Representatives from 20 large urban public school districts convened in Dallas this week to focus on strategies, techniques and programs that encourage healthy habits among schoolchildren.
Participants at the Urban School Wellness Conference spent much of its second and final day touring three Dallas ISD schools to see some of the district’s innovative programs in action. The tour highlighted programs at Francisco “Pancho” Medrano Middle School, James Bowie Elementary School and Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy.
Longtime Bowie PE teacher Sharon Foster showcased a classroom that will become a fitness center for students, staff and parents. Foster has used grant money and donations to secure several of the many school enhancements she has established. Her efforts are working: Bowie is the only school in the nation to receive Gold Recognition two years in a row from the Alliance for a Healthier Generation.
Moving on to the Bowie gymnasium, visitors were treated to the clean, well-organized space that features motivational posters on the walls. Foster showed how students use pedometers that are scanned and entered in a database to track their activity. She also noted the school’s active participation in the Fuel Up to Play 60 program. A special feature in the gym is a new indoor rock-climbing wall.
Barbara Johnson, director of Dallas ISD’s Health and PE Department, noted how hosting the conference will highlight and spread the good things happening on the district’s campuses to other locations.
“They will take these things back to their districts, and we expect to see many of these programs modeled across the country,” she said.
The Urban School Wellness Advisory Board initially was composed of 10 of the largest U.S. urban public school districts, from Dallas, Boston, Chicago, Denver, District of Columbia, Los Angeles, New York City, Palm Beach County, Philadelphia and Seattle. The group is continuing to expand to include other large urban districts each year.