Atlanta Schools’ Wellness Workshops Project

Atlanta Schools’ “Wellness” Workshops Promote Nutrition and Physical Education

When Atlanta Schools opened at the end of August, a new project was initiated. The “Wellness” Workshop Project kicked off the school year with a workshop that included Olympic gold medalist Gail Devers, author Yvonne Butler, 300 students from the Atlanta School District, faculty members, and community leaders. This was the first ever Atlanta Schools’ “wellness” workshop. Atlanta Schools’ Margaret Fain Elementary School’s Wings of Eagles dance troupe performed to illustrate how much physical energy is used in dance.

The first “Wellness” Workshop was co-chaired by Dr. Marilyn Hughes, the director of nutrition administration for Atlanta Schools, and Billette Owens-Ashford, Atlanta Schools’ director of physical education and athletics. The goal of the “Wellness” Workshop Project is improve the health of the students by identifying health-related problems. It has been proven that health related issues can often have a direct affect on a student’s academic achievement.

The inaugural “Wellness” Workshop for the Atlanta Schools had a variety of speakers and displays that provided resources on nutritional based activities and physical education activities. The keynote speaker was Dr. Yvonne Butler. Dr. Butler is a noted author whose book, “Healthy Kids, Smart Kids,” discusses the impact of diet and exercise on learning and academic performance. Other speakers included Olympic track-and-field gold medalist Gail Severs who spoke about importance of exercise to health and how to stay physically fit.

Atlanta Schools’ “Wellness” Workshop Project is part of a broad program that aims to provide both fitness and nutrition strategies for students and staff in all Atlanta Schools. Innovative strategies that will be used include yoga classes for teachers and students, vegetarian cafeteria lines, and walking trails. The overall plan was developed by the Atlanta Schools’ Board of Education. The Board of Education will offer guidelines on how to implement the program and how the schools will be evaluated.

A major part of the plan is establishing wellness councils. These councils will be comprised of teachers, parents, administrators, students, and community and business partners. The council will assist Atlanta Schools in integrating nutrition and physical education into the current curriculum. The wellness council will also have a presence at events throughout the Atlanta Schools.

Recently, Atlanta Schools’ wellness plan received a boost from the involvement of an Atlanta Schools’ parent. Linton Hopkins has two children attending E. Rivers Elementary School. Hopkins is concerned about the nutritional value of cafeteria offerings at the E. Rivers Elementary School but unlike other parents, Hopkins is the executive chef of Atlanta’s Restaurant Eugene and winner of this year’s Atlanta “Iron Chef” competition. Hopkins has joined the Local School Wellness Council to help evaluate the school’s cafeteria. Hopkins isn’t the only trained chef to join the E. Rivers Elementary School’s wellness council. Elisa Gambino, owner of pasta emporium Via Elisa, has along with eleven other parents joined the wellness council. Parental involvement is an important element to the success of the wellness councils. Currently, approximately 90 percent of Atlanta Schools’ elementary and 65 percent of high schools have parents actively involved with the wellness council of their school.

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