Eat. Play. Learn. E is for ENVIRONMENT

To celebrate the publication of Proceedings of the Learning Connection Summit: Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Student Achievement, I’m offering a short daily post during February on the ABCs of the health and academics.


In the school wellness ‘biz,’ we talk a lot about creating a healthy school environment. In fact, it’s probably safe to say that most of my professional work and a significant portion of my volunteer time has been devoted to promoting a culture of wellness in K-12 schools. A quote from the The Wellness Impact: Enhancing Academic Success through Healthy School Environments captures the key issues.

“… the vital importance of improved nutrition and increased physical activity in creating an environment that enriches students’ readiness to learn.”

So what exactly is a healthy school environment? How can you tell that you are in a healthy environment when you walk into a school? Actually, I think that you can see aspects of a healthy environment before you even get to a school building! Here are just a few of my favorite way to identify a school where students can be fit, well-nourished and ready to learn.

  • Students (and sometimes families) fill the sidewalks as they walk to school.
  1. School bike racks are full or overflowing (see photo below from Idaho middle school).
  2. Playgrounds and sports fields are full of children and adults playing together.
  3. Gardens have a prominent place on the school campus.
  4. Wonderful aromas of food cooking/baking/roasting waft through the hallways.
  5. Hallway walls have artwork, signs or markers to encourage physical activity.
  6. Banners or signs identify awards and recognition for nutrition and fitness.
  7. Breakfast is served in the classroom to every child who needs it.
  8. Food presentations are eye-appealing, colorful and customer-focused.
  9. Cafeteria is bright and cheerful; students socializing with inside voices.
  10. Adults are sitting and eating with children rather than patrolling the tables.
  11. Any snack food sales offer many options from MyPlate food groups.
  12. Fun after-school physical activities are available to children of all abilities.

These are just a few of my favorite things in a healthy school environment. What are yours?

Full Bike Racks at Heritage Middle School in Meridian Idaho

Full Bike Racks at Heritage Middle School in Meridian, Idaho