Going the Extra Mile for Family Health and Physical Activity at RL Stevens
There is a schoolwide passion for health and physical activity at Robert L Stevens Elementary in Santa Rosa, California. As a low-income school in an urban area with a high percentage of students receiving free and reduced lunch, RL Stevens has many students that regularly walk or bike to school, and some of the most successful and long-running walking school buses in the country, explains Safe Routes to School coordinator Sarah Hadler. “They really go the extra mile when it comes to walking and biking,” said Ms. Hadler. “And much of the credit goes to Principal Lori Pola Hoard. She believes strongly in health and wellbeing, and she’s a master at bringing people together in different community programs and projects.”
With Principal Pola Hoard’s leadership, the school has encouraged walking and biking with a “pollution punchcard” program, family bike rides, and a biannual carnival with a bike blender and bike mobile.
When it came time for the Fire Up Your Feet Challenge, Ms. Hadler and Principal Pola Hoard knew that students would be enthusiastic about being physically active – but the challenge would be online tracking, since many families wouldn’t have easy access to the internet at home. To overcome that barrier, Ms. Hadler created paper tracking sheets that students brought home each day to record their physical activity. At school, teachers would collect the paper trackers and enter the activity online.
In addition to walking and biking, students tracked PE and recess time, as well as the activities they did at home. “The most fun part of the challenge was seeing how kids were active with their families outside of school. Instead of going home and putting on a video game, they did all kinds of things, from fishing, rock climbing, trampolining, chasing their dog, hiking, and of course walking and biking,” said Principal Pola Hoard.
RL Stevens’ commitment to the health of its students includes both physical activity and nutrition. The cafeteria has an organic lunch program that serves healthy fruits and veggies and whole foods instead of frozen meals, and students and teachers maintain a school garden through a grant with the Sonoma County Garden Network, and many of the students tracked gardening as a form of physical activity. With the award money from Fire Up Your Feet, the school plans to invest in recess equipment and support the garden program.
Participating in the Fire Up Your Feet Challenge was a rewarding experience for teachers and students alike. “The kids were amazed at how many total minutes of activity we collectively tracked,” said Principal Pola Hoard. “It was really neat because it got families out doing things together.”