Making Wellness a Priority in the Lakota Community Programs Designed for Students, Staff and Families
School wellness goes far beyond providing nutritious meals to students.
want to change the culture of the Lakota community – students,
employees, families -- to get as healthful as possible,” said Chris
Burkhardt, Lakota’s Director of Wellness and Child Nutrition.
Wellness Committee meets each month to design and implement programs
to help fulfill that mission. The committee of about 20 volunteers
includes representatives from child nutrition, athletics, the
treasurer’s office, nursing, Anthem (Lakota’s insurance provider) as
well as teachers, parents, administrators and community members.
look at current trends in wellness, and try to develop a theme for
the year,” said Burkhardt. This year the theme is water, and the goal
is to get everyone to drink more water. Many times people don’t know
what to drink and they just go to a vending machine or whatever is
As a result of the committee’s efforts, students now
have easier access to water stations and cups in school cafeterias and
employees received water bottles (thanks to wellness funds provided
by Anthem) and information on why water is so important to a healthy
That is just one of the initiatives that the
Wellness Committee has tackled this year. They have also developed a
number of creative programs to help the Lakota community make
healthier choices, both at school and at home.
Union Elementary has worked with Child Nutrition to pilot a number of
new programs, including a unique way to celebrate student birthdays.
Instead of the traditional classroom party snack, Union hosts a
“Birthday Lunch Celebration” for all students having birthdays that
month. There’s a special menu, and parents and families are invited to
join in the fun. Shawnee Early Childhood School and Woodland
Elementary are looking to implement similar programs next school year.
also put a new twist on its annual Reds Day. The cafeteria and gym
were decorated with Reds memorabilia and the entire staff dressed for
the occasion. Students were able to partake in healthy food choices by
“running the bases” and selecting foods – ending up at home plate.
The students then headed to the bleachers or turf to have lunch. After
lunch, students went outside to participate in wellness-based
“The families and students of Union have embraced a
culture shift of providing more school-wide incentive based events
(such as our monthly birthday celebrations and Reds Day) that promote
health and wellness,” said Principal Ben Brown. “The shared
contributions of everyone in our school community allows for families
and students to celebrate our successes together throughout the year.
Through our collaborative partnership with Child Nutrition and support
from our PTSO, we have established new traditions that align with the
health and wellness goals of the school district.”
Elementary has also started to establish some new traditions that focus
on wellness. In January, the school held its second annual Family
Physical Fitness Night that featured stations focusing on physical
fitness and better nutrition for a healthier lifestyle. Students and
families had the opportunity to test their skills at everything from
yoga to Zumba to family fitness exercises.
Burkhardt is hoping
that the Lakota community adopts more programs like these. “Many times
holiday parties or school celebrations tend to be food-based activities
and the food overshadows the activity,” said Burkhardt. “We are
trying to get the focus back on the experience itself.”
course, nutritious meals are also a part of school wellness. Burkhardt
has been recognized nationally for his innovative approaches --
transforming breakfast and lunch menus to provide creative, healthy
options for students and staff.
“It’s all about giving students
choices, especially when they’re healthy ones that might impact their
long-term eating habits,” said Burkhardt.
workplaces too, and the wellness committee has developed staff
programs and incentives to promote healthy lifestyles. After all, when
adults engage in healthy behaviors, children take notice and will
likely emulate those behaviors. For the past two years, the district
has held a “Triple Crown Challenge” to encourage staff members to get a
biometric screening, to take a health risk assessment, and to get an
annual physical. Wellness funds from Anthem will also reimburse staff
members up to $25 for participation in area walk/run events.
think the biometric screenings are an invaluable service for
employees,’ said Burkhardt. “It is a simple 10-minute process which
can give you some really useful information about your health and
wellness. Adding in the health assessment and the doctor visit gives
the employee a great foundation to celebrate their successes and to
work to improve the areas which may be deficient.”
like these have earned Lakota’s employee wellness program the Fit
Friendly Worksite Gold Award from the American Heart/Stroke
Association for the past three years.
The wellness committee’s
work is already working on new ideas to help the Lakota community make
healthier choices for the upcoming school year.
Earlier this year, Woodland Elementary held its second annual Family Fitness Night.
employees are encouraged to get a biometric screening, take a
health risk assessment, and to get an annual physical as part of the
district's "Triple Crown Challenge." Bill Brinkman, assistant
principal at the Lakota East Freshman School, is shown here getting
his blood pressure taken as part of the program.