ESL Students Lead the Way to a Healthier School at Trevista at Horace Mann

Apr 6, 2018
Schanhals Fuel Up to Play 60 program advisor

English Language Development teacher Valerie Schanhals knew she wanted to get Fuel Up to Play 60 started at Trevista during her third year at the school – she was ready to help students get healthy like she had done at her previous school, Swanson Elementary.

“I work with our English language learners – which is about one third of our student body, so I offered it to all of the kids in my class and we started the club with them,” explains Schanhals.

So far, the school has worked on teaching staff about the importance of, and science behind, brain breaks (physical activity breaks) during class. They have also decided to work on posters for the cafeteria that educate students about the fruits and veggies available at the salad bar.

“We have a beautiful salad bar that our cafeteria staff works really hard on,” explained Schanhals. “But I think some of the kids haven’t had those fruits and veggies before so they don’t want to try them.”

Schanhals says that the school has already made strides in healthy eating in just three years. When she started at the school, they had no guidelines about what snacks students could bring. Now, for example, students can only bring in a snack-sized bag of chips and can only do so as part of their brown-bag lunch.

“I think if we can also make some posters for the cafeteria about the effects that those unhealthy snacks have on your body, maybe we can cut back on those further,” said Schanhals.

The Fuel Up to Play 60 students at the school are also starting a healthy cooking club and Schanhals is working to have a local restaurant come in and talk to them about eating good, healthy food and how to make it taste good.

But what really stands out about FUTP60 is the student piece, explains Schanhals.

“I love that you’re empowering the kids to start making healthy choices at a young age and learning the importance of being active,” she says. “I feel like they need that push to be active and go outside.”

Plus, FUTP60 often motivates students that are otherwise not engaged with their education. Schanhals said she had one young student who was consistently late to school and missing most of their morning FUTP60 club meetings and that when Schanhals explained that she needed to be on time or she could not participate in FUTP60, the student began consistently showing up on time.

“I think it really motivates kids to want to be at school and to get here on time,” Schanhals says. “I have actually found a few kiddos that aren’t motivated for school, but they are motivated for FUTP60. Seeing them be engaged and motivated was exciting – they were able to shine in a different aspect.”

Schanhals notes that the accessibility and ease of the program make it easy to start and maintain – and points out that the website is designed so that students simply check in, see what challenges are available and are then encouraged to go outside and be active.

“I have had nothing but positive interactions with FUTP60 and I think there’s just so many amazing opportunities that come with the program,” said Schanhals. “Don’t let anything hold you back – just get started!”