Safe Routes Scoop
Safe and Healthy Routes to School

School Nurses are Safe Routes Leaders

As the primary health official in all public and many private schools, school nurses are central to promoting childhood wellness. They are valuable members of many SRTS coalitions, as they see firsthand the health issues facing children today, like obesity and poor nutrition.

 

“A great way to get the message of ‘healthy living’ across is through lesson plans on specific topics, like nutrition or the environment,” says Barbara Lyons, a school nurse from Tenafly. Lyons has been working with curriculum advisors and physical education teachers in her school district to create healthy lifestyles and pollution units in 5th grade classrooms. “The goal is to increase awareness of health issues at an early age in order to instill healthy habits that will last a lifetime,” she said. Children often pass on this knowledge to family members and can encourage healthy behaviors in the home, she noted.

 

Local Example: Garfield Health Department’s F.U.N. initiative Partnerships between New Jersey municipalities, community organizations and school districts have also had a positive impact on improving physical health throughout the state. The Garfield Health Department, together with the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, the YMCA, the Boys and Girls Club and

the Ramapo College Nursing Program, has initiated a program called “Garfield Fitness, Unity, Nutrition” (F.U.N.) [http://www.garfieldfun.org/], which aims to promote healthy living in the community through diet and exercise.

 

Give Students an Active Project One component of the F.U.N. project is the use of interactive mapping to encourage kids to walk and cycle to school. Although Garfield boasts a great walking environment, community members were surprised to find out that less than half of Garfield’s students walked to school.

 

As part of the project, children in the Garfield YMCA’s before-school program were assigned to document the street and sidewalk conditions in their community. Using cameras and a computer purchased with the SRTS grant, the children take pictures on their walk to school and upload them the following day at the before-school program.

 

“Through the interactive mapping, the children are having fun as they discover new technology, explore their communities and get regular exercise,” explains F.U.N.’s program coordinator, Darleen Reveille. As the project progresses, the maps will contain a wealth of information including pictures and locations of traffic signals, crossing guards, important buildings, local businesses, healthy restaurants and other SRTS-related sites.

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