We called him “Mr. Fin.”
I don’t remember too much else about my eighth grade health class teacher Don Finlayson, except his lanky, lean physique and wavy, silver hair. In his younger years, I think he’d been an athlete or a coach, maybe both.
What struck me most about Mr. Fin was his vitality, though he was probably about 70. He looked and acted as if he could keep up with most of the students he taught, though we were all young enough to be his grand kids.
It would be great if every school had staff like Mr. Fin. Not necessarily ex-athletes or seniors who can dribble a basketball, but men and women who serve as examples of generally healthy adults.
Not only will youth be taught to make healthy choices, they’ll be shown how to practice them on a daily basis, with their classroom leaders as role models.
Through the latest Building Healthy Communities initiative, which will give 16,000 elementary students exposure to better lifestyle habits in the 2017-2018 school year, staff and program coordinators will promote a similar concept. In 38 schools, chosen from more than 100 applicants, Building Healthy Communities will give teachers and administrators the tools to teach children that wellness is a goal to strive for at every age.
Supported by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Michigan Fitness Foundation, United Dairy Industry of Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, and the Center for Health & Community Impact at Wayne State University, this effort can yield immeasurable results.
Not only will youth be taught to make healthy choices, they’ll be shown how to practice them on a daily basis, with their classroom leaders as role models. The fact that teachers spend almost as much time with youth as their own parents should never be overlooked, if education’s goal, along with building academics, is to influence behavior.
In its tenth year now, Building Healthy Communities, an evidence-based grant program, encompasses nutrition, physical activity, quality health education, active recess, student leadership, and a “healthy kids” club. Participating schools receive classroom curriculum, physical education, versatile recess equipment, funding for a before- or after-school exercise club, in-school mentoring from a “healthy school coordinator,” and professional development and training.
Clearly, the initiative’s supporting partners recognize the need to not only fight childhood obesity, which, unfortunately, is common in Michigan, but lay the foundation for a future generation of fit, active adults. So far, schools that have welcomed Building Healthy Communities report evidence that suggest impressive outcomes, including:
- a 28 percent increase in calories burned by elementary students daily
- 40 percent more fruits and vegetables consumed than the national average for 6- to 11-year-olds.
- 83 percent less trouble sleeping by students
With stats like that, it’s no stretch to imagine a few more leg-stretches making a difference in the daily lives of Michigan youth.
The best learning doesn’t always come from a book.
Editor’s note: Click here to learn more about Building Healthy Communities program
Congratulations to all the schools selected for the 2017-18 Building Healthy Communities program:
Ann Arbor Trail Magnet School
Brownell STEM Academy
CA Frost Environmental Science Academy Pk-5
Carleton Elementary School
Carver STEM Academy
County Oaks Elementary
Detroit Academy of Arts & Sciences
Eagle’s Nest Academy
Edgewood Elementary School
Estabrook Elementary School
Ferndale Upper Elementary
GEE White Academy
Grand River Academy
Hope of Detroit Academy
Inkster Preparatory Academy
Keys Grace Academy
Lake Ann Elementary
Louis Pasteur Elementary/Middle
MacArthur K-8 University Academy
Margaret Black Elementary School
Mary A White Elementary School
New Beginnings Academy
North Star Academy
Oakview Elementary School
Parma Elementary School
Pearl Lean Elementary School
River Rouge STEM Academy
Rudyard Area Elementary Schools
Tecumseh Compass Learning Center
Timberland Charter Academy
Wick Elementary School
Lead photo: Student participants at Timbuktu Academy really get into strength and endurance challenges. Photo by Paul Engstrom