On the “Healthy Highway”

By on October 23, 2014
Wendy Cooper, founder "Healthy Highway" program

Wendy Cooper, founder "Healthy Highway" program

It began for Wendy Cooper during the last five years of her 30 year teaching career, from which she recently retired.  A physical education teacher in the Greece school district, Cooper used traffic metaphors to teach safety concepts to her students. “It really just took off from there. The students responded to the vocabulary and the concept of a traffic team, and the safety aspect of watching out for each other,” Cooper said.

She found the students connected with the ideas and the themes of transportation, and it grew into thinking about the body as an automobile and how the fuels that are put into the body have a direct result on the performance of the body. “The kids are familiar with the traffic signs and stop lights and the ideas grew and spread into a school wide program with common vocabulary and goals to eat healthy, become more active, and encourage team work,” Cooper said.

English Village School staff are enthusiastic supporters of the "Healthy Highway" program. They include (left to right) Cheryl Hurst, Principal, Leslie Roberts, Cafeteria Cashier, Leslie O'Keefe, Cafeteria Manager and recent perfect attendance recipient, and Karen Sullivan, Cafeteria chef.

English Village School staff are enthusiastic supporters of the “Healthy Highway” program. They include (left to right) Cheryl Hurst, Principal, Leslie Roberts, Cafeteria Cashier, Leslie O’Keefe, Cafeteria Manager and recent perfect attendance recipient, and Karen Sullivan, Cafeteria chef.

The program has a pledge that the students take, “I promise to make one healthy choice every day to keep my engine strong.” Cooper found that taking the pledge creates awareness of choices. “Isn’t that what we all need to do? Just make ourselves aware of our choices and that, in turn, leads to better habits. I found that many of the students start with one choice and then they are telling me it led to two, then three. The result is a healthy lifestyle,” Cooper said.

Cooper has designed a classroom kit called “Healthy Rules of the Road.” It contains a Curriculum Guide with safety and nutrition lessons, posters and mini signs with healthy slogans that give kids a hands-on approach to healthy activities. There are also food cards for visual learning containing green (every day healthy foods), yellow (slow down and think foods) and red (stop and think) traffic lights for foods and snacks. “An important part of the program is that students are taking the healthy lifestyle choices into their homes and families,” she said.

The Healthy Highway program concepts are integrated throughout the school day in the classrooms and cafeteria which act as “learning labs” to achieve goals. The program gives students practical ways to be healthy and encourages them to take responsibility for their own health. Teachers have come up with creative ways to implement the Healthy Highway program into lesson plans and activities including planting a garden, creating and preparing healthy food recipes, and relay races.

gas pump sign (877x1280)English Village Elementary School has been working with Cooper for the past three years and has seen that the students truly embrace the concepts of the program. Students are observed talking to each other about the healthy choices and encouraging each other in their choices. The intake of salads has doubled over the past year.

Cooper was asked to bring her Healthy Highway program information to the 9th Alliance for a Healthier Generation Leaders Summit in Washington, D.C. this past September. The Alliance was started by President Bill Clinton as part of the Clinton Foundation. President Clinton was the opening night speaker at the summit where 250 schools from across the country were honored for transforming their environments into healthier places by meeting standards in physical activity and healthy eating at school.

“It was such an honor to be asked to be a sponsor and participate in the summit. It was truly a celebration of schools. I met so many people who are dedicated, passionate and determined to help our kids get healthier. I really got so much more out of attending than I gave,” Cooper said.

Cooper sums up the message of Healthy Highway this way, “We want our students to know that they can do it. The program offers education and practical ways to show students what determination can achieve, and how it changes lives. The goal is to make sure that our children grow up to be healthy adults.”

To learn more about the Healthy Highway program visit www.healthy-highway.com.

Photos by Tom Parsons

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