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Keeping school a healthy place
January 19, 2024

By DePaul Healthy Trailblazer Journal reporters | Serving healthy breakfasts, having a Peace Room, and keeping kids active in gym are some of the ways DePaul supports student health and well-being, according to several school staff members.

A healthy school environment helps students with their self-esteem and their physical health, according to experts. It can also make a positive impact on “attendance, concentration, and performance of both students and educators,” according to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a large government group.

The EPA tries to make sure the places where people live, work, and play are safe.

Mr. Leonard, middle school religion and social studies teacher, noted five ways DePaul creates a healthy school environment:

  • It offers healthy breakfast and lunch food.
  • It keeps students active in gym class and recess. Its students produce the Healthy Trailblazer Journal newspaper, which is all about health.
  • Its two school counselors help students stay mentally and emotionally healthy.
  • It has a Peace Room where students can go to clear their minds and calm down.

While DePaul has a number of activities for students, Mr. Leonard said he would like to see even more. For instance, he’d like more clubs offered. He suggested music, chess, yoga, track, and checkers.

Health comes in many different forms, Mr. Leonard said. It also involves being able to be creative. “Students should have the opportunity to express themselves in a healthy way here at DePaul,” he said.

Coach Brookins, health and physical education teacher, said DePaul staff give students the opportunity “to be yourself and make the best choices and guide you along the way.”

He said the DePaul school staff members try to check in with students every day. “I try to do a mental health check-in with as many people as possible,” Coach Brookins said.

He said he asks everyone on a scale of 1 to 5 how they are feeling. Five is feeling the worst and 1 is feeling the best. If a student says they are a 4 or 5, Coach Brookins said he pulls them aside and asks if they are OK.

The school also has no-bullying policy. The policy requires students to be respectful to and tolerant of others.

Ms. Rivera, a second-grade teacher, said she sets up her classroom to be a positive space. She has a “calming corner with a little tent” where students can go when they feel overwhelmed with their emotions. She said she also encourages students to bring in healthy food during snack time. After they have done a lot of school work, they can take exercise breaks for three minutes.

“I set up my classroom atmosphere in a positive way for my students,” Ms. Rivera said.

Illustration by Shaina, Hancock Healthy Times.

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Since 2003, Healthy NewsWorks has been empowering elementary and middle school students to become researchers, writers, and confident communicators who advance health understanding and literacy through their factual publications and digital media.