By Michilea Patterson, The Mercury
School’s out and Pottstown ended the year on a high note by being recognized for wellness programs in the district.
First in May, Pottstown School District wellness coordinator David Genova became one of the recipients for the “Top Transportation Demand Management Professionals Under 40” award. The award is through the Greater Valley Forge Transportation Management Association (GVF) and Genova won for his efforts with the walking school bus. Then earlier this month, about 375 Franklin Elementary students had a dancing celebratory assembly because they won the Wellness Checklist Achievement Award which was a healthy competition between schools in the region.
“We have a wellness culture here at Franklin that we started a couple years ago,” said Kevin Downes, Franklin Elementary School principal.
Franklin Elementary tied second place for the wellness checklist award last year but came out completely on top this year. The healthy competition was adopted from the Medical University of South Carolina’s Boeing Center for Children’s Wellness. The contest reduces obesity by creating healthier school environments through a checklist. Schools participating in the contest earn points with categories such as nutrition, physical activity and stress management.
For being the first place winner against school districts such as Owen J. Roberts, Spring-Ford and Boyertown; Franklin Elementary was awarded $3,000 from the Pottstown Area Health & Wellness Foundation. The school also won a wellness trophy which was presented to the student body during the celebratory assembly.
Downes said there are often wellness discussions and activities at school functions. Creative healthy snacks encourage children and parents to eat more fruits and vegetables. The school did a broccoli Christmas tree with grape tomatoes as decorations. There is also a tasty fruit infused water where pieces of fruit can be seen floating around.
“It’s very appealing to the eye,” Downes said.
The school had a Girls on the Run program where 19 students participated and eventually competed in a 5K race. Downes said not only does the program have a physical activity component but also teaches the girls about the importance of having a positive body image. In addition to the healthy activities, Franklin Elementary had an outdoor classroom installed last year with a three-season garden.
There will be a formal presentation for Franklin Elementary School during this summer’s Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds Institute on Aug. 17. For the first time, the healthy conference will be held at Pottstown Middle School.
Franklin Elementary wasn’t the only school promoting wellness in the district. On Oct. 7, Rupert Elementary began a walking school bus program which continued until the end of the year. The walking bus is made up of trained volunteers who walk with children to school on predetermined safe routes. Rupert was the location for the pilot program because it has the most students spread out since Pottstown closed Edgewood Elementary School.
Adult volunteers, many from area organizations, walked children to school five days a week in the mornings only. There were three walking routes uses with the longest being more than one mile. A combined 424 miles was walked this year due to the program.
Because the walking program was a success in its first year, wellness coordinator David Genova received a transportation award from GVF. The award was given to individuals that are finding “creative solutions to improve our quality of life through engineering, planning, marketing campaigns and the development of commuting alternative programs that are shifting behavioral change,” according the GVF website.
Genova said Rupert Elementary had a serious congestion problem because of all the parents dropping their students off.
“Cars were lined up for as far as you could see,” he said.
Genova said this was unfortunate because that meant students weren’t walking to school. He said in 1970, about 80 percent of students walked to school but now that number has decreased to about 10 percent. His hope is that over time more students and families will participate in the walking school bus. This year 50 students participated.
“I do think that this is a great program. It is something that I back and support 100 percent,” Genova said.
Genova is looking for adult volunteers to walk in next year’s program. He said the walking bus is a great way for the community to get involved with the children. The program can also tie in with a corporate wellness initiatives, he said.
“The main benefit for these volunteers is that it increases physical activity. This walking school bus program will keep you accountable because you know that kids are waiting on the corner for you,” Genova said.
If you are interested in being a walking volunteer or want to find out more about the walking school bus, contact David Genova at the email firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at 610-763-1466.