Organizations Fighting For Change
In the Seattle school system, the fight for student access to adequate physical fitness is a multi-faceted one. There are organizations like Cascade Bicycle Club that go directly into schools to provide resources and education. These organizations tend to have some kind of financial backing and a specific job to do when they interact with students, but they are not interested in advocating for structural or political change.
Other groups, such as Lunch and Recess Matter, are organizations of concerned parents or neighborhood adults who do lobby school administrations for changes in school policy. Specifically, Lunch and Recess Matter and similar organizations like Arizonans for Recess or Recess for Miami students feel that current lunch and play times in their local schools are inadequate. They fight for relatively small amounts of time to be diverted away from classroom instruction and towards eating and playing, a diversion they believe will pay dividends during academic periods. These organizations are all Facebook groups and thus represent an entirely different kind of organizing, one that relies less on physical resources and more on the power of concerned citizens to rally together when necessary.
Lastly, there are organizations that operate out of schools entirely but with students’ interests in mind. Feet First and Seattle Neighborhood Greenways lobby for safe pedestrian pathways in the Seattle Area, particularly to and from schools. In combination, all of these organizations form a cohesive unit that advocates for opportunities for student exercise from the moment they step out their front door till the moment they return home at the end of a day full of classroom education, physical education, and recess. With each of these organizations interested in a different element of student well-being, there is great potential for these groups to work together, to create a cohesive set of goals for the future, and to come together as a collective lobbying group when the need arises.
Below is a list of Seattle-based and National organizations concerned somehow with student health and wellness
Seattle Based Organizations
Seattle Neighborhood Greenways believes that one unsafe streets is one of the biggest barriers to students and other neighborhood residents cycling and walking to their destinations. They lobby local legislatures to build more safe infrastructure for cyclists and pedestrians and one of their highest priorities for 2018 is safe routes for every school in the seven neighborhoods they work in.
An organization that began with just two brothers calling a public meeting in 1970 to rally concerned citizens around cycling advocacy, Cascade Bicycle Club aimed to do far more than organize group rides since its inception. Today, their “Let’s Go” campaign “provides Seattle physical education teachers with the resources to implement an in-school bicycle and pedestrian safety program for students grades three through six” Their work promotes the health and environmental benefits of cycling while ensuring that students learn how to safely bike in congested urban environments.
Cascade Bicycle Club’s “Let’s Go” Project in Action
Feet First began in the mid ‘90s to “promote walkable communities” in Seattle neighborhoods and, while most of their work remains in the Emerald City, they have also begun to assist other cities in promoting safe walking routes. They do this through their frequent interactions with “government agencies, developers, and community groups” as well as in their public events that “call attention to unsafe walking conditions and help search for solutions.” As of 2014, they have “worked with 63 schools and 31 school districts across the state to support safe routes to school, organize Walking School Buses, Walk to School celebrations, and other encouragement events.”
A group of “concerned parents and citizens,” Lunch and Recess Matter fights to protect Seattle students’ allotted time for recess and lunch. It is a very active group, one in which members post petitions they have created, related news from school districts in other states, and questions and advice for one another on how to best help their children or negotiate classroom situations.
Another parent organization that believes students learn better when they have time to play and exercise each day. AfR stands in contrast to Seattle’s Lunch and Recess Matter. Where the Seattle organization features a host of different members contributing an array of thoughts, the message board of Arizonans for Recess is heavily dominated by one member. The inactivity suggests that perhaps social media organizations work best at the neighborhood or city level and that information on concrete actions might galvanize members more than the undoubtedly valuable educational pieces posted daily by one person.
This New York City non-profit integrates education around agriculture and healthy eating into the curriculum of schools in the South Bronx. While the organization is not directly related to student physical activity, they are dedicated to student health and well-being and the organizations demonstrates how an effective grassroots organization can grow and expand while still remaining connected and invested in the small community they began in.
Recess for Miami Students is a group of concerned parents dedicated to giving their children in the Miami-Dade County public schools “at least 20 minutes of daily free-play recess.” Group members share literature on the benefits of physical activity for children’s learning and development as well as rally each other in support of local legislation around student physical activity.
Dedicated to educating youth about obesity and other public health issues through hip-hop and an “array of media tools designed to improve health literacy,” Hip Hop Public Health has an innovative approach to connecting with students, but it cannot be said their actions are rooted in the community and instead serves as an example of an organization that lacks the freedom to make powerful change. Hip Hop Public Health has a heavy financial backing from partners like GE and the American Beverage Association, an organization that Coca-Cola is a large part of. Though combating obesity through hip-hop may be a valuable strategy, it is difficult to claim the organization has much leeway to push its agenda if the group’s financial backers are companies that profit off of childhood obesity.
[Seattle Public Schools]. (2016, Oct, 12). EOG Let’s Go Project. [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xs8NG7caGcw
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