Project Healthy Schools Responds to Remote Learning Environment

student cutting up vegetables to make a salad

When schools closed on March 16 due to the new coronavirus, no one knew what lay ahead.

The Project Healthy Schools (PHS) team immediately surveyed school administrators and wellness champions, then began creating a health education resources website and videotaping the Project Healthy Schools lessons for virtual use. So when Governor Whitmer canceled classroom instruction for the rest of the school year, PHS was ready.

PHS is a Community-University of Michigan collaboration designed to reduce childhood obesity and improve the current and future health of Michigan’s youth.  Through lessons and wellness activities, PHS enables middle school students to increase physical activity, eat healthier, and understand how nutrition and activity influence their lifelong health.

Transitioning in-person lessons to online

When school cancelations were announced, Nate Saulter, program and tech assistant, was already putting the finishing touches on the PHS online resources website. PHS Wellness Coordinators Brad Newman, Ben Ransier, Jacob Robidou and Jana Stewart reached out to the wellness champions at approximately 100 schools to help acquaint them with the new website. 

The 10 Project Healthy Schools lessons are designed to be hands on and interactive.  Included with each lesson video are a follow-along worksheet, a parent packet and other materials related to the lesson.

Teachers were thankful for the remote learning resources  

Jessica Bennett, a teacher and co-wellness champion at Powell Middle School in Washington, said, “As we entered the closure, our concern was what the participation was going to be of our students.  We began to use the Project Healthy Schools lessons to create activities and extensions to what we have learned throughout the quarter.”

“We have had a great response to those activities and students are using those lessons to have food prep and cooking experiences. They are recording and sending videos and recipes to meet the objectives of the lessons.”

student making a salad at home

Dylan Falting, a fifth grader at Boyne City Middle School, had a blast making the Rainbow of Color salad.

Students thrive during stay-at-home with PHS curriculum

Even more impressive during these trying times of COVID-19, is that the students are continuing to thrive and practice the PHS goals of being active, eating more fruits and vegetables, avoiding sugary beverages and fast and fatty foods, and reducing screen time. 

According to Lynn Evans, wellness champion at Newberry Area School in Newberry in the Upper Peninsula, “Our PE teacher is asking students to keep a daily fitness log each week to be turned in to earn credit in PE class, so kids are staying active!” 

Students are taking pictures of themselves doing healthy activities like shooting hoops, raking leaves and sweeping the garage.

Evans said, “The students are also helping their families prepare nutritious meals, spending quality family time playing board games (less screen time), and our school is providing around 400 of our school families with healthy meals that include many fresh fruits and vegetables. I feel as though the Project Healthy Schools 2019/2020 school year was filled with accomplishments.”

Despite the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the PHS team successfully supported schools and students in completing the program. 

“I am so proud of how the team quickly rose to the challenge, and how the teachers and students adapted to remote learning,” said Project Healthy Schools Program Manager, Jean DuRussel-Weston. 

For more information about Project Healthy Schools, subscribe to the Project Healthy Schools newsletter, which comes out three times a year, or visit the PHS website.

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