Schools revamp health curriculum


When Switzerland County School Superintendent Dr. Elizabeth Jones saw a report that Switzerland County ranks 89th out of Indiana’s 92 counties in terms of health, she knew that the school corporation needed to find ways to lead the way towards a healthier community.

To that end, the superintendent sought board approval to overhaul the health curriculum in order to teach more applicable health skills, and at the last board meeting, she received that approval.

“We are currently reviewing curriculum; and we will continue to cover the state standards, but we are going to focus on the power standards,” Dr. Jones said. “Our kids aren’t getting it if every year they take health, and we’re still one of the state’s unhealthiest counties.”

Dr. Jones said that she realized that the school can play a big role in changing the culture of the community.

“I realized that we have a personal responsibility to make our health curriculum relevant,’ She said. “It’s got to be relevant to our kids.”

The superintendent gave the problem to a committee of teachers: Marlene Jones, Kathy Daugherty, Pam Yates, Gina Miles, Tara Justice and Becky Curlin – and asked them to rewrite the health curriculum for kindergarten through eighth grade.

“I told them, ‘let’s don’t try and teach every standard in the health book, because obviously kids don’t remember it,” Dr. Jones said. “I picked out four major areas that I want our curriculum to focus on.”

Those four areas include:

– Nutrition

– Anti-bullying and cyber-bullying

– Drug and alcohol awareness

– Making healthy choices

Under the “healthy choices” area, that might entail subjects such as gun safety, suicide prevention, personal hygiene, and communicable disease prevention and awareness at different grade levels.

Once the new curriculum is in place, teachers will be encouraged to use theme-related literature; students will be asked to report on relevant topics; and the curriculum will include hands-on projects in the areas of nutrition and healthy eating.

Videos that are directly tied to state standards will also be used; and the superintendent hopes to bring in guest speakers throughout the year to help students better understand the concept of healthy living.

The superintendent said that the development of the curriculum is also a collaborative effort within the community; and she cited Virginia Furnish of the Switzerland County Purdue Extension Service as being a leader in moving this project forward.

Other groups involved in the program include SCAT, the county’s homemakers clubs, and other community resources. Teachers and students will also use online information to enrich the curriculum, and the superintendent noted that there are many free online resources that the school system can take advantage of.

“You can’t just say ‘don’t do this’ and then not come back to it,” the superintendent said. “We’ve got to teach it and teach it and teach it so that the kids will internalize it.”