October 15, 2018
School & Youth
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Arnold Elementary Earns Wellness Distinction Award

Dave Topp
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January 10, 2018

For its efforts to promote and encourage a healthier lifestyle in and around the community, Arnold Elementary was one of six Anne Arundel County public schools to receive the 2017 AACPS Wellness School of Distinction award.

Earning such an honor does not come lightly. Schools must show significant efforts in establishing initiatives toward the 10 components of Whole School, Whole Community and Whole Child (WSCC) model: health education; physical activity; health services; nutrition environment and services; counseling, psychological and social services; social and emotional climate; physical environment; employee wellness; family engagement and community involvement.

“You have to demonstrate evidence that you are focusing on wellness and that you have initiatives in place to address the different areas of wellness,” said Arnold Elementary Principal Shauna Kauffman.

Arnold Elementary received the award previously in 2011 and 2014. A school can reapply for the award three years after winning.

“It is a high bar to set, but it is sought out naturally in elementary-age students,” said Dana Smith, a guidance counselor at Arnold Elementary. “So it’s pretty easy for us to come up with the ideas for us to keep them active and well.”

Faculty members at Arnold Elementary have spent much of the last few years focusing on mindfulness, for themselves and the students. Mindfulness breaks are thoughtfully planned out to allow students and teachers a mental break during the day.

Smith, who is in her 17th year at Arnold Elementary, said that is just one of the ways the school has unified to meet the WSCC standards.

“It’s a team effort,” Smith said. “We do meet as a team so we can have lots of ideas. [We’re] constantly being creative so we can stay fresh and exciting for ourselves and the kids.”

Another common activity around the school is yoga. Kauffman established a yoga program after school for the staff, while Smith will sometimes end class with students demonstrating a yoga pose. Students have enjoyed the end-of-class yoga poses so much that should Smith forget to add that in, she will quickly be reminded by her eager students seeking the opportunity to practice a pose.

“We do mindfulness at the end of my lessons. A lot of anxiety and stress reductions are built in,” Smith added.

To provide students with more play time, Arnold Elementary introduced the Dad’s Rock Recess Club this year. Already facing some special challenges as cohabitants at the campus of Severn River Middle School while a new Arnold Elementary campus is constructed, students learned several important lessons from “Dr. Recess” earlier this year.

With simple items at their possession, Dr. Recess taught students about team-building activities, how to play pickup games, and fair play. Kauffman described the lessons as “innovate games” for the students.

“It’s not that you’ve reached the ultimate levels of wellness, but that you are promoting wellness and you have it as a focus in your school,” said Kauffman of meeting the award criteria.

Along with already completing a successful walk-a-thon fundraiser in early October, Arnold Elementary is hopeful to break ground on a new garden in the spring. Both the walk-a-thon and the garden are handled by talented parent volunteers.

Arnold Elementary will spend the remainder of this school year and all of its next year inside Severn River Middle School, before returning to a new LEED (Leadership in Energy Efficiency Design)-certified building on Church Road in Arnold.

“The middle school has been wonderful in joining us and creating an atmosphere of wellness,” Kauffman said.

Continued efforts have made Arnold Elementary and the surrounding community healthier, happier and ready for the future. “We’ll be back and, naturally, expanding it further when we move to the new building,” Kauffman said with anticipation.

Joining Arnold Elementary this year with the Wellness School of Distinction award were Annapolis High School, Bodkin Elementary, Ferndale Early Education Center, Maryland City Elementary and Southern High.

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