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IDEA Promotes Healthy Incentives for Students



Three years ago, IDEA created the Healthy Kids Here initiative to help combat child obesity in the regions we serve.  The goal?  Become the healthiest school district in America, by: providing a healthy and active lifestyle for our students, increasing student access to healthy and nutritious foods, and educating our IDEA Team and Family on health, wellness and nutrition.

Over the past 3 years, IDEA has implemented Fitness Gram Health reporting systems in every PE class, launched a community-wide annual IDEA 5K event, fostered our Farm to School program which adopts the “Farm to Table” dining model and sends organic produce directly from our gardens and to our cafeterias, and asked school leaders to help eliminate unhealthy food as incentives in the classroom. 

This is just a sampling of the Healthy Kids Here initiative at IDEA Public Schools.  Remarkable things are happening across our organization to promote health and wellness, including many teachers provide healthy incentives and rewards for students.

Healthy Student Incentives

Great teachers utilize student incentives to increase their scholars’ drive when they’re faced with challenges.  While IDEA students are taught that knowledge in itself is the ultimate reward, sometimes it’s helpful for educators to offer extra motivation for students during class time.

Incentives come in many different forms, but thanks to the Child Nutrition Program’s push for a quality student diet, campuses across the district are utilizing healthy reward systems and incentives for their scholars, rather than commonly-used candy and unhealthy snacks filled with saturated fats and processed ingredients.  This doesn’t require elaborate planning.  There are plenty of simple ways to reward students for their hard work without resorting to candy and unhealthy snacks, and teachers are using them across the district.     

At IDEA Quest Academy, 4th grade teachers Brenda Rodriguez and Jessica Medina are proponents of finding healthy ways to get students excited about certain academic concepts. 

“It’s only natural for some topics in class to be more exciting than others for students,” Jessica explained.  “When that happens, it’s important to teach the inherently less-exciting skills in fresh ways and to get students invested.  Sometimes, that means using special student motivators to keep students 100-percent engaged.  Brain breaks are really great, and games where students are getting up and showing their math work on the board beside another student.” 

“We planned a glow-in-the-dark party for students,” said Brenda, “That was really fun, and it got the kids moving around, dancing, and playing with their glow-in-the dark creations!” 

Brenda also noted that she’s a proponent of exciting students long-term, and she developed a ticket system in her classroom.  When students do things like work hard to overcome an obstacle, sweat the small stuff, or help a classmate who is stuck on a problem, they’re awarded a ticket.  If students acquire fifty tickets over the course of a month, they’re able to attend a glow-in-the-dark party during lunchtime, where students enjoy create, play, and dance with glow sticks. 

The IDEA Quest 4th grade team has also rewarded and motivated students through a sidewalk chalk-athon and a kickball tournament!  These fun, outdoor activities are excellent alternatives to an ice-cream and pizza party.  These events get students moving, encourage them to be active outside, and promote teamwork!  The physical education teachers at IDEA Quest are grateful for the aide of their general education educators, who make it a priority to keep students happy and healthy. 

Jessica Medina and Brenda Rodriguez are one example of IDEA teachers exciting their scholars in healthy, innovative ways. Visit a campus, and you’ll see students taking turns jumping rope and reciting multiplication facts, hula hooping to a parts-of-speech education song, and so much more.

Why It Matters

Schools across the country, for many years, have resorted to candy and snacks as a way to motivate students.  You may have memories of receiving an excellent grade on an assessment and picking a prize from a bag of candy.  Instead of leveraging sodas, candy and unhealthy incentives as rewards, our educators are utilizing more activity-based activities that get students moving and having fun. 

IDEA has made great strides in improving the health and wellness of the students we educate.  Be on the lookout for our Winter issue of IMPACT Magazine, coming this December, which shares some of the amazing work our students and staff have accomplished in support of Healthy Kids Here.

Healthy minds, healthy bodies, happy scholars!  

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