The Alliance for a Healthier Generation recently named 328 schools as “America’s Healthiest Schools.” Healthy schools are better schools and healthy communities depend on the school and community working in sync to support families.
To celebrate America’s Healthiest Schools, today’s blog is an interview with my teammate Nancy Brenowitz Katz, Healthier Generation Director of School Partnerships.
First question, tell me a little about your career.
I am a Registered Dietitian and have worked in a variety of settings including a county health department and several hospitals. For ten years, I was Director of the Dietetics Program at the University of Maryland. Prior to coming to the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, I held the position of Manager of Healthy Schools Act Initiatives at the Office of the State Superintendent of Education in Washington, DC.
It’s August – what are school administrators thinking about right now? What should afterschool/summer camp leaders know before reaching out to them this time of year?
School administrators are busy gearing up for the next school year. Since they are in planning mode, it is a good time to talk to them about new program or initiatives. The best approach is to show them how you are making their job easier by providing quality after-school or summer programming that will improve academic outcomes for their students.
Tell me about the work you are doing related to ESSA – what is it and what should afterschool leaders know?
The Alliance for a Healthier Generation and the Healthy Schools Campaign have been collaborating to promote the integration of health and wellness into education policy and practice through the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). As most states will now be holding schools accountable for chronic absenteeism, I recommend stressing the connections between strong afterschool programs and school day attendance. In addition, the emphasis on test scores has not gone away. Therefore, tutoring and academically focused afterschool programs are critical in moving the needle. I would also say that afterschool is a great place to emphasize health and wellness as part of almost any topic. Math, science and social studies can all be taught with a health and wellness focus.
What’s one piece of advice you’d give a new out-of-school time staff member if they want to work more closely with their school district?
What a great question. I have to say that I have been surprised to learn about the disconnect that sometimes exists between school and out-of-school time. First, find the right person in the school building. My recommendation would be to start with the school counselors, physical or health education teachers, or school nurses. These people are thinking most about the overall needs of the students. Partnerships with them can eventually lead to working with the principal. Another idea would be to connect with folks at the district level working on parent engagement, health and wellness and health and physical education. Lastly, I encourage afterschool leaders to speak about programming in the terms that educators understand—attendance, academic achievement and decreased behavioral issues are things that will strike a chord with this audience.
Anything else you would share to help afterschool staff better collaborate with schools?
I would also recommend reaching out to food and nutrition services within your district. In addition to school meals, these departments oversee wellness policies, and often promote farm to school and school gardens. Great connections can be made between whatever your focus is and food. Perhaps they can assist you in doing a cooking demonstration, developing a math lesson around cooking (like fractions) or focusing on the cultural aspects of food and cooking.
Last question, just for fun, what’s your favorite fruit or vegetable and how do you stay active?
I stay active mostly by going to the gym to lift weights, and walking. I used to be a big runner and cyclist but as a mom, I do not have as much time for that as I used to. I also love to go on hikes and bike rides with my son. It is hard to say what my favorite fruit or vegetable is. My son always says, “mommy, you love vegetables!” If I had to pick, I would say that blueberries are my favorite fruit and that Brussel sprouts are my favorite vegetable.
Thanks Nancy for sharing your “insider” tips on collaborating with schools. If you'd like to connect with Nancy, drop her an e-mail.
How do you partner with your school? Tweet to me using @hatchdw.
To make it easier for schools and communities to access Healthier Generation tools and resources, we're offering a monthly webinar, Navigating the Healthy Out-of-School Time Initiative Website. Attendees will receive a complete introduction through a guided walkthrough and learn how to implement best practices for creating healthy out-of-school time environments.