Fit to Learn

Fit to Learn offers teachers and principals resources to help prioritize health and wellness in the classroom and throughout the school by making healthy habits a routine part of how kids learn.

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 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. We offered workshops to teachers in Chicago from 2010 to 2018.

Since 2006, schools across the country have been required to adopt and implement wellness policies. These policies guide schools’ efforts to promote healthy eating and physical activity, support student learning and help address our nation’s obesity epidemic. Fit to Learn resources provide teachers with the knowledge and skills to implement a number of key provisions of these policies.

Contact

rosa-circleRosa Ramirez Richter
Director of Chicago Programs + Policy

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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. 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.


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

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 resources provided are beneficial for staff and students alike.”
–Elizabeth Busch, Hamilton Elementary, Chicago

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

Contact

rosa-circleRosa Ramirez Richter
Director of Chicago Programs + Policy

Stay Connected!

 

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Create a future where every child can learn + thrive.

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 in Chicago. “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 in Chicago.

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.

Contact

rosa-circleRosa Ramirez Richter
Director of Chicago Programs + Policy

Stay Connected!

 

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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


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

Contact

rosa-circleRosa Ramirez Richter
Director of Chicago Programs + Policy

Stay Connected!

 

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Note - this is set to the general newsletter - Healthy Schools Campaing Newsletter

Make a Donation

Create a future where every child can learn + thrive.

Fit to Learn Resources

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

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Young Yogis

Yoga is a great tool to use in the elementary classroom. Yoga can energize, refocus, redirect or relax students. It can be done with both limited time and space in the classroom. In this lesson, the teacher will introduce basic yoga to students through a read-aloud, and then have students practice movements described in the book as a group. Additional poses can be added depending on students’ interests and creativity.

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Nutritious Words

With a little creativity, a typical spelling lesson can also be an exercise in hand-eye coordination and nutrition! In this lesson, students will use new props to add “flavor” to their spelling words while moving at the same time.

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Food Group Frenzy

Some of the most important things students can be introduced to at this age are the five food groups. Knowing the five food groups will help students make balanced and healthy choices in what they eat every day. In this lesson, students will participate in a relay race to put several foods into the five food groups.

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Eating a Rainbow

Making colorful food choices every day helps encourage students to eat a variety of foods that are both delicious and high in vitamins and minerals. In this lesson, students will create a beautiful wall or bulletin board that will inspire them to “Eat a Rainbow!”

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Classifying the Edible Parts of Plants

After completing the lesson “Fruit or Not?” students will have been introduced to one of the six edible parts of plants. This lesson will build on that understanding as students explore the other five parts and their specific functions.

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Building a Food Vocabulary

Taste is a complex sense that influences what we like to eat and our food choices. After completing the lesson “Nutritious Words," this activity will help students develop a wider vocabulary and increased writing ability around food tastes. Students will also become mindful eaters, aware of the complexity of different fruits and vegetables and why they might like some more than others.

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World Class Healthy Cooking Relay

Making healthy food choices is a skill no matter where you live. In this lesson, students learn about foods from other countries, healthy and unhealthy ways to cook foods, and the consequences of unhealthy cooking methods. New knowledge is assessed by way of a station-based relay race in which students match foods to the country of origin, and then sort the foods into healthy and unhealthy cooking methods. The activity also teaches students the geographic locations of the countries.

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Tracing the Food System: An Investigation of a Chicago Public Schools Meal

This lesson will allow students to make the connection between the food they eat at home and at school and the people, plants, and animals that provide it. Students will study the recipes of the winning school meal from the Cooking up Change competition and write creative narratives of a chosen ingredient along its journey of farm to tray.

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The Power Inside Fruits & Vegetables

Fruits and vegetables contain vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants essential for maintaining good health and development in children. The first activity in this lesson introduces the essential nutrients in fruits and vegetables and is followed by a teacher-led science demonstration. This demonstration allows students to explore the levels of one of these important nutrients in different fruit and vegetable juices. With this knowledge, students will be better prepared to understand nutrient levels in foods and become more informed consumers.

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The MyPlate Shuffle

MyPlate reminds us to eat a variety of foods each day and to make healthy choices about those foods. This lesson introduces students to the different food groups and the types of foods in each. Students will learn about these different food groups and the types of foods that go into them by way of a stretch-break dance that they can do anytime.

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Sack It! Building a Healthy Lunch

This lesson introduces students to the different food groups and the types of foods in each. Students will also learn why it is important to eat a variety of foods. With this knowledge, students construct a healthy lunch sack filled with foods from the different food groups.

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Lunch in Havana

In this lesson, students will learn about healthy eating as well as the culture and history of Cuba.

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Calories In, Calories Out Word Problem

There are many misconceptions surrounding the concept of calories. This lesson will introduce students to the role of calories in healthy living and the management of calorie intake/output in regards to reaching and maintaining a healthy weight.

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Walking the Walk: Learning with Pedometers

Pedometers are great tools for measuring physical activity levels and motivating students. Some PE departments may have funds for these or companies may be willing to make a donation for a healthy school initiative.

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Fruit or Not?

It may come as a surprise, but several vegetables we eat every day are actually fruits! In this lesson, challenge what your students already know to see if they can win the game of “Fruit or Not?”

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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: Garden-Based Learning

School gardens allow students to participate in hands-on activities. School gardens can strengthen academic and social skills as well as allow students to develop life skills in areas such as nutrition, leadership and decision-making. Through a school garden, students can learn about and practice healthy behaviors in an exciting, hands-on way. Chicago Public Schools supports more than 400 schools with a school garden through various initiatives.

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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 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: 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 Online Resources

A collection of online resources for teachers related to movement in the classroom, nutrition education, creating a culture of health and more.

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Strategies for Recess in Schools

This document from the CDC and SHAPE America describes strategies for planning and providing recess in schools to help increase participation in physical activity and improve academic achievement (e.g., performance, behavior, attention).

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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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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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Chicago Public Schools Composting Presentation

A presentation from Chicago Public Schools at 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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Teacher Fact Sheet: Worm Composting

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

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Espanol Healthy Celebration Letter

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Espanol Healthy Fundraising Letter

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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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The Movement Movement

A Strategic Plan to Strengthen Physical Education in Chicago Public Schools

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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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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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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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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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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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CPS Local School Wellness Policy October 2012

Adopted October 24, 2012

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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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