May 13, 2022
The sun is out, fruits and vegetables are in season, you have the luxury of time, and happy moods abound! How will your summer program be intentional in addressing students’ health and wellness? What pieces of a healthy summer can be carried into the next school year? Start with your school partnership and intentional program design to be confident you’re putting health first.
When it comes to student health, your program can afford to be ambitious this summer because you’re not in it alone! Your community is invested in your students’ well-being too, so bring them along. With those high ambitions in mind, assess the greatest health needs among your students.
- Consult the Guide to Health and Wellness Standards for Out-of-School Time Programs to get an evidence-based snapshot of ambitious yet reasonable expectations for your program.
- Then, customize the Y4Y tool Conducting Your Program Needs Assessment to include elements of physical, social, and emotional health. Your school principal can shed light on what the most pressing elements might be. See the Quick Guide to Initiating a Health and Wellness Partnership With the School Day for a five-step process you can use.
- Always remember that families are your first partner. Use the Y4Y Family Health and Wellness Self-Assessment tool to give them a voice in setting priorities.
- Other Y4Y tools in the Y4Y Health and Wellness: Partnering with the School Day Click & Go will guide you through many aspects of your health and wellness needs assessment.
Make Your Intentional Plan
Box checking can be exhausting, and each year it feels like there are more boxes to check. When it comes to health and wellness, take advantage of out-of-school time’s flexibility to lean into feel-good activities that boost spirits and by extension, student well-being.
- With needs identified, use Y4Y’s Program Self-Assessment of Health and Wellness Offerings to determine assets, resources, and practices you already have in place to meet those needs.
- Adapt Y4Y’s tools for intentional program design, activity design, and mapping needs to activities as you give shape to your summer program.
- Y4Y’s Activity Selection Guide to Support Health and Wellness will give you new ideas on addressing your specific needs.
You Are What You Eat
Nutrition can play a big role in your summer program. Last summer in a Y4Y Voices From the Field podcast, Simone Miranda of the Schenectady City School District shared how her program’s partnership with a local farm led to fresh fruits and vegetables — and career exploration opportunities — for her students. Renee Starr and Megan Grubb from Brooklyn Center Community Schools took this idea one step further by braiding 21st CCLC funds with a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Every region has some form of agriculture that students can take important life and career skills from. And with a strategic partnership in place, maybe they can even take home some fresh food!
- What are your community assets? Dig deep into what organizations you can partner with by using Y4Y’s Mapping Needs to Partners, Mapping Community Assets, and Community Asset Mapping tools.
- As you reach out to new partners in your community, it’s helpful to create an elevator speech about your program. Adapt your speech for existing partners to emphasize the health and wellness needs of your students, especially those that have crept in as a result of the pandemic.
- With partners in place, consider all the ways good nutrition can be part of your summer. Cooking with students is a great opportunity to practice reading, math, and general problem solving as well as conversations and lessons around what constitutes healthy foods and portion sizes.
Our Friends the Neurotransmitters
Chief among the natural ways of boosting neurotransmitters associated with mental and emotional wellness are exercise, mindfulness, gratitude, novelty, goal setting, and time in the sun. Your summer program is the perfect setting for all of these, and Y4Y has tips, tools, and resources to guide you:
- Exercise: Be sure to consult Y4Y’s handy two-page Guide to Health and Wellness Standards for Out-of-School Time Programs and offer inclusive and expanded activities that are accessible to all students.
- Mindfulness: Check out the Y4Y tools on Best Practices for Mindfulness and Activities/Practices for Managing Stress.
- Gratitude. It’s wonderful and a no-brainer that wellness experts are recognizing the importance of actively reminding your brain of what you have in your life right now to be happy about. For tips on practicing gratitude in your program, see these Y4Y blog posts: Gratitude Turns What We Have Into Enough, Harness the Power of Positivity, and Thanking, Giving, Learning, Being (which discusses how citizen science activities can make students feel grateful).
- Novelty: If virtual learning taught you anything, it was how to get creative! By now, “creative” is probably your middle name! If not, try scanning past issues of The Y4Y Insider for dozens of creative program ideas!
- Goal Setting: Make summer a time for some reflection. You’ll find activity ideas in Y4Y tools like Goal Setting Activities, Games and Templates. For age-appropriate goal setting and reflection resources, see the student voice and choice tool collection. Include families with the Family Goal-Setting Survey – you can customize it to your summer health goals.
- Time in the Sun: This neurotransmitter booster speaks for itself. Remember your hats, sunglasses, and Y4Y’s Walking Scavenger Hunt Activity Planner. For many more success stories of outdoor 21st CCLC activities, just go to the Y4Y home page and search “outdoors.” Leave all those screens behind – except sunscreen!