What Makes a Healthy School?

Upward: Our Head of School's Blog
A recent issue of the Harvard Education Letter, published by the Harvard Graduate School of Education, highlighted new initiatives that focused on students’ well being. While student health is not an entirely new notion, only recently has significant research linking good health with higher achievement in school come to the forefront.

“For years, teachers have known that students who are healthy perform better in school,” says Whitney Meagher, projector director at the Center for Safe and Healthy Schools. “The difference is now we have the research to back it.”

Great schools, like VMS, are analyzing research data on student health outcomes and integrating health education into school improvement plans. We know that healthy eating habits and an in-depth knowledge of good nutrition go a long way toward improving our students’ overall well being.

Additionally, the Federal Center for Disease Control and Prevention identifies several components necessary to create a healthy school:

1. Robust health and physical education program;
2. Nutrition education and access to nutritious, appealing meals;
3. Health services including access to social, emotional and psychological support;
4. A healthy and safe school environment;
5. Health promotion and wellness programs for faculty and staff;
6. Family and community involvement.

Research such as this is at the core of our latest new initiative. Over the summer, we will build a large, timber and glass greenhouse adjacent to the playground that will serve as a learning laboratory where we can grow vegetables, plants, and, at the same time– character. The greenhouse will be supported by a solar array that will be linked to a dashboard of numerous data points for our students to examine on their iPads and computers to gain a better understanding of the potential of green energy.

During the 2014-15 school year, this new facility will allow our Science Department to implement a K-12, garden-to-table curriculum and our food service provider will prepare meals that fully utilize the food that we will grow from seed to harvest. I hope that this initiative will be the first of many to cultivate healthy food, healthy bodies, and in turn, healthy minds.