Tagged “Research”

Healthy School Communities

Health and Learning News and Updates


Giving Thanks for Teachers Who Help Hungry Students: Educator Susan Graham describes a lesson in which students share Thanksgiving meal traditions, from turkey and mashed potatoes to pumpkin pie and even pizza. But recent data show that close to a quarter of U.S. schoolchildren regularly struggle with hunger, and Graham gives thanks to teachers who often use their own money to help them get through the school day. Read more.

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Sean Slade

Positive Youth Development?

Many people get overwhelmed by what may seem to be new terminology or new approaches—however, more often than not, these phrases explain what people have done or known for quite a while. Take "positive youth development"—not a new term, but one that I'm sure still gets presented every now and then to glazing-over eyes.

What does "positive youth development" mean? Basically, it's actively helping and supporting kids as they mature and grow—not just academically (cognitively), but socially, emotionally, mentally, and physically. It's being proactive in setting up some supports and structures that we know kids need as they progress through childhood and adolescence.

Sound difficult? It shouldn't, because it's what teachers and educators have been doing to varying degrees for decades, and at its foundation is the development of safe, caring environments where kids feel supported, cared about, and heard.

Research has consistently shown that adult caregivers such as teachers and educators—or, in fact, anyone who interacts with kids in the school-community setting—are key to developing positive youth and safe, protective environments (Benard, 1991, 2004; Goldstein & Brooks, 2005; Eccles & Gootman, 2002; Masten & Coatsworth,1998; Werner & Smith, 1982, 1992, 2001, 2005).

Last year, Bonnie Benard and I wrote a chapter in the first Handbook of Positive Psychology in Schools to highlight how kids themselves knew that an adult cared about them and wanted them to succeed. The chapter summarized a decade's worth of sessions that Bonnie and colleague Carol Burgoa had held with students across California, asking a simple question: How do you know if someone cares about you?

The results remind us that it's not difficult and it should not be overlooked. So what did the kids say? Here is a synthesis of their comments from more than a dozen sessions across California over a decade.

Getting to know me:

When I'm bothered, they help me by listening and encouraging me ... they talk to me as a person and friend—not just as a student.

They take the time and ask me, "How was your weekend?"

They greet us and ask, "How are you doing?"

They take time to say hello.

They listen when I'm talking and give eye contact.

They get to know our stories.

Essentially, students highlighted simple acts as ways they knew their teachers cared. They identified actions that take place in many classrooms across the nation every day—actions that should take place in every classroom every day. These include acting friendly, smiling, saying hello (especially outside of class), taking an interest in the student, and noticing when the student is troubled.

When asked what adults can do more of for them, the answers were remarkably similar and succinct:

We need understanding.

We need adults to "be there" for us—you're our second parents.

Be there for us and believe in us so we can count on you.

I need an adult to believe in me.

Positive youth development is not difficult; it is often done, but all too frequently ignored as nothing special or consequential. However, both education researchers and students themselves remind us that people matter and relationships matter.

"At a time when the traditional structures of caring have deteriorated, schools must become places where teachers and students live together, talk with each other, take delight in each other's company."

—Nel Noddings, 1988

"School is a community; it's not a building but about people."

—Anonymous student, 2004

Healthy School Communities

Health and Learning News and Updates


Should Canadian schools continue to label students as gifted? Some parents and educators are concerned about the commonly overlooked downsides that come along with the "gifted" label, and some are questioning whether the designation should be applied at all. Many schools in Canada and elsewhere have increased their focus on student-centered education, which aims to capitalize on the students' needs. Many schools also have fewer available resources for separate gifted-education programs. Read more.

New Report Confirms Recession Will Have Lasting Impact on Children's Health: Whole Child Partner America's Promise Alliance's policy affiliate, First Focus, released a new report that underscored the lasting impact of even temporary spells of poverty on children's long-term health. The Effect of the Recession on Child Well-Being, authored by researchers from PolicyLab at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and commissioned by First Focus, examines four areas—health, food security, housing stability, and maltreatment—and reviews the relationship of each to the well-being of children during recessions both past and present.

Report on Kids' Health Shows Mixed Results: National Children's Hospital and its partners have published a report based on reviewed data from 10 indicators for pediatric health in the Columbus, Ohio, community. The good news is that more children appear to have access to health care and early births are decreasing, while the bad news is that obesity in some populations has not decreased and teen suicide and asthma have increased. Read more about the report.


About KidsHealth: Browse this database to find hundreds of articles on a variety of child health topics in the AboutKidsHealth Health A–Z Library. Articles include topics such as common health problems, first aid, safety, nutrition, child care, behavior school, and relationships.

Tips for Launching SEL After School: This article on the Edutopia website provides practical advice for planning and fundraising to launch your own after-school social and emotional learning (SEL) program. Whole Child Partners the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) and Educators for Social Responsibility (ESR) are referenced as good resources for getting your program started.

Take Action

Peaceful Pathways: Reducing Exposure to Violence: The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is partnering with local grant makers to offer grants for community-based projects to improve the health and health care for vulnerable populations and to reduce violence in traditionally underserved communities.

Up to eight matching grants of between $50,000 and $200,000 each will be awarded. Organizations must be nominated by a diversity-focused funder that is principally concerned with the community to be served. Projects should be planned and led by members of the specific racial, gender, tribal, or other disadvantaged community to be served, and projects must be culturally appropriate. The grantee is expected to work with the nominating funder and/or additional grantmakers (who need not be diversity-focused funders). Funding partners may include independent and private foundations, family and community foundations, and corporate and other philanthropies. Matching funds must represent new funding specifically designated to support the proposed project. Up to 25 percent of the match for Peaceful Pathways may consist of in-kind services. Deadline: Rolling.

Healthy School Communities is a worldwide ASCD effort to promote the integration of health and learning and the benefits of school-community collaboration. It is part of a large, multiyear plan to shift public dialogue about education from a narrow, curriculum-centric and accountability system focus to a whole child approach that encompasses all factors required for successful student outcomes. Visit the Healthy School Communities group on ASCD EDge and share everything from ideas and solutions to common concerns.

Healthy School Communities

Health and Learning News and Updates


Student Wellness Council Promotes Healthier Choices for Teens: High school students at Lackawanna Trail High School have created their own Student Wellness Council to promote wellness and healthy eating in their school district. Read how students have included broadcasting health tips on a radio show and selling fruit smoothies during lunch at school in their activities.

Las Cruces Mayor Helps Kids Stay Healthy: Las Cruces, N.Mex., Mayor Ken Miyagishima is showing his support for the Healthy Kids Las Cruces program by encouraging the town's 3rd graders to develop healthy habits and live healthy lifestyles. Read more about the 5-2-1-0 Challenge and how the mayor is spreading the word about healthy eating and physical activity to the community.

Ending Childhood Hunger: Actor Jeff Bridges hopes to end childhood hunger in America by 2015. Read about his No Kid Hungry campaign to learn how you can take part in the movement.

ADHD Rates Rise Among Children, CDC Says: A U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report indicates that about 9.5 percent of 73,000 parents surveyed in 2007–08 reported having a child diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, up from nearly 8 percent in 2003. The report, involving children ages 4 to 17, shows that about two-thirds of those with ADHD are receiving medication.


Dribbling Drills from Whole Child Partner SPARK: This month we're featuring Dribbling Drills from the Basketball unit in the SPARK 3-6 PE Manual, which includes a free lesson plan, assessment tool, and instructional video.

Energy Balance 101: Energy Balance: 101 offers teachers, families, and communities resources, lesson plans, and tips to support healthy eating and physical activity for children.

Bully Free Canada: Canadians will recognize November 14–20, 2010, as National Bullying Awareness Week. BullyingAwarenessWeek.org offers resources for planning local bullying awareness campaigns. Example day plans are available for each day of the week.

Middle School, a Developmentally Critical Time for Health Education: The Michigan Departments of Education and Community Health developed a two-page fact sheet to help administrators, teachers, and parents speak about the importance of health education at the middle school level. The fact sheet discusses why the middle school is a developmentally critical time and includes risk-behavior data and other online resources. It also serves as a response to measures some districts are taking to cut or reduce middle school health education due to limited resources.

Take Action

Sixth Biennial Childhood Obesity Conference: The California Department of Public Health, California Department of Education, the University of California-Berkeley, Dr. Robert C. and Veronica Atkins Center for Weight and Health, The California Endowment, and Kaiser Permanente have joined together to host a conference on childhood obesity from June 28 through July 1, 2011, in San Diego, Calif. Leading experts in pediatric obesity will showcase the latest research, evidence-based best practices, and policy and environmental change strategies. Early discount registration ends January 1, 2011. Register and find out more.

Healthy Playground Makeover Sweepstakes: Enter the sweepstakes from Energy Balance:101 and get a chance to win the grand prize of $10,000 to redo a playground, $25,000 in merchandise from Sports Authority, and more. Five runner-up prizes are also available. Deadline to enter is December 1, 2010.

Are childhood hunger, ADHD, bullying, and safe places to play important issues in your school or community?

Healthy School Communities is a worldwide ASCD effort to promote the integration of health and learning and the benefits of school-community collaboration. It is part of a large, multiyear plan to shift public dialogue about education from a narrow, curriculum-centric and accountability system focus to a whole child approach that encompasses all factors required for successful student outcomes. Visit the Healthy School Communities group on ASCD EDge and share everything from ideas and solutions to common concerns.

Healthy School Communities

Health and Learning News and Updates


D.C. Students Take On Challenge to Fight Obesity: Students at a charter school in Washington, D.C., are participating in an 18-week "3-Point Play" program that focuses on nutrition, exercise, and family involvement. The program was created by the Aetna Foundation and piloted in Texas with encouraging results.

Using Psychology in Lunch Line Design: A New York Times opinion piece offers suggestions about redesigning the way certain foods are accessible at lunch in order to get kids to make healthier choices. Would this work at your school? Tell us what you think on ASCD EDge.

Study Looks at Elementary School Beverages: A study found that whole milk and sweetened beverages were available on school property to about half of the elementary school students in the United States in 2008 and 2009. Since then, bottlers have reduced shipment of high-calorie drinks to schools, an American Beverage Association consultant said, and the most significant change has happened in the past year.

Canadian Provinces Conflict on Addressing ADHD in Schools: The Centre for ADHD Advocacy Canada released its report on inconsistencies across Canada in how to meet learning needs of students with ADHD.


Eat Well and Be Active Educational Toolkit: Published by Health Canada, this resource is designed to help those who teach children and adults about healthy eating and physical activity. The toolkit includes

  • The "Eat Well and Be Active Every Day" poster;
  • Downloadable activity plans; and
  • 54 healthy eating and physical activity images to complement the poster.

What's Next for Coordinated School Health? Moving from Rhetoric to Sustainable Action:
A blog post by Sean Slade, director of Healthy School Communities at ASCD, summarizes his session presentation at the American School Health Association Annual Conference in Kansas City, Mo., on October 16, 2010. The session was intended to start a discussion about what coordinated school health (CSH) has and has not achieved over the past 20 years, and then further that dialogue into discussing the next moves for CSH.

Take Action

Adapted Physical Activity Council Program Recognition Award: The Adapted Physical Activity Council, part of the American Association for Physical Activity and Recreation, is taking nominations to recognize programs that provide physical education, physical activity, or therapeutic recreation services designed to improve or facilitate opportunities for people with disabilities. Nominated programs must serve young children, elementary or secondary-level students, or adults. Award amounts vary, and there are no restrictions on eligibility. The deadline for nominations is December 15, 2010.

Apply for a HRSA Grant through the School-Based Health Centers Capital Program (U.S. schools only): Visit whole child partner the National Assembly on School-Based Healthy Care (NASBHC) for information on applying for a Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) grant through the School-Based Health Centers Capital Program. The HRSA provides answers to frequently asked questions and other resources for school-based health centers. Join the discussion at NASBHC to find out how to make the most of available grant dollars with exclusive promotional offers from Welch Allyn.

Walkin' for a Cause: School Walk and American Diabetes Month: November is American Diabetes Month, and the American Diabetes Association (ADA) has teamed up with whole child partner SPARK to help "STOP Diabetes" by promoting physical activity in schools. Attend this webinar, called "School Walk for Diabetes," and learn

  • More about the ADA and what free resources they offer to teachers;
  • How School Walk supports your coordinated school health program;
  • Benefits of participating in School Walk; and
  • Other ways ADA can support youth in your community.

The 45-minute webinar is free and will be held on Wednesday, November 17, 2010, at 6:00 p.m. eastern time (3:00 p.m. pacific time). PreK–12 teachers and administrators, physical education specialists, and after-school and early-childhood teachers and staff are encouraged to participate. Register now!

What does it really mean to be considered a healthy school community?

Healthy School Communities is a worldwide ASCD effort to promote the integration of health and learning and the benefits of school-community collaboration. It is part of a large, multiyear plan to shift public dialogue about education from a narrow curriculum-centric and accountability system focus to a whole child approach that encompasses all factors required for successful student outcomes.

ASCD Whole Child Bloggers

Outwitting the "Fade-Out Effect" of Preschool Education

Post submitted by Educational Leadership Associate Editor Naomi Thiers

What two teacher practices does research show are most effective for helping preschoolers make cognitive gains that last through elementary school?

At an October 22 seminar on improving preschool quality (hosted by the Center for Law and Social Policy and the Institute for Human Development at Berkeley), the focus of the day was on how to make preschool programs "pack a bigger punch" in terms of boosting children's cognitive skills. 

Speakers, including child development researcher Robert Pianta, spoke of overcoming the "fade-out effect" (the tendency for academic gains children make when they attend preschool to fade away by 3rd grade).

The occasion for the seminar was the release of a report describing two programs that aim to improve the quality of preschool teachers—specifically how teachers interact with students. That report, Lifting Pre-K Quality: Caring and Effective Teachers, identified two key teacher practices that, when performed together, predict robust gains in cognitive skills for children who attend preschool:

  • Interacting with children in an emotionally supportive way and
  • Structuring class time and teacher-child interactions in a way that maximizes what Pianta called "cognitive load."

Pianta noted that many preschool teachers are excellent at interacting with children in an emotionally supportive way but are weaker at infusing cognitive content and skill development into those interactions. "We need to engineer the right kinds of instructional supports to help preschool students make academic gains," he said, including training preschool teachers in instructional skills.

Researcher Diane Early noted that a teacher's possession of a bachelor's degree, which some policymakers urge as a requirement for a highly qualified preK educator, does not predict lasting gains from preschool.

Pianta and colleagues' CLASS approach for helping preschool teachers become more effective is one of the two programs described in Lifting Pre-K Quality. (TEEM, developed at University of Texas–Houston, is the other.)

Early educators, what are your thoughts? Do you agree that these two practices are the important ones for helping preschoolers prepare for elementary school?

ASCD Whole Child Bloggers

Research looks at the arts-makes-you-smarter question

A three-year, seven-university research project suggests a connection between the arts and thinking skills, reports Education Week. Read the full research report supported by the Washington-based Dana Foundation. The report includes a paper by researcher Elizabeth Spelke titled “Effects of Music Instruction on Developing Cognitive Systems at the Foundations of Mathematics and Science.”

Does your school provide a well-rounded curriculum for all students, including rigorous programs in arts, foreign languages, and social studies?

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