Project Healthy Schools responds to new remote learning environment

June 11, 2020  //  FOUND IN: News

When schools closed on March 16 due to the coronavirus, no one knew what lay ahead.

The Project Healthy Schools team immediately surveyed school administrators and wellness champions, then began creating a health education resources website and videotaping the Project Healthy Schools lessons for virtual use.

Project Healthy Schools is a community-Michigan Medicine collaboration designed to reduce childhood obesity and improve the current and future health of Michigan’s youth. 

Through lessons and wellness activities, Project Healthy Schools enables middle school students to increase physical activity, eat healthier, and understand how nutrition and activity influence their lifelong health.

When Gov. Gretchen Whitmer canceled classroom instruction for the rest of the school year, Project Healthy Schools was ready. Nate Saulter, program and tech assistant, put the finishing touches on the PHS online resources website and the four Project Healthy Schools wellness coordinators, Brad Newman, Ben Ransier, Jacob Robidou and Jana Stewart, reached out to the wellness champions in about 100 schools with the Project Healthy Schools program to help acquaint them with the new website. Teachers told Project Healthy Schools they were thankful for the remote learning resources.

“We went to virtual learning on April 20,” said Wendy Rauch, the teacher and wellness champion at Blesch Intermediate School in Menominee in the Upper Peninsula. “All students with internet received the remaining lessons online… I shared the videos and the worksheets from the PHS website,” said Rauch.

At University Prep Science and Math Academy in Detroit, counselor and wellness champion Brienn Frederick said, “Students had to complete lessons online, through viewing videos and then completing Google Forms with the worksheet questions and a huge amount of them completed them!”

The 10 Project Healthy Schools lessons are designed to be hands-on and very interactive. For example, in lesson six, Rainbow of Color, the students normally make a salad in the classroom. Included with each lesson video are a follow-along worksheet, a parent packet and other materials related to the lesson.

Dylan Falting creates a healthy salad at home.

Susan Lahti, a fifth-grade science teacher and co-wellness champion at Boyne City Middle School said, “This year we had to get creative. We did a video demonstration showing how to do the salad, as well as a live Zoom session doing the salad, and students were asked to make their own at home with parent supervision. Dylan Falting, a fifth grader at Boyne City Middle School, had a blast making his own salad and posted several pictures of his creation. He was very proud of his healthy salad!”

Jessica Bennett, a teacher and co-wellness champion at Powell Middle School in Washington, said, “As we entered the closure, our concern was what the participation was going to be of our students. We began to use the Project Healthy Schools lessons to create activities and extensions to what we have learned throughout the quarter. We have had a great response to those activities and students are using those lessons to have food prep and cooking experiences. They are recording and sending videos and recipes to meet the objectives of the lessons.”

Even more impressive during these trying times of COVID-19, is that the students are continuing to thrive and practice the Project Healthy Schools goals of being active, eating more fruits and vegetables, avoiding sugary beverages and fast and fatty foods, and reducing screen time.

According to Lynn Evans, wellness champion at Newberry Area School in Newberry in the Upper Peninsula, “Our PE teacher is asking students to keep a daily fitness log each week to be turned in to earn credit in class, so kids are staying active!” Students are taking pictures of themselves doing healthy activities like shooting hoops, raking leaves and sweeping the garage.

Evans said: “The students are also helping their families prepare nutritious meals, spending quality family time playing board games (less screen time), and our school is providing around 400 of our school families with healthy meals that include many fresh fruits and vegetables. I feel as though the Project Healthy Schools’ 2019/2020 school year was filled with accomplishments.”

Despite the challenges of school closures and working from home brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Project Healthy Schools team successfully supported schools and students in completing the program.

“I am so proud of how the team quickly rose to the challenge, and how the teachers and students adapted to remote learning,” said Project Healthy Schools Program Manager Jean DuRussel-Weston.

For more information about Project Healthy Schools, subscribe to the Project Healthy Schools newsletter which comes out three times a year, or visit