Starting the School Year Off Right

August 16, 2021 | New Jersey Healthy Communities Network (NJHCN)

Starting the School Year Off RightThe summer of 2021 was spent preparing for new and exciting opportunities at both New Jersey Health Communities Network (NJHCN) schools, Alexander Batcho Intermediate School (ABIS) and Smalley School. They continue to work on their AeroGardens, and with the start of the school year in September, they now have the tools needed to expand upon their current projects.

Next month, ABIS is set to resume the CATCH program with their instructor from SNAP-Ed at Zufall Health. In addition to their continuation of programs they began in 2020, they will also be starting their new outdoor garden and begin the use of pedal desks in the classroom this fall. These programs will help the school with long-term success when it comes to health education, nutrition and physical activity.

While Smalley School initially started this program with its three Special Education classes, the positive response to the gardens has given them the opportunity to engage more students. The Vice Principal of the school has taken the lead as the liaison with the NJHCN team and has let them know the school is finalizing the formation of a garden club and STEM program that will be involved with this initiative. Additionally, they have outside school collaborators, such as Middle Earth who agreed to support the program.

The group is finalizing everything needed in order to ensure the success of both the garden project and physical activity outside of PE at ABIS and Smalley. RWJUH Somerset, Rutgers Cooperative Extension and SNAP-Ed at Zufall Health will continue to work with both schools September to December and beyond in order to guarantee the sustainability of these programs. In just a year and a half, this grant has made an impact on students, teachers, administration and families in the two towns where it is be offered, and the goal is to continue to build momentum in order to improve health outcomes within the community.

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