Fort Worth-area student groups were put to the test as they vied to earn four $5,000 Blue Zones Project Wellness Innovation Grant awards and make their campus a healthier place of learning.
Six schools pitched their ideas via video presentation to a panel of judges for a variety of creative projects designed to help classmates reduce stress, enhance activity and eat more fresh fruits and vegetables.
Sam Rosen Elementary and Van Zandt Guinn in Fort Worth ISD, Oakmont Elementary in Crowley IS, and Montessori School of Fort Worth each received $5,000 grants for their projects. Leonard Middle School and FWISD TCC Collegiate High School, both FWISD campuses, were recognized with $2,000 grants for their efforts.
This is the second annual Wellness Grant Innovation program. Participating schools must be Blue Zones Project Approved or working toward certification, and schools that received a 2019-2020 grant were not eligible to apply.
Judges included a panel of local educators, wellness advocates, entrepreneurs and community leaders who viewed a series of enthusiastic, virtual presentations where students shared their plans with song and dance, creative graphics and group performances. Applicants were asked to present innovative projects, programs or activities to support well-being on campus.
The grants are provided by R4 Foundation, which funds local programs supporting education, community, wellness and the arts, in partnership with North Texas Healthy Communities, the community outreach arm of Texas Health Resources that implements Blue Zones Project.
The winning projects
Student ambassadors of well-being at Sam Rosen Elementary hope their project will create a place for students to study, relax and practice mindfulness. The school will use its grant to update and renovate its current garden with a new Outdoor Garden/Science Center. A portion of the proceeds will help purchase materials to cover a class-sized study area and an entrance porch, and go toward the purchase of plants, soil, seeds, pots and gardening tools. Students also want to install a drip/drain irrigation system to help conserve water
Students representing the Service-Learning Wellness Group at Montessori School of Fort Worth hope to leave a long-term legacy on their campus by enhancing the school’s garden with a new greenhouse, complete with shelving, an automatic watering system and hydraulic windows. The existing garden provides produce for student lunches and a safe play hill for the toddler class. The new greenhouse will supplement the garden, increase the school’s crop yields and provide an outdoor space on cold and rainy days.
Young leaders in Van Zandt Guinn’s fourth-grade class noticed a lack of shade on their playground. Their grant will purchase a cover for the playground as well as a covered work space with picnic tables — to be used for eating, doing homework and conducting science experiments. Students outlined plans to fill existing planters with soil and plants and buy new supplies, such as soccer nets and balls, jump ropes, swings and monkey bars for students to enjoy during recess.
For fourth- and fifth-graders at Oakmont Elementary, the Wellness Innovation Grant is an opportunity to help ease the anxiety students feel after a year of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. Students proposed the creation of a sensory room that would allow classmates struggling with anxiety or sensory processing issues time to recharge and regroup while teaching intrinsic self-regulation. The sensory room is designed to help reduce outbursts in class and keep the learning experience smooth for everyone.
Leonard Middle School will complement its existing Wellness Closet, a pantry supporting struggling families, by providing wellness items such as cleaning products, toiletries and personal hygiene items for students to take home upon request.
FWISD TCC Collegiate High School will bolster its Inner Workout program, which incorporates restorative movement, breathwork, meditation and journaling to engage students on every level.
Winning schools are asked to begin working on their projects by June 1, 2021.