Kathy Spangler, Save the Children vice president for U.S. Programs, and Andrew Hysell, program director for the Campaign for Healthy Kids, toured physical education equipment and innovation at Taylor and Waterville elementary schools, Lake Forest and Ocoee Middle schools and Bradley Central High School. Bradley County Coordinated School Health director Andrea Lockerby showed off the equipment, explaining how it had been purchased and what it was used for.
At Bradley Central High School, visitors enjoyed seeing the climbing wall, spin bicycles and mountain bikes.
“It’s been a whirlwind. The excitement of the Coordinated School Health team is infectious. The expression of leadership support ... it just seems to be a real collaborative effort,” Spangler said. “We’ve been using the success of the state support for Coordinated School Health to advocate for other state legislators the importance of this effort for children. ... We focus on health and education, we don’t think that they are separate. we think they are completely linked to the health development of children.”
The organization works with schools in 19 states.
Hysell said the CSH model provides staff that get school administrators and personnel excited about the potential for positive changes.
“We’ve been lobbying and advocating with legislators and governors; they are starting to say ‘That’s interesting,’” Hysell said.
He said the program is strong because it has good support on numerous levels. Hysell said he hopes the program wil be implemented in states across the nation. Connecticut has already begun to pilot the CSH program in two schools.
“There is this big movement in this country to change policy to make kids healthier, to fight childhood obesity, get them to eat better food,” Hysell said. “What we’ve done is we’ve looked at all the different states and we’ve seen in Tennessee you guys have something that works really well — it’s Coordinated School Health.”
Although CSH is a state-mandated program in Tennessee the state only provides funding for the director and department staff salaries, according to Lockerby. The equipment the school system has been able to purchase has been made possible through grants.
The bikes were made possible through grant funding from a PEP grant and a local Healthy Community Initiative grant.
“I think the exciting thing is that you are stitching together funding resources to make this happen for children,” Spangler said.
Spangler asked if students were a part of choosing the climbing walls.
Lockerby said choosing the equipment was based on what would last a long time and not require storage.
Spangler also wanted to know how female students were responding to the new equipment.
BCHS physical education teacher Turner Jackson said many of them liked them and were enjoying the new climbing wall. He said there were some female students who were really excited about the climbing wall.
Spangler said the new equipment was an equalizer in gym class.
Dr. Rebecca Johns-Wommack, executive director of Tennessee Coordinated School Health, was also present to ask questions about how the program functions at a state level.
“We always encourage our coordinators to start where their strengths are and work from there,” Johns-Wommack said.
She said the program is just now reaching that point where coordinators are reaching beyond their initial strengths.
The district leaders of the program attend professional development every other month to discuss what is working in their district and discuss challenges.
Johns-Wommack said she also makes an effort to know all of the district directors by name. There is also a lot of data reviewed at the state level to ensure things are running smoothly.
The data collection component of the program gives vital tracking information useful in demonstrating the success of the program.