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SD Department of Education November 2014  
 
 

Georgia Morse Middle School students play kickball
Kayaking, disc golf and clean houses help Georgia Morse win award

At Georgia Morse Middle School in Pierre, staff members are encouraged to maintain wellness calendars, which are logs of their daily exercise, including everything from walking and jogging to bowling, yard work and housecleaning. At the end of the month, they can turn in the calendars for a chance to win prizes, and at the end of the school year, a cash award is given away.

Efforts like this have helped the school earn the bronze-level Healthy School Award from the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. Georgia Morse is currently the only South Dakota school to achieve the recognition. In September, Troy Wiebe traveled to Washington, D.C., to accept the award on the school’s behalf. Wiebe was the principal at Georgia Morse last year and led the school’s efforts to earn the award. He is now the district’s director of education.

As Wiebe explains, wellness has been an important part of the school’s culture for a long time, with health and physical education prominent among class requirements. PE classes emphasize lifelong wellness with activities like kayaking and disc golf.

Current Georgia Morse principal Kyley Cumbow says the goal is an overall healthy climate for students and staff. With activities like a fall dodgeball tournament, March Madness basketball tournament and Girls on the Run, the school aims to involve all students—athletes and non-athletes. Once per quarter, a student group called Youth 2 Youth also arranges afterschool events like basketball shootarounds and inflatables.

The bronze award gave the school a goal to help galvanize and expand its efforts. The school already had a wellness committee, but now it meets more often (monthly). Members hope to add student and parent representation by the end of January. Current members include teachers, the principal, school nurse, a secretary and a member of the kitchen staff.

Cumbow says that this year, the committee is applying for two grants. One is called the UNI Project, a $10,000 grant that would be used to augment 7th grade family and consumer science classes with instruction on making fruit and vegetable smoothies. The grant pays for fresh produce and equipment to make the smoothies.

The other grant would be used to provide staff aerobic activities to participate in before or after school.

Healthy messages are hard to miss at Georgia Morse. On the digital message board outside, TV monitors, posters and banners in the hallways, and murals in the gym and lunchroom, positivity abounds. Even Friday morning announcements feature health trivia questions.

“The school really has done a nice job of bringing all the pieces together and organizing it,” Wiebe says. “Student health is important. Staff health is important.”

Of course, for a goal-setting place like Georgia Morse Middle School, a bronze award begs the question, can the school earn silver? Gold? “That’s the discussion we’re having,” says Cumbow.

Click here to learn more about the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Healthy Schools Program.
 
     
 

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