When it comes to promoting student health and wellness, few schools have racked up as many accolades as Olive B. Loss Elementary.
Three years after being named the Healthiest Elementary School in Delaware, Loss Elementary has added another feather to its wellness cap by being chosen as one of 10 schools in Delaware, Pennsylvania and West Virginia to receive a $2,500 Highmark Foundation grant for its work in preventing childhood obesity.
Loss Elementary was the only school in Delaware selected to receive the grant.
“We certainly want our students to be healthy, but our main focus is on them becoming successful learners,” said Loss physical education teacher Barbara Bobik. “And the research shows that kids who practice good nutrition and get regular exercise do better in school, so that’s why we make it such a priority here.”
Next week, Bobik and school nurse Maribeth Miller will travel to the Highmark Foundation’s headquarters in Pittsburgh, Pa., where they will receive the grant funding on behalf of the school during a two-day conference called, “No Time to Weight: Best Practices in Childhood Obesity Prevention.”
“We might be the two staff members going to the conference, but this grant is the result of a team effort from the principal [Lorraine Lybarger], teachers and support staff, as well as the remarkable support we get from parents,” Miller said. “In the year that I’ve been the school nurse here, I’ve just been in awe of the culture at this school and how everyone takes an active role in what we’re doing.”
Like other schools in the Appoquinimink School District, Loss Elementary promotes fitness by providing students with 150 minutes of movement each week, while limiting access to sweets through the district’s healthy snack policy, which outlaws cupcakes, birthday cakes and candy.
Loss Elementary, like a handful of other schools, also participates in a variety of fitness-focused education initiatives, such as CATCH [Coordinated Approach to Child Health], Take 10 and Nemours Health and Prevention Services’ 5-2-1-Almost None program, all of which encourage exercise and healthy food choices.
But, Bobik said, what really helps the district’s lone school north of the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal stand apart is how staff and parents work together to reinforce those programs with an evolving series of initiatives, many of which extend beyond the school day.
For instance, the school recently used grant and district funding to establish a school “fitness lab,” which includes stationary bicycles, a rock-climbing wall, a yoga area, stretch bands, small weights and video games powered by student movement.
“Instead of food treats, teachers and counselors can send students to the fitness lab as a healthy reward for contests, awards and as an extra homework incentive,” Bobik said. “The students love it, and it’s something we will encourage during the winter months when the kids can’t always go outside for recess.”
Page 2 of 2 - The fitness lab is in addition to the Olive B. Loss Walking Club, which requires all students to complete two laps – equal to a half-mile – on the school’s paved walking path during recess three days a week. Students receive charms for each five miles they complete, top walkers get their names mentioned during the morning announcements and students are encouraged to track the school’s total progress.
Building on that effort, the school’s parent-teacher association holds walk-a-thon fundraisers and sponsors a running club for parents and students that culminates in a 5K.
It’s those extra efforts that have helped Olive B. Loss win numerous recognitions over the years, including Nemour’s Edith P. Vincent Nutrition Award and a bronze medal from the Healthier U.S. School Challenge.
“The staff at OBL understands the importance and benefit of teaching children about health and nutrition,” district Superintendent Matthew Burrows said. “By focusing on the positives – what we gain through living well – they’re helping students reach their individual potential. I’m enormously proud of them and [their Highmark Foundation grant], which confirms that they are nationwide leaders.”
Bobik said Loss Elementary’s wellness committee has not yet decided how the $2,500 Highmark Foundation grant will be spent.
“But I think it’s safe to say, we’ll be using it in some way that continues our mission of encouraging students to make healthy and smart choices,” she said.