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Many factors help elementary rank as one of the nation’s healthiest schools

AUSTIN, Minn. (KTTC) – For the third year in a row, a Minnesota elementary school has been recognized as one of America’s Healthiest Schools according to the Alliance for a Healthier Generation.

Sumner Elementary is the only Minnesota school on the list of more than 300.

Those schools had to meet a set of criteria including serving healthier meals and snacks, getting students moving more and empowering school leaders to become healthy role models.

“We know that for brain development in students, healthy food, lots of movement and exercise and drinking water only helps students as they develop and grow,” said principal Sheila Berger. “That in the end helps them do better academically as well.”

For Sumner Elementary School, becoming one of the healthiest schools in the country began with improving its school lunch program and helping kids make healthy food choices.

“Our veggie and fruit bar that kids can have access to every single day at lunch is a huge part of it,” Berger said. “We have eliminated candy rewards or food based rewards.”

Students also have the opportunity to participate in physical education on a daily basis.

“I want to help every student find something they can do to be active outside of school. My ultimate goal is to introduce students to as many different activities throughout the year,” said P.E. teacher Derek Picha.

While they only have limited space to work with, Sumner has made the most of it, such as adding a soccer field which has become a favorite with students.

“We have a mileage club that is optional for students to participate in at recess. I got my first five mile student this last week so that’s up and running,” Picha said. “Seems to be a great culture of activity and healthy lifestyles here.”

Sumner’s physical education is also different from many other schools.

“Less competitive and more cooperative, so kids are working together,” said Picha. “I just want students to start where they are and just improve a little bit at a time and go from there.”

Picha says the school’s emphasis on physical activity extends into the classroom which was a big draw for him. As well as the enthusiasm of his students.

“For me it’s always the ‘A-ha moment’ where a student has been struggling with a particular skill and all of a sudden they get it. Seeing the smiles on their faces every day is really what makes it great,” Picha concluded.

The next big event for Sumner to encourage physical activity is Bring Your Parents to P.E. Week, which is meant to get parents active with their students as well as show them how physical education has changed over the years.

Alex Tejada

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