Crookston Public Schools Wellness Committee presented with $3K grant.

Led by Polk County Public Health, the Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP) in this region has been very proactive when it's come to showing people how to live healthier lives, instead of simply reacting by utilizing the healthcare system when they get sick.

Working primarily through Brigette Burzette-DeLeon, SHIP has had an impact in Crookston's Public Schools as well, through community gardens planted, grown and harvested by students, healthier lunches, and more.

While those efforts will continue, Burzette-DeLeon and PCPH's Kristen Fagerlund told the Crookston School Board this week – while presenting the public schools' Wellness Committee with a $3,000 SHIP Healthy School Initiatives grant – that the focus is going to shift to "active school day" initiatives that continue to champion SHIP's primary goals of reducing obesity rates and tobacco use, both of which drain the healthcare system when people become chronically ill from being obese or using tobacco.

While exploring the new grant opportunities, Burzette-DeLeon said she saw two funding options, one tied to Safe Routes to Schools and one focused on an "active school day." With some "Safe Routes" efforts previously undertaken in Crookston, she focused on the latter.

"This isn't just things kids do in gym class," she said, mentioning things like kids sitting on "stability balls" in the classroom, or partaking in a "transition time" before taking a test that could involve running a lap around the school. "Body movement helps the brain work," Burzette-DeLeon added.

Fagerlund said young people, especially, are more receptive to initiatives that involve them actually doing things, instead of just being told what they should do. "What's unique about SHIP is that many preventative investments in the past have been about education and telling people what they should do. That's pretty tough to accomplish," she said.

But if you have a group of kids in charge of, for example, a garden full of healthy fruits and vegetables, Burzette-DeLeon added, "They're way more likely to eat it if they have had a hand in growing it."

And maybe they're more likely to learn from it, too. As the district's Wellness Committee decides how to spend the $3,000 grant, Fagerlund said ways to tie SHIP initiatives to academic standards would be worth pursuing. "We need to go about things a little differently, maybe, and think a little bit differently on how we approach standards," she said, mentioning, for example, a lesson on the life cycle of a tomato in a science class, or a math class calculating a student's movements throughout the day.

"When kids are active, their brains work better," Fagerlund said. "And if they're more active, it could tie into meaningful educational opportunities."