School Spotlight: Fair Oaks Elementary
Fitness, fun and academic fundamentals. It’s the approach to learning you’ll find at Fair Oaks Elementary in Brooklyn Park, a school with a very diverse population.
“We have sleds for the kids in the winter time. We have more recess equipment. We encourage staff to do brain breaks with their kids throughout the day,” explained resource manager Anne Strootman.
Fair Oaks received two national awards for its health and fitness initiatives. Last year the school won the Silver Award of Distinction from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Lunch staff changed the way they dished out food, enticing students to eat healthy.
“When students are eating well and are being active, it makes it their brains healthier and if their brains are healthier, they’re going to be able to focus and do better in school,” remarked Strootman.
In 2017, the school joined Girls on the Run, a national program aimed at helping young girls stay active. Nineteen girls signed up, but this year there are more than 40 participants. The girls in third through fifth grade meet twice a week to practice.
“The best thing about running is you get to stay fit, but you do it with your friends,” said Fair Oaks student Aaliyah Le.
“One thing I like about running is that you can be active and if you have a bad emotion, your emotions come out when you’re running,” added student Roniah Carlsen.
At the end of the season, the girls run a 5K. But it’s not just about running, the girls also get a character building lesson as part of their training.
“Empathy, friendship, bullying, social media, there’s some sort of theme that’s worked into a game that gets them warmed up,” said kindergarten teacher Sheila Rod, who started the program at the school.
Imagination Playground to the “Green Room”
Students also free their mind with the school’s Imagination Playground that’s filled with large blue foam pieces allowing kids to create different structures. And the school’s “Green Room” has fitness equipment, aromatherapy and a place to chill out, giving students a five-to-seven minute break from class.
“By scheduling breaks, by providing a place where kids can come and do something productive, we eliminated that idea where you have to misbehave to get sent out of class, to get that negative attention,” said Behavior Intervention Specialist Brian Thul.
Teachers and staff at Fair Oaks Elementary say they hope the health and wellness lessons will stick with the students when they become adults.