For the past year, as part of our Lincoln Walks to School program, we’ve been talking to LPS elementary and middle school students about what they can do to improve the health and wellness of their schools and their community. It is clear to us that they know better than we do what is happening at their schools and they have offered many suggestions as to what might be done to make their world a healthier place. They tell us, in no uncertain terms, how they feel about subjects related to their daily commutes to school, the food in their cafeterias, junk food, the need to be active, and how to relay messages to their peers. Peer advocacy—speaking out on the behalf of others and speaking out for things they believe in — is a unique approach that empowers students to own the message of good health. It works for two reasons: Students are more likely than adults to know what is happening with their peers, and peer influence is powerful. Students delivering messages to their peers have much more impact than an adult giving that same advice. And sometimes, students delivering messages that are important to them about which they have first-hand knowledge can have more impact than adults delivering the message second hand.
Teach a Kid to Fish, through its Lincoln Walks to School program, has been encouraging students in LPS elementary and middle schools to become champions for student and family health. Students have advocated for Safe Routes to School, healthy eating, active living, against bullying, and many other issues that affect them in their everyday lives.
Students have used the pages of LPS Community News to share their thoughts about walking and biking to school, safe pedestrian practices, and active living with the community of LPS. These students are speaking to other students, teachers, parents, and the community-at-large about what they see as a very important issue.
According to the National Association of State Boards of Education, “Health and success in school are interrelated. Schools cannot achieve their primary mission of education if students and staff are not healthy and fit physically, mentally and socially.” Studies demonstrate that healthy students perform better in school and attend school on a regular basis. The average student spends approximately 2,000 hours at school per year and making sure that time is spent in a healthy environment conducive to learning becomes the responsibility of educators, parents and the broader community. The students know this.
Lincoln Walks to School helps students raise awareness within their community about the link between health and academics. The program also helps these student advocates to inspire educators, administrators, PTO’s, and their peers to join in this effort.
Students can join this effort by getting involved in their school’s wellness council and working with their peers to make changes to support health. Click on discover 54321Go! at the Teach a Kid to Fish website (teachakidtofish.org) and creatively integrate this fun obesity prevention message in your school. Contact Teach a Kid to Fish to get on our mailing list or “Like” us on Facebook to see what’s happening in our community!
You can see student advocate videos created by LPS students at http://www.teachakidtofish.org/programs/lincoln_walks_to_school/lincolnkidswalk/