It’s been quite a school year for our kids. As a mom of tween and teen girls, I’ve seen firsthand day in and day out how emotionally challenging it has been for them. I’m so incredibly proud of how they have remained flexible and resilient as they have navigated remote and in-person learning, changing schedules and the disappointments of canceled activities and isolation from friends. There are times that I really worry about how these experiences will affect their long-term health and well-being.
As the director of Community Education and Outreach for Children’s Wisconsin, much of my team’s work revolves around developing tools we can offer schools that will provide them education programming and support in many health areas, including healthy minds. We know that caring for a child's mental and behavioral health is just as important as caring for their physical health. In fact, nurturing the mental and behavioral health of kids can change the trajectory of their whole life.
That’s why I’m so pleased that Mission: Healthy Kids, our partnership project with Kohl’s, is launching a Healthy Schools Challenge focusing on healthy minds. The free challenge, being offered in collaboration with the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, runs from March 1 to April 30, and all Wisconsin schools are invited to participate. Schools that submit the challenge pieces by April 30 will be entered into a drawing to win one of 20 $1,000 awards to further that work. For the challenge, schools are asked to look at the work they already are engaged in surrounding healthy minds and to think about ways they could expand it, or they can create a brand-new project. They will use the Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child (WSCC) model as their guide.
WSCC provides a framework that supports greater alignment, integration and collaboration between health and education. It helps schools look at 10 different components of learning and health support within a school community. Examples are the social emotional culture of the school, the physical environment itself, the health education offerings, physical education and physical activity, community involvement and more (read more about the 10 areas here). School project ideas could be creating soothing spaces in their physical school environment, opening up conversations about social and emotional health in school, enrolling students in health e-learning programs, engaging students in daily or weekly mindfulness activities, creating take-home activities for students and families to do together and much more.
Having seen the creativity and innovation schools have shared in past challenges, we’re excited to see what schools submit for their projects. The goal is to provide schools with some added support to improve the emotional health of their students, staff and community. We look forward to sharing their innovative ideas and selecting the schools to receive $1,000 award in May. Schools can register here to get started.
For families who want to learn more about creating healthy minds at home, Mission: Healthy Kids has information broken out by age for kids 2-4, 5-12 and 13 and older. There are a variety of resources on topics such as getting enough quality sleep, finding creative ways to reduce screen time, managing stress and anxiety, talking to kids about feelings and more. Visit missionhealthykids.org and select the “For families” section to get started.
Mission: Healthy Kids is a partnership with Kohl’s and Children’s Wisconsin that helps Wisconsin kids and families learn how to eat right, stay fit and feel good about their bodies. The program promotes policy, systems and environmental changes in schools, and provides free health resources to families on topics of nutrition, physical activity and healthy minds.