How Morrill Is Adding Health + Wellness to its School Improvement Plan

  • April 10, 2018
Colorful Numbers Painted On A Schoolyard Play Surface

Principal Martin Anderson at Morrill Math & Science Elementary School on Chicago’s southwest side knows how connected a student’s health and academic achievement are. And that’s why Morrill is working hard to make sure student health and wellness is incorporated into every aspect of the school.

“I want to make a real connection between what students are eating, their sleep habits, exercise, their attitude and what they’re doing in the classroom,” says Anderson.

The Continuous Improvement Work Plan (CIWP) sets up the priorities, goals and action plan for a school. Including health and wellness in this plan is one of the most effective ways to ensure a school is addressing the whole child and meeting the health and wellness needs of its students.

Every school is different, and each school’s CIWP will incorporate different health and wellness goals. Regardless of a school’s specific health and wellness goals there are two ways to include student health and wellness into a CIWP. Schools can include student health and wellness as a standalone strategy or incorporate goals related to student health and wellness in support of larger strategies.

Morrill has chosen to incorporate health and wellness goals in support of larger strategies. The planning team looked at the criteria in the School Effectiveness Framework and rated how the school was doing in each section. “We saw where our strengths were and where we needed to grow,” Anderson says.

Morrill chose to focus on curriculum, balanced assessment in grading and relational trust. “One of the things that’s important is a student feeling really good about themselves,” Anderson says. “If students feel good about themselves, they’re more likely to be engaged in the curriculum.”

Morrill is also working on social emotional learning and connecting physical education to academics by encouraging students to set goals for themselves in the gym and in the classroom. “If you eat well and you exercise, more than likely, your mind is going to be more open to working on rigorous tasks in the classroom,” Anderson says.

One of the tools helping the Morrill community be more active and get more exercise is the school’s Space to Grow schoolyard. In 2014, Morrill was chosen as one of the first schools to receive a $1.5 million schoolyard transformation from Space to Grow. And now, almost four years later, the schoolyard is filled with kids playing basketball, students of all ages using the playground equipment, and the community milling around the rain gardens.

He says making sure students attend healthy environments is even more important for the populations that Morrill serves. The students that attend the school are primarily low-income students of color, and the school is located in a neighborhood with limited access to fresh food.

We’re so excited to see how Morrill is prioritizing student health and wellness. We developed a toolkit to help other schools follow in Morrill’s footsteps and incorporate health and wellness goals into their school improvement plans.