachers can lead the way. This is why HSC offers Fit to Learn, a professional development program providing teachers with ideas and strategies to help students lead healthier lifestyles to become better learners.

One of those teachers is Amie Kiehn of KIPP Bloom College Prep, where the role of a PE teacher will be flexible, and all staff will need to know how to incorporate nutrition and physical activity in their classrooms.

“Fitness is fluid,” she says. “It doesn’t need to stay in the space of a physical education class; it can be incorporated into all areas of the school.”

Kiehn was one of more than 50 teachers from across Chicago who joined us for the Fit to Learn summer sessions, featuring workshops, speakers and discussions around incorporating nutrition and physical activity in the classroom and creating a larger culture of wellness in their schools. The class included veteran teachers of several decades and teachers entering their first year.

A key tenet of Fit to Learn is encouraging teachers to take a leadership role on health and wellness in their classrooms, creating that culture within their school that motivates students and fellow staff to make healthy choices. As HSC’s Kristi Cox explained, it is so important for teachers to set the example at school and realize how much what they do impacts students.

“You’re educating them all day, teaching them how to read or write,” Cox says. “But at the same time, they’re also watching you and seeing your example. So if you’re drinking a Coke in class, when they see that, they think that’s the best way they should be eating or drinking.”

The teachers engaged in lively discussion and shared great ideas about setting positive examples and creating that culture of wellness. Kadisha Harris, who teaches reading and language arts at Kozminski Community Academy on Chicago’s South Side, led a spirited sample lesson that the whole group enjoyed. After the day’s events, Harris talked about wanting to make her own fitness goals and be a role model for her students to encourage them to lead a healthy lifestyle.

“From today I learned that it’s very important to have your own personal wellness goals and be a model for the kids,” Harris says. “I can’t ask them to do something if I’m not doing the same thing.”

Thank you to all the teachers who participated in Fit to Learn and made a commitment to bring nutrition and physical activity into the classroom!  A big thanks as well to all who helped HSC on this training: Dr. Sarah Buck, Mindful Practices, Common Threads, the CPS Office of Student Health and Wellness, the Center for Green Technology, Sun + Moon Catering and 90 Miles Cuban Café.