Special Olympics’ Healthy Communities initiative partnered with Healthy Highway and the Unified Sports teams to seamlessly blend health and wellness into training and competition. Healthy Highway is a program designed by physical education specialist Wendy Cooper to empower children and families to make healthy choices by using traffic metaphors for healthy eating and active lifestyle choices.
The members of the Unified Sports teams at Penn Yan, Dundee, Honeoye Falls-Lima, Pittsford, Penfield, Hinsdale, and Olean schools had an opportunity to try out some of the fun Healthy Highway activities at their competitions in March and April.
Students from Allegany-Limestone schools had an opportunity to do more with the Healthy Highways program during the course of their season. Coaches attended a training offered by Wendy Cooper on how to bring these themes and concepts into their practices. ” This is a new partnership for me that I am very excited about” says Wendy Cooper, Founder of Healthy Highway. It is our hope to expand this program to more Unified Teams next year through our Healthy Communities initiative
Turning the headlights on Healthy Highway!
The award winning program has been featured both locally and nationally by numerous media outlets
Legislator Heather DelConte, D-Oswego, said she saw the lasting effects of the program when her son pointed out “red light” foods, items that are low in nutrient value, at a fast-food restaurant.
“He wanted to eat the food that wasn’t a red light,” said DelConte.
“I started talking to kids like they were cars,” said Cooper, recalling the earliest days of Healthy Highway. “I’d say, ‘How do we take care of our cars? We use good fuels. How do we take care of our bodies? We use good foods.’”
The analogies between cars and bodies, fuel and foods, stop signs and good choices, quickly grew, and soon Cooper’s gym had posters of things like fuel gauges to help her students track the number of healthy choices they made each day.
“You have to make nutrition fun,” said Cooper, who named her physical education-based program PE Rules of the Road. “Because it’s such a visual and vocabulary based program, it’s very easy for students to jump on board.”
Thousands of students from Colorado to Hyde Park, Dutchess County, have jumped on board via “healthy highways” in their own schools since Cooper retired in 2007 and published her PE Rules of the Road and Healthy Rules of the Road curricula.
On January 30, 2015, an assembly took place at the English Village School to kick off the fun and positive partnership of the Healthy Highway Program between the students and the Greece Police officers. The goal of this combined effort is to increase connectivity of the community outreach of the Greece Police Department and the district’s elementary school students, by uniting both the students and officers with commitments to healthy living. Officers will come in, often during lunchtime and at special assemblies, to discuss why it is so important that they keep their “engines strong” with healthy choices.
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Fit Kids February: Healthy Highway at English Village Elementary in Greece (February 2015)
"I would love to see this all across the country in as many schools as we can because it is just a program that I can say truly works," Cooper said.
On the “Healthy Highway” (October 2014)
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.
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.
Featured in Rachel Ray's Yum-O Newsletter (December 2011)
Healthy Highway is an innovative, curriculum-based K-5 interactive learning program that integrates nutrition and exercise into core academic subjects by using fun and imaginative “traffic” metaphors, equipping school-age children with the tools, skills and beliefs they need to embrace healthy choices throughout life
With a focus on reducing childhood obesity, improving overall health and enhancing the educational experience, the Healthy Highway program is on the front lines in shaping the health, education and well-being of young students and their families.
Promoting healthy choices for a lifetime in Greece (July 2009)
"Wendy Cooper of Greece has spent a lifetime steering young children down the pathway of making positive choices for a lifetime of good health. In her retirement, she has created a program that she has made available to educators and others to continue this same mission."
"For 30 years as a physical education teacher, Greece resident Wendy Cooper shared her passion for healthy lifestyles with elementary schoolchildren. In her classroom, with a backdrop of basketball hoops and gym mats, her lessons were lively, full of movement, interactive with lessons being taught by classroom teachers — and remembered by her students long after they left the schools where she taught."