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May 7, 2019 6:11 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press

John Marshall Elementary School Principal Earns Recognition For Promoting Wellness

The John Marshall Elementary School students dressed up as super heroes, fruits, and vegetables during a wellness and health assembly on Friday. KYRIL BROMLEY
May 7, 2019 1:13 PM

Cupcakes are not allowed for birthday celebrations, and chocolate milk is available on Fridays only.

The new health rules may sound a bit strict for elementary students, but children at John M. Marshall Elementary School in East Hampton seem to be embracing them since they were put in place by their principal, Beth Doyle.

Ms. Doyle has been spearheading healthy initiatives at the school for about two years—and, as a result, the Wellness Foundation, a nonprofit organization that helps people build healthy lives through diet and exercise, presented her with the 2018 School Wellness Champion Award.

At an all-school assembly on Friday, a handful of students dressed as vegetables, fruits and superheroes to cheer on Ms. Doyle as she received a $400 check from the foundation to use for wellness activities at the school, as well as a gift certificate to Naturopathica for her own self-care.

Dozens of teachers and administrators on the East End were nominated for the award, and Assistant Principal Russell Morgan and other colleagues decided to nominate Ms. Doyle for her efforts.

“It was difficult to make the change at first,” Ms. Doyle said of enjoying cupcakes for birthday and holiday parties. “It’s a tradition. People were saying things like, ‘You’re taking the fun out of school’ and ‘Don’t tell me what my kid should and should not eat.’”

Her response was that, yes, teachers are educating students about math, science, English and social studies, but “it’s also our responsibly to teach them to be healthy citizens.”

In the classroom, the students aren’t just leading healthier lifestyle but also learning what healthy food and physical activities do for their bodies and minds.

“The kids seem fine with it now,” Ms. Doyle said. “We still celebrate in a big way. We still have parties, and the students are still recognized on their birthdays.”

Instead of celebrating with sweets, for example, the birthday person can ask for extra recess for the class, or a game of heads-up-seven-up. The class will write individual notes to the birthday person about what they like about them and put it in a special box for the honoree to take home and read.

“There are ways to celebrate and make the students feel special without eating a cupcake,” Ms. Doyle said.

She added that this doesn’t mean students can’t enjoy sweets occasionally. “I eat candy sometimes,” she said. “It’s not a ban. But as a school, we need to model for students.”

Each month, student birthdays are also celebrated with pizza, popcorn, pretzels, hummus and chips, and other healthier alternatives.

Other initiatives include improving the quality of cafeteria food, making drinking water available at all times, adding “brain breaks,” and promoting mindfulness.

For “brain breaks” during the day, physical education teachers go into the classrooms and physically engage the students, sometimes playing YouTube videos to dance along with.

Through the school’s partnership with the Wellness Foundation, each student was given a reusable water bottle, which can be filled at water stations and in the cafeteria. In the past, students had to purchase plastic water bottles in the cafeteria. Ms. Doyle said the students are constantly drinking water, as she sees them fill up their bottles at the water station right outside her office.

According to statistics from the Wellness Foundation, which Mr. Morgan read aloud at the assembly on Friday, only 15 percent of all students get the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity a day, and 40 percent of calories consumed by kids 2 to 18 comes from desserts, soft drinks and pizza.

“Living a healthy lifestyle helps improve memory,” Mr. Morgan told the students as they nodded along. “It helps us pay attention in class, increases our energy levels, and reduces the chance of us getting sick and missing school.”

The students recited the “four pillars” of leading a healthy lifestyle: eating whole foods, drinking water throughout the day, practicing mindfulness, and remaining physically active.

Before Ms. Doyle received her award, Mr. Morgan said that in launching the wellness initiative, the principal had “recognized our responsibility as a school to teach the students the importance of living a healthy lifestyle.”

“Thanks to the leadership of Ms. Doyle, we’ve been able to make this happen,” he said.

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Doesn't the school have a nutricianist planning lunches in the school? Has the water been tested at the schools? How about home lunches...
Take out the junk food machines...
By knitter (1692), Southampton on May 7, 19 10:42 AM
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