Back in 2016, the LoWellness Health Initiative published the results of a community wide survey. Among the requests made by residents was for additional ways to promote physical and mental wellness for area youth. A pilot program to address that need is now underway at Cherry Creek Elementary School
Nearly 50 students have signed up for the weekly Wellness Camp that started October 18 and runs through December 13. Created for students in grades 3-5, the camp is run by ten staff members including six coaches who are students in the Master of Public Health program at Grand Valley State University.
“The objective of a pilot program is to determine what works well, did students learn the intended messages and what is the feasibility of continuing the program,” explains Jodie Seese, Lowell Community Wellness liaison. “We definitely hope to offer this type of program to as many students as possible.”
A Need for Healthy Education
From the 2016 survey, local wellness leaders saw there were many areas of concern for Lowell families. These ranged from promoting exercise to reducing the consumption of energy drinks. Plus, it was recognized that good health went behind physical well-being. Students also need help to identify and express their emotions.
“It was important to go deeper than the typical diet and exercise messaging,” Seese says. So the Wellness Camp was developed to also address topics such as stress, loneliness and mindfulness.
Staci O’Brien, the Wellness Camp Education Coordinator, says the benefits of healthy kids are far-reaching. “Overall wellness is associated with better test scores, improved moods and better health,” she says. “With obesity and mental health being major current issues, we also feel it is important to make an impact in children before it’s too late.”
Dynamic Program to Engage Students
To create a program that will have a lifelong impact, the Cherry Creek Wellness Camp was developed to be engaging and dynamic. “All sessions include a hands-on or interactive activity that is the main focus,” O’Brien says.
Participants are separated into groups and move through various stations. Two coaches are assigned to each station which cover exercise, nutrition and feelings and emotions. At the exercise station, kids might do jumping jacks and check their pulse while the nutrition station could have them measuring out the amount of sugar found in various types of candy. At the feeling and emotions station, kids play charades and practice mindfulness techniques. While the activities change from week to week, the emphasis is on learning via doing.
The Cherry Creek Wellness Camp is being sponsored by Lowell Community Wellness. A grant from the Lowell Area Community Fund is covering much of the cost while the education coordinator position is being paid out of a special graduate assistant grant through the GVSU Public Program.
If the pilot project is deemed a success, look for future Wellness Camps to be held within Lowell Area Schools.