The Colorado Education Initiative for their success in creating healthy environments named four schools Healthy School Champions.   

"This recognizes schools that have cultivated an overall culture of health and wellness," Ashley Schwader, district wellness manager says. "They're using data to make big changes."  

The competitive award required schools to submit five letters of recommendation and provide authentic evidence of improvement. Two schools earned Excellence Awards and two earned Promising School Awards:  

Excellence Award:  

Beattie Elementary — Beattie Elementary transformed its school schedule after internal research indicated that putting recess before lunch would benefit students. Since the switch, student referrals for poor behavior and lunchroom waste have decreased.  

The Wellness Committee also purchased two hydration stations — which make filling up water bottles easier — and were able to increase staff water consumption through a friendly competition.   

In addition to those highlights, Beattie hosts over 45 wellness events and activities throughout the year, including bowling and roller skating family nights, a fall run, bike-to-school days and Beattie Be Fit Day.  

Irish Elementary — Irish Elementary launched a new bike club for students this fall to educate them on bicycle safety and gain experience riding. The school also hosts a weekly walking club, which helps create community among parents, staff and students of all ages.  

Irish also collaborates with groups like the Downtown Business Association, Project Smile, Safe Routes to School, the City of Fort Collins and its own parent/teacher organization to meet students' physical, emotional and social needs.  

Promising School Award:  

Shepardson STEM Elementary — Shepardson was recognized for organizing healthy events that impact the entire school community, including wellness workshops, Workout Wear Wednesdays, brain breaks, a student mileage club, climbing gym outings, and a family 4K run. 

Dunn Elementary, an IB World School — Dunn Elementary was recognized for making several healthy changes at school, including adding a school garden, defining a homework policy to help families find balance, replacing sugary treats on birthdays with an extra recess, and hosting yoga, taekwondo and running clubs at school.

High school robotics clubs practice teamwork, STEM skills

Think you could build a robot in six weeks?  

In early January, groups of students at each PSD high school accepted the challenge. During a frenetic build period, the robotics teams worked to design and manufacture a functioning robot capable of completing specific tasks like climbing a rope, shooting wiffle balls and manipulating gears.  

"The goal is to win by building our skill set in 21st-century manufacturing," says Ben Beauvais, who manages electronics for the Poudre High School team. "We're getting to participate in something in high school that's a fun competition but will also really help us in college and have a big impact on our future."

The teams took their robots to the Denver regional competition, where they competed against 50 other teams to see which robot could best perform the prescribed tasks. 

"I was one of the two people driving our robot during the competition," Hunter Pearson, mechanical lead for Fossil Ridge High School says. "It was so cool to go down there and see all of our work come into play like it should."  

The Fossil Ridgebotics team — in partnership with two other teams, known as an alliance — took second place, which earned them a spot in the World Championship in Houston.   

"Placing second really means we've reached this very high level of achievement, especially for ourselves — it's a testament to the team," Geordi Emnett, a senior leader on the Fossil Ridge High School team says.  

The teams function like a small business, with internal groups who manage mechanics, computer programming, marketing, fundraising, community outreach and finance. While the students receive support from community mentors through FIRST, the sponsoring nonprofit robotics organization, the clubs are student-led and managed. At Poudre, each team member is charged with training a younger student who can take their spot when they graduate.  

"You get to work hands-on with the younger students and pass along your knowledge," says Olivia Brett, chairman and shop co-captain of the PHS team.  

Her work with the team has helped her earn a scholarship to college, and set her up for success pursuing an undergraduate STEM program.  

"Without Ridgebotics as that engineering foundation, I don't think I would have some of the opportunities that are before me now," Emnett, the Fossil senior, says. "The big reason for being in this program is the kind of experiences it opens up for you."

Along with technical skills and exposure to engineering concepts, working on the robotics teams has helped the students to develop 21st-century skills like communication, teamwork and problem solving. 

"I've learned to work well with other people's ideas," Luke Bodine, FRHS sophomore and co-captain says. "During the first week of planning, you see many other ideas and approaches to solving the problem. Learning to work with or around those ideas has helped me to grow a lot."  

Building the robots provides students with the final piece of education that combines theoretical knowledge with practical application.  

"This is different than any other club — while we have experienced mentors who offer us advice and expertise and guide us along the path to success, we are the ones who make the decisions. Ridgebotics is a hands-on, student-led club," Brianna Johnson, a junior who does marketing and fundraising for Fossil explains. "We pretty much get to do things for ourselves."

Kinesthetic desks allow students to learn through moving 

Wiggly students at Putnam Elementary have a new option this year to help incorporate their movement into their learning: kinesthetic desks.  

From desks with bicycle pedals to swinging elliptical platforms, each grade has a different type of desk available for students who need a way to wake up the brain.   

"I fidget a lot in class — tapping on my desk and moving around — but this desk is fun because it helps me get my energy out," fourth grader Jasper explains as he swiveled back and forth on his knees during the middle of a reading lesson.

The desks were funded by a grant written by the Wellness Department, which works hard to ensure the latest scientific research is being implemented in district classrooms. Grant funds from the Colorado Health Foundation were used to support two active, movement classrooms in PSD this year. Three classrooms at Cache La Poudre Middle also received active movement desks.

"We know that movement is an essential cognitive strategy for learning," wellness coordinator Amanda Brantley says. "Movement and active desks are a sustainable way to incorporate physical activity into everyday classroom activities."  

Regular physical activity increases neuroplasticity, the brain's ability to learn new things. Research also suggests movement increases memory, attention, faster cognitive processing, decreased behavior problems, and increases positivity and optimism. John Ratey, an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School explains, “Movement activates all the brain cells kids are using to learn, it wakes up the brain.”

"When I do my math, using this desk helps me because I get my work done faster," second grader Theresa explains. "You put your feet on it and wiggle it."  

In some classrooms, the desk provides a safe space for students who are angry to take a break and de-escalate. In others, it's a reward for positive behavior. In all cases, the desks provide an accessible way for students to process their emotions and thoughts with movement. 

"Wellness is a key piece of an integrated, whole-child approach to learning," Brantley says. "This is important because we want to teach the whole child, not just a piece of a person."


Calendar of Events

May 9, 6:30pm, Board of Education business meeting, JSSC, 2407 Laporte Ave.

May 23, 6:30pm, Board of Education business meeting, JSSC, 2407 Laporte Ave.

May 26 - 29, No School K-12