MSD of Warren Township’s Journey to Improving Health & Wellness

This month, schools around Central Indiana are reopening their doors to students after a summer away. A new school year provides opportunities for school leadership to implement new plans and goals for improvement. This school year, MSD of Warren Township is focusing on improving the health and wellness of their students and staff.


With more than 40% of children in Central Indiana at an unhealthy weight, it’s crucial that schools embed healthy nutrition and physical activity policies that directly influence children’s behavior. Warren Township has partnered with Jump IN for Healthy Kids, a United Way of Central Indiana partner, to implement a variety of changes and programs to do just that.


Jump Starting Improvements in Health and Wellness

Superintendent Dr. Timothy Hanson and Assistant Superintendent Ryan Russel are hoping to focus on the district’s view of health and wellness. Warren Township has a new District Wellness Policy that has a larger focus on physical activity in schools as well as stronger nutrition standards. This new wellness policy is much more comprehensive than the district’s original policy and provides an encouraging stepping stone as the district moves forward to make health and wellness a priority in all of its schools.


The Key to Physical Activity in Schools

To ensure that the district is providing ample activity opportunities for their students, leadership’s first goal was to increase the amount of daily physical activity their elementary students receive. Schools are encouraged to provide physical activity for their students, as school is where many children spend the majority of their days. Opportunities for physical activity during the school day can encourage healthy behavior and make it easier to meet the recommended goal of 60 minutes of physical activity each day.


In the past, elementary schools in Warren Township only provided students with 15 minutes of recess per day, and their 45-minute gym rotation only occurred once a week. When you remove the time spent getting the class together and walking time to and from recess, students would sometimes only get 10 minutes of play-time and physical activity in a day. This year, Warren Township is going to change this.


Dr. Hanson has requested that each Warren elementary school provide a daily 30-minute recess block. This time block does not include the time it takes to get organized and walk to and from recess, ensuring that students are able to play for a full 30 minutes. Jump IN has received a grant from the Pacers Foundation to help provide the tools needed to incorporate physical activity and active play into every day at Warren schools.


Revamping Recess

The district’s initiative to improve recess at the elementary schools is exemplified by Sunny Heights Elementary School. The school received a grant that allows them to hire Playworks. The organization helps schools and youth programs create recess and play environments where every child can join in on play to experience the social, emotional and physical benefits of play.


Playworks assesses the available play area and how it is being utilized, then recommends ways to best utilize recess time to maximize participation and increase physical activity. The Playworks program for Sunny Heights Elementary employs AmeriCorps coaches who act as liaisons to the school and visit one week each month. They make sure that the school’s recess is safe, teach staff how to run an active recess and give the staff tips about how to incorporate physical activity into the classroom.


A Strong Partnership = A Healthier Future for Warren Township

Not all schools in the Warren Township district will be able to incorporate Playworks into their recess plans, but one school in the district with this resource is a great starting point for a township with a passion for health and wellness. Warren Township and Jump IN for Healthy Kids are working together to discuss more ways that all of the schools in the district can better incorporate physical activity into their daily routines, as well as how to implement healthy celebration policies district-wide.


These steps may be small, but small steps toward success are giant steps in terms of importance, especially when it comes to the health of the students of Central Indiana!


This article is part of Jump INside, a blog series featuring stories from Jump IN for Healthy Kids, a United Way of Central Indiana partner that focuses on reducing and preventing childhood obesity in Central Indiana. See all of the stories here