Real power, real choice, real life
Forget about the old adage, “You are what you eat!” Middle school students participating in the 2016 Super Power Summit will leave the event having discovered a super power…the power of choice.
Following a full day of networking, empowering presentations and fun, interactive experiences, 90 middle schoolers now know they can choose healthy food options and live active lifestyles for the rest of their lives. Armed with knowledge and skills from the summit, they return to their school districts as ambassadors and advocates for wellness.
The annual Super Power Summit, which took place in Des Moines, is in its ninth year. The event hosts 16 middle school teams comprised of students and staff from school districts around the state.
“Middle school is the perfect age for the event as students are more independent than elementary students, but have less opportunities than high schoolers for leadership events and wellness activities said Carrie Scheidel, a consultant with the Bureau of Nutrition and Health Services at the Iowa Department of Education. “Middle schoolers can make their own choices about lunch, snacks, and physical activity. Once informed and excited about wellness at the middle school level, it is much easier for students to carry healthy habits on to high school.
“Breakout sessions expose students to different types of physical activity and nutrition education that they can take back to their schools as part of a class, a wellness fair, or after-school activities.”
Implementation is easier if they participate first. The summit works to empower students so they in turn can empower their peers. Instead of just giving them a packet of information, students are exposed to activities and follow up information about how to make wellness happen at their schools.
Funded through a federal grant, the Super Power Summit is in line with the Iowa Department of Education’s Team Nutrition mission and goals of improving children’s lifelong eating and physical activity habits, supporting child nutrition programs through training and technical assistance for food service, and nutrition education for children and their caregivers.
The event is a collaborative initiative that includes Iowa Action for Healthy Kids, Team Nutrition, School Nutrition Association of Iowa, Iowa Department of Public Health, American Cancer Society and Hy-Vee KidsFit Program. Seen as an opportunity for partner organizations to get involved, engaged and share resources with schools, partners provide funding, expertise, resources and event planning skills.
“We do lots of sharing, so students really get a glimpse of what others are doing related to nutrition and physical activity,” Scheidel said. “Students go back to their principal or food service staff with a plan, saying this is something we really want to do. Administrators get excited about the opportunity when they see it is student driven, not staff driven. Ideas that come back are through the students. The staff are there to support them with implementation.”
After attending the summit, participants can apply for a$500 sub-grant to implement changes. Schools have the remainder of the academic year to implement their ideas and follow up with a report. Scheidel said sub-grants are enthusiastically embraced, and results are notable.
“When two students return to school and create a larger group to deliver nutrition education to elementary students, that’s impressive,” Scheidel said.
“It is very rewarding for the middle school students to be role models for the younger students, and the elementary students love hearing from the older students. It’s much more memorable than an adult communicating the same nutrition-related message.”
The students pack a lot into those six hours at the summit.
”Adult advisors tell us later that students talked the whole way home, they have so many ideas. Students are being exposed to different things and inspired by others. They say it is the highlight of the year and they ask when the summit is next year.”
Scheidel shared a follow up note from an adult who attended the Super Power Summit last year:
“My students are so excited that they are part of making healthy changes for our school and our students. We are currently making a healthy bulletin board. We are also sending out healthy information to all our students through our chrome books. Then we want to quiz them at the end of the month to see if they are retaining our health information so we can monitor our progress. We are also trying healthy snacks and will vote at the end of the month so we can start selling them in our a la carte. The summit has been a great success with our students. We will use our grant for our water bottle filling station, then on to our next project!”
Real students, real benefits, real power, for life.