There are about 70,000 elementary schools in the Unites States and a few weeks ago a couple of them had a whole lot to celebrate. The “Healthy Playground Makeover Sweepstakes” announced that two lucky schools are the winners of a $30,000 grant and new playground. If you are a parent with a child in elementary school, you know how much recess and outdoor play means to the everyday happiness of your child. You may have even entered on behalf of your school or shared the news with your PTA. It’s a big deal!
As members of the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation (HWCF), we promote this annual event and the Together Counts™ program that’s behind it.
The Ask, Listen, Learn and Together Counts team work hard to help kids say YES to a healthy lifestyle through all sorts of means. Whether it’s drinking more water, eating healthier or encouraging kids to get outside – we want to make sure we provide parents and teachers with all resources necessary to foster happy, healthy kids.
With so much need in schools these days, it is no wonder that nearly 400,000 entries were received in this year’s sweepstakes. According to the latest report from the National Center for Education Statistics, 27% of all elementary schools in the United States have outdoor play spaces ranked as “fair” or “poor.” That number jumps to 34% in schools where 75% or more of the students are at or below poverty level, or classified as “Title 1” eligible. To sharpen the point—“fair” is defined in the report as meeting “minimal conditions but is not dependable, breaks down frequently, or has other limitations.” Even worse, a rating of “poor” states that “a particular feature or system as it exists is inadequate to meet even the minimal needs of the school.” Terrible, right?
In light of these bleak statistics, it feels good to share the news that two deserving Title 1 schools were the top 2015 winners of HWCF’s sweepstakes.
When Artspace Charter in Swannoanoa, North Carolina learned they won the grand prize, they were literally jumping for joy and dancing in the hallways.
The winning entry for Southside Elementary in Nortonville, Kentucky was submitted by Christina Estrada, who teaches 1st grade, and has been at the school for 6 years. She’s a great example of a dedicated teacher who went above and beyond to drive change at her school.
Encouraging outdoor play is just a part of what you’ll find at TogetherCounts.com, the hub of free energy balance resources for families and schools. You’ll find information on community partners, including Playworld Systems, who make the free playground program possible year after year.