Friday, May 22, 2015

Active Design Toolkit for Schools Celebrated at Earth School Rooftop Garden

The Partnership for a Healthier New York City released the Active Design Toolkit for Schools with a celebration at the Earth School’s rooftop garden, “the Fifth Street Farm.” The Earth School is a featured success story in the new toolkit, which was developed by the Partnership for a Healthier NYC in collaboration with representatives from New York City’s Departments of Health & Mental Hygiene, Education and Transportation. The Partnership for a Healthier Bronx and Partnership for a Healthier Manhattan, the Institute for Family Health and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai all worked in concert on the toolkit. A strong group of community advocates, parents and students gathered to mark the launch of the new publication, which promotes creative changes, like the Earth School’s rooftop garden, to guide schools to design spaces that make physical activity and healthy foods easy, accessible choices.

The Active Design Toolkit for Schools provides ideas, resources and tools to help school communities and advocates foster physical activity and promote well-being of students across New York City schools.  The focus areas include Active Recreation, Healthy Food and Beverage, Green Spaces and Nature, and Getting to and From School.

Among those in attendance was Charmaine Ruddock, Director of Bronx Health REACH at the Institute for Family Health. She noted, “With the crisis of overweight and obese children,  especially in the Bronx, the toolkit provides schools with the necessary information to make changes that have a real impact on how students interact with and move in their environment. Resources found in the toolkit are adaptable to a range of school settings. Active Design for Schools creates ample opportunities for children to be physically active in school settings where they spend so much of their time.”

The Active Design Toolkit for Schools believes that "Every child deserves a healthy, positive school environment. Children’s physical, emotional and social development all benefit from daily physical activity and healthy eating. Better fitness levels are also associated with better academic performance."

At present only 20% of New York City high-school students are getting 60 minutes of daily physical activity and less than half participate in daily school physical education.  Another shocking statistic is that 40% of New York City students in kindergarten through 12th grade are overweight or obese, and this could become a greater problem as they can be at greater risk for chronic diseases as they enter adulthood. The physical spaces in schools makes a difference as to whether children will or will not become physically active. The benefits of children being physically active at school include: more focus and attentiveness on school tasks, higher self-esteem, and lower risk of chronic diseases as they enter adulthood.

Two Bronx schools are included in the Active Design Toolkit for Schools: P.S. 87 in the Wakefield section of the Bronx and Jonathan D. Hyatt School (P.S. 154), located in Mott Haven. P.S. 87 transformed an asphalt yard into a sports park featuring a soccer field, running track, play equipment, and a water fountain. Built over three years, Jonathan D. Hyatt School (P.S. 154) created a  fruit and vegetable garden for the school's Gardening Afterschool club that also includes a chicken coop. Used as an outdoor classroom to educate students about healthy eating, the school would like to partner with the Department of Education SchoolFoods's Garden to Cafe program and create a student-run farm stand. Now there may be more farmers markets coming to a school near you. Click here to download a copy of the Active Design Toolkit for Schools.

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