RIDGWAY AND OURAY SCHOOLS Healthy students need to move
By Bill Tiedje
For the past two years, Ridgway Elementary School Guidance Counselor Valene Baskfield, with the help of volunteers on the School Health and Wellness Committee, has been leading the push for increased physical activity throughout the school day in Ouray County schools.
From spelling bee relay races to yoga breaks, the health and wellness program is designed to support a higher level of academic learning through greater social, physical and emotional wellness.
Alignment of health and wellness curriculum from kindergarten through 12th grade is another goal of the health and wellness project.
Baskfield said the emphasis on getting kids to move more during the school day came from national school standards and brain science research that highlighted the importance of movement in learning.
In addition to a minimum standard of 60 minutes of physical activity during the school day, access to nutritious meals and snacks is an important part of the program's focus.
"How we take care of ourselves affects how we learn," explained Baskfield.
Baskfield said the response from students has been very positive, citing increased motivation and enjoyment of learning.
"Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain," a book by John Ratey, was distributed to every teacher in the county.
"(Brain science) has not necessarily been part of our training as educators," Baskfield noted, explaining that teachers in both Ouray and Ridgway had also undergone trainings for the new health and wellness standards. As guidance counselor, Baskfield has noted students' issues with depression, stress and even substance abuse at the elementary school level.
Baskfield expressed hope that integrated K-12 health and wellness education will give them tools to deal with stress in healthy ways and will lead students to make healthy choices in the future.
Support for the health and wellness program came from two $20,000 grants, one each from the Colorado Legacy Foundation and the Colorado Health Foundation.
Staff wellness is included, added Baskfield, noting that a staff wellness calendar as well as staff competitions helped to maintain a healthy, motivated group of educators.
For more information, visit www.ridgway.k12.co.us and click on the Health and Wellness link under the Community tab.
Baskfield said interested volunteers could help out by joining the health and wellness committee.
"Everybody who has something to contribute is welcome," she said.