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Healthy Schools Ideas and Resources

Outdoor Learning Labs and Spaces

Schoolyard enhancements maximize the students’ opportunity to interact with nature and to understand the wonder and science within the world around them.

  1. A third grade class plays a recycling relay race,
  2. One or more teachers use outdoor school areas several times a year as part of the curriculum.
  3. Faculty and students implement ongoing instruction using the school grounds.
  4. Schools regularly employ out door classrooms as additional learning spaces.
  5. The playground contains activities that engage the students with the natural landscape.
  6. Students take an active role in the design and maintenance of school grounds. 
  7. The school has a nature path that provides a learning opportunity for students.

Habitat Improvements and Restoration

Areas of the school grounds and/or nearby community are managed to enhance ecological integrity that has been diminished by human activity.

  1. Although the built environment is the primary landscape feature, some effort has been made to increase green space.
  2. Native plantings around the school flag pole offer an example of the beauty of xeriscaping.
  3. Some school grounds and /or local habitats are inventoried and enhanced.
  4. Students begin researching the ecological history of their campus.
  5. Students plant, maintain and monitor a butterfly or other native plant garden.
  6. Small scale habitat projects are ongoing that emphasize native and migratory species and ecosystems.
  7. Significant effort is made to plan for larger habitat improvement projects on the campus or within the community,
  8. Schools work with local community to tie school grounds efforts to other land and habitat conservation projects.
  9. School grounds are a thriving habitat with plants and animal visitors monitored and identified by students,
  10. Students participate in restoration projects through partnerships with community.

School Gardens & Farm Connections

Gardens and farming relationships are developed to connect students with an understanding of and appreciation for where food and flowers comes from. 

  1. Curriculum includes information about where food comes from and engages students in growing plants within at least one classroom. 
  2. Students are engaged in growing plants from seed.
  3. Students create mini greenhouses to learn about seed development.
  4. Students learn about the local food economy.
  5. Students create posters or other art projects about the life cycles of plants.
  6. One or more classrooms integrate food lifecycle curriculum and engage students in growing plants from seed for themselves and the community. 
  7. Students grow plants to sell at a “plant sale” fundraiser or to take home.
  8. Students interview their older relatives and community members to learn more about traditional connections with gardening and food production.
  9. One or more classrooms join together to create a school garden that engages multiple areas of the curriculum.
  10. Students create art for the garden from recycled items or from the plants themselves, i.e. sunflower tepee.
  11. Students map their local food shed to better understand where the food they eat comes from.
  12. School curriculum actively engages students the  design, creation and maintenance of the school gardens and shares the fruits of their knowledge with the community.
  13. Students collaborate with staff and community to design a school garden where they grow food for the local food bank.
  14. Students operate a booth at the local farmer’s market where they sell produce from their school garden.
  15. Students engage with local farmers in service learning projects.
Garden and Farm Connection Curriculum
Garden and Farm Connection Resources and Tools
Learn Schoolyard Ecology Workshop Materials from 7/18/16 Learning Event:

Air Quality

The indoor air quality of the school is an important factor in the health and well-being of all occupants.

  1. Classrooms adopt a checklist to monitor cleanliness and air quality. 
  2. Rooms with newly laid carpeting and paint are adequately aired out before they are occupied.
  3. Air fresheners, perfumes and other fragrances are reduced or removed from school grounds.
  4. Students conduct a baseline audit to identify the  Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) status of their school.
  5. Low VOC paints, low-odor dry-erase markers, low-odor cleaning supplies are used in classrooms and school,
  6. Staff conducts regular maintenance and inspection of all heating and cooking systems to find and repair leaks,
  7. The Administration, students and staff coordinate to improve indoor air quality of a school wide basis. 
  8. Students conduct a no-idling audit and campaign to reduce idling in carpool lanes,
  9. Moisture issues are identified and removed to reduce mold in the school,
  10. The school has formed an IAQ team in partnership with the community to support air quality improvements. 
  11. The students conduct a School Chemical Clean out Campaign to reduce potentially troublesome chemicals in the schools and labs,
  12. Staff uses an integrated pest management system to reduce pesticide exposure in the school.


Air Quality Video with Dr. Clay Ballentine- from the Center for the Environment at Catawba College

Environmental Pollutants and Health with David Pedan- from the Center for the Environment at Catawba College

Whole Nutrition

Developing good habits of nutrition is a fundamental life skill that schools can help build and support.

  1. Teacher invites a local chef to prepare a dish for and with the students.
  2. Students are exposed to new foods and fresh produce through food tasting and projects.
  3. Your school’s wellness policy sets guidelines on the foods and drinks that students bring from home.
  4. Foods from outside food establishments are limited or prevented unless it is a classroom event or celebration.
  5. Healthy snack and lunch ideas are provided to parents with handouts and in the school publications.
  6. Students explore nutritional values of food and nutrition lost in processing as an integrated STEM project.
  7. The school has a policy that no carbonated drinks we be allowed on campus except for events or celebrations.
  8. Food related classroom rewards are limited or prohibited.
  9. The students participate in developing a Healthy Lunch Day or event.
  10. Field trips to local farms, small food producers and farmer markets are a regular part of the school programming.
  11. Students are engaged in food production as a regular part of the curriculum
  12. Students prepare a meal from local foods for a school celebration and for community partners.
  13. A food fair where students share multi-disciplinary projects they’ve created about food is held and open to the community.
Whole Nutrition Curriculum
Whole Nutrition Resources and Tools

Health and Fitness

High standards for nutrition, fitness and outdoor quality time have a positive impact on the health of the students.

  1. Class room teachers add activity modules to class work.
  2. The students participate in a group hike as part of one of their classes.
  3. The school encourages teachers to get students moving in outdoor activities as part of their regular classes.
  4. The students create a school wide challenge to get everyone moving more.
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