Learn more about how HSOK works with schools statewide
It’s back to school time, and for Healthy Schools Oklahoma (HSOK), that means things are getting busy. Although the program is new to Bethany Children’s, it’s been successfully operating in Oklahoma elementary schools for over 20 years. Program Director, Lindsi Lemons, reports that there are seven new schools in the program this year, and a total of 60 schools across the state that are active as the school year starts.
The program’s five focus areas for keeping kids healthy are:
- Physical Activity
- Tobacco Use Prevention
- Injury Prevention
- Oral Health Education
First year, or “Freshman,” schools implement physical activity and nutrition with the help of a $1,000 grant. “The first-year funding can only be spent on those two focus areas, because typically when a school comes into the program, they don’t have any health or physical education resources,” says Lindsi. She says schools can use the funds to buy equipment, and HSOK provides them with a curriculum. This year, the program staff was surprised by the fact that none of the schools selected had any kind of curriculum for Physical Education – teachers were searching the internet on their own for lessons.
HSOK implements the SPARK (Sports, Play and Active Recreation for Kids) curriculum. “It’s the gold standard for PE,” explains Lindsi. “We provide that for schools right up front, we train them in it, and it is required for their PE classrooms.” The schools also receive curriculum for the other four focus areas, which they put into practice over three years. Before a new school year starts, participating schools must send staff to the annual HSOK conference, where they receive training and fresh ideas for implementing the programs in the classroom.
In their second year, schools receive a smaller grant and classroom materials specific to injury prevention and tobacco use. Oral health is taught in the third year. “After that point, schools can stay in the program, and most do,” says Lindsi. “They become a Senior Certified school and receive grant funding each year as long as they continue to meet the program’s requirements.”
HSOK uses data collected from the schools to ensure the program is effective. Schools are required to collect students’ height and weight at the beginning and end of the school year, and fitness testing for grades three and up is required. In addition, students in grade four and up take an online survey to assess their health knowledge, attitudes and behaviors. “We want to make sure the students are retaining information from the curriculum and learning something about health,” says Lindsi.
The future goals for HSOK include having 100 schools in the program by 2026, and being able to have more of a targeted approach with schools. A $500,000 TSET grant is allowing HSOK to try this in ten schools across the state. “We are helping those schools come up with an action plan and are providing them with more resources than we normally do. We would like to eventually be able to take this approach at every school we work with,” says Lindsi. Schools can apply to HSOK once a year, typically in February or March. For more information on Healthy Schools Oklahoma, visit our website at https://www.bethanychildrens.org/departments/community-health/healthy-schools-oklahoma/