School wellness finale on lessons learned

Students at Sullivan's Island Elementary School practice yoga in a class taught by Rachel Cassia Glowacki.

Last Tuesday, Sullivan’s Island Elementary School (temporarily housed in Mount Pleasant) was buzzing with activities from dry land surfing lessons, Zumba and yoga to lessons on dental hygiene and heart health.

It was the school’s grand finale of its multifaceted, yearlong wellness initiative and an effort to reinforce the lessons learned during the school year two days before summer vacation started.

The virtual festival of fitness also capped for me an awareness that teachers, administrators and parents, despite all that is heaped on them, seem to be creating a wellness culture at many schools in the area.

As you may have read in this space a week ago, the Medical University of South Carolina Boeing Center for Children’s Wellness celebrated the efforts of 72 of 80 schools in the Charleston County School District meeting criteria for wellness. Each received $1,000 from Boeing to be earmarked for wellness efforts. Goodwin Elementary School in North Charleston won an additional $2,000 for racking up the most points on a checklist.

Coleen Martin of MUSC Boeing noted this was the first year that the Berkeley County School District has partnered with the center on a similar program. Twelve of its 21 schools qualified to win awards, and nine schools in Dorchester District 2 did the same.

But Sullivan’s Island is a trailblazer of sorts. It won top school in Charleston County for 2010-11, the first year the prize was offered. And it’s not resting on its laurels.

School wellness committee member and physical education teacher Abbie Buckheister says the finale was a way to bring all the lessons they learned and apply it during their summer break, including protecting themselves from the sun and being smart in the water as well as on bikes and boats.

“Everything they are going to do throughout the summer, we just wanted to reinforce that (they) can be safe and healthy and continue to eat the right things and drink plenty of water,” says Buckheister.

Wellness Committee Chairwoman Linda-Marie Hamill says that the school’s yearlong effort continues to evolve according to what works and what doesn’t.

This year, for example, the school received a grant from the Cooper River Bridge Run to provide Zumba 7:10-7:30 a.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. The early morning movement, Hamill says, paid off with students charged up to learn.

One of the aspects of Sullivan’s Island’s approach, as with some other schools, is incorporating eco-friendly living into wellness. At the finale, a recycling station was one of many stops at the event.

Like so many things in life, change typically starts with children. Adults often can be resistant to change. Sometimes their children can help them. But the course is better set in childhood.

Sullivan’s Island Elementary’s demonstration of its commitment gave me some hope that the Americans of the future will practice health in nearly all elements of their lives.

After all, healthy living is a lifestyle.

Reach David Quick at 937-5516.