Homer Alaska - Schools

Story last updated at 3:29 PM on Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Paul Banks earns healthy bronze award

By McKibben Jackinsky
Staff writer


Photographer: McKibben Jackinsky, Homer News

Paul Banks Elementary School first-grade students Naomi Petrosius (left), Brock Barth and Caitlin Smith and teacher Brandon Young examine carrots grown in the school's garden.

The healthy environment at Paul Banks Elementary School has made it one of four schools in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District to receive the bronze award from the USDA HealthierUS Schools Challenge. Other schools include Kaleidoscope School of Arts and Science in Kenai and the Seward Elementary and Soldotna Elementary schools.

"The award speaks to our progressive stance toward student wellness and shines a light on the careful attention that these schools give to their students," said Dr. Steve Atwater, KPBSD superintendent.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the state of Alaska support the HealthierUS Schools Challenge, a voluntary initiative established in 2004.

"They look at efforts to educate children to make healthy choices with snacks and meals, more fruits and vegetables, and part had to do with increased physical activity," said Benny Abraham, PBES principal. "The other thing they looked at was bringing that process into the curriculum."

The award reflects Paul Banks' multi-year emphasis on students being healthy and active. In 2007, the school received an Alaska PTA grant to provide healthy snacks, and in previous years, qualified for USDA grant funding to provide a fresh fruit and vegetable snack program.

Last spring, the students, school staff, family and friends built a greenhouse and garden beds. Vanessa Fefelov, Allen and Melissa White, Shere Baechler, Katy Countiss, Arno Construction and VISTA volunteer Bronwyn Kelly helped with construction and guidance. The kindergarten through second-grade students are now harvesting the fruits and vegetables.

In addition, Paul Banks' after-school programs provide youngsters with physical activities.

"We do three programs a year, fall, winter and spring," said Abraham. "Each one has usually three activities parents and children can choose from. Our PTA has done a great job helping with that."

In 2009, Wake Up and Walk was provided by the PTA to offer a fun physical activity for early-arriving students.

"This has been a really collaborative effort between staff, parents, our site council, PTA and Dean Hamburg of the school district's nutrition program," said Abraham.

"We're beginning to see students make healthier choices. We see them eating more fruits and vegetables, enjoying it and also seeing them be more physically active."

Today representatives from USDA will honor the four schools receiving the bronze awards at an assembly at Soldotna Elementary School at 2:45 p.m.