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Your Choice

location_on Helsinki, Finland

Healthy choices at school

Junior high school students innovate and implement various lifestyle changes in their schools focusing on exercise and nutrition. The model is based on student-participation to create common goals and commitment.

Finland 100

Overview

HundrED has selected this innovation to

Finland 100

2015

Established

-

Children/users

1

Countries
Updated
November 22nd, 2022
In a healthy and safe school every student takes part in the decision making process.
- Henri Karjula, project manager of Your Choice

About the innovation

What is it all about?

Most junior high schoolers (13–16-year-olds) do not meet the recommendations for daily physical activity. This raises their risk of various different health problems. It also tends to be harder to inspire change in junior high school students than in younger kids. The ultimate goal for Your Choice is to create healthier junior high schools that focus on nutrition and exercise.

The premise for this innovation is that in a healthy and safe school every student is involved in the decision making process. After all, young people are the real experts of their own lives. Your Choice encourages young people to plan and lead different activities inspiring lifestyle changes. When students can take part in the decision making process, schools become happier and healthier.

Your Choice activities provide young people with a set of tools to help them make healthy choices in their everyday lives. This includes the ability to reflect on one's personal choices. Particularly children at risk of health problems benefit because they will be able to make better lifestyle choices but also find the value in their new lifestyle. Physical fitness is also connected to higher achievement – wellbeing leads to motivated students who learn better.

While the focus of Your Choice is on improving physical activity and school lunches, it may be implemented in various ways. Schools that have embraced Your Choice have increased action-based learning methods, opened up their gyms during recess and introduced daily extended recesses. Some schools introduced standing desks and exercise breaks to reduce sitting. Students have started school lunch teams, revamped their school concession stand’s selections and spruced up their cafeteria. Schools have also organized theme days around physical activities and acquired exercise equipment to be used outside as well as in class.

Your Choice is an initiative by Youth Academy. It has reached thousands of teachers and students around Finland. Many schools across Finland have successfully adopted the model including in Vantaa, Jämsä and Orimattila.

Impact & scalability

Impact & Scalability

Innovativeness

Your Choice combines student participation with healthy lifestyle choices.

Impact

Health conditions due to lifestyle, such as obesity, are on the rise – this innovation combats them and installs healthy lasting attitudes and routines.

Scalability

Students will be in charge of planning the project which will allow for the innovation to be adapted to various different settings.

Steps

The First month: Assess the situation and organize a brainstorming session
These nine steps are a model for a plan for the school year. They help you make healthy lifestyle choices a part of every school day. The timeframe introduced in this plan is a suggestion that may be modified to fit your school, even in a shorter period.

Assess the situation

First, assess your school's situation on school lunches, participation and physical activity. Remember to think about it from the point of view of the staff as well as the students. You can assemble an advisory council which should include the principal, teachers, students and student welfare workers. It is imperative to get the students' input in creating a survey.

A survey can provide you with important background information. You can pose statements on school lunches, physical activity and participation and the students may answer on a scale of “good,” “satisfactory” and “poor” as well as “no opinion”. Simultaneously you can collect ideas to improve school wellbeing.

Example statement: “At school we have a snack break in the afternoon with snacks from home or sandwiches and fruit (or other) available at school. We don't have a soft drink or candy machine at school but water is available during the day.”

Organize a brainstorming session

In a brainstorming session young people can innovate changes to their daily school life. This session can be organized with 15 to 60 students divided into groups of four to five. At the end of the 60–90 minute session the students will present their plan to the school staff.

Tip! Start student headed clubs:

Consider launching after-school clubs that are designed and run by students.

The Second month: Analyze the results and survey the students
Analyze the previous assessment

Analyze the results with the teachers and create a plan of action. If possible, an existing “wellbeing council” in charge of school wellbeing issues may assist in this step.

Online survey for the students

This time you can try an online survey and broaden the scope of the questionnaire. You can make a survey about recess activities, for example. Using a QR code simplifies the process of collecting answers, you could gather the information at the beginning of a class via smart phones or tablets.

Tip! Implement an extended recess to the school day

A simple way to increase physical activity at school is to extend the time spent at recess. However in order for this to work, the children must be able to be active during recess. Extended recesses will work as a basis for future steps such as opening the gym during recess.

The Third month: Working together
If possible, collaborate with your local high school. Older students may be involved in the project by getting the junior high school students moving.

In this initiative high school students are in charge of recess activities for younger kids attending basic education. This not only increases the students' daily physical activity but also the involvement level of high school students.

Tip! School on Saturday run by the students

Many schools in Finland have one school day on a Saturday during the year. This Saturday presents an opportunity to talk about wellbeing and have different activities on that theme.

The Fourth month: Nutrition
During this month students, teachers and cafeteria workers get together to improve school lunches. These changes may involve the cafeteria, its atmosphere as well as the menu and snacks provided.

Tip! Sugar cube exhibition

Spark an interest in choosing healthier snacks and making healthier lifestyle choices with a sugar cube exhibition. Because the students are in charge of creating the exhibition and it provides visual aids, it can be truly an eye-opening experience. The idea is to illustrate with sugar cubes the real amount of sugar in different snacks with student-made posters. You can choose the snacks to suit your students' preferences.

Tip! Collect feedback at the cafeteria

Students can leave anonymous feedback on school environment and culture in a mailbox. The wellbeing council will go through the feedback regularly.

Tip! Students vs. Teachers games

These games can be organized during a recess once a month. You can pick the sport(s) according to your school's interests.

The Fifth month: Halfway checkpoint
Reflect on the year pinpointing your success stories and where there is room to improve. Write down your observations and continue on with the successful methods.

After-school clubs for inactive kids

Think of ideas to increase physical activity among the more inactive children. You can collect ideas from students with questions such as “What type of sports interest you?” or “What type of exercise do you enjoy?” You can also reach out to youth workers, different sports clubs or former students to find volunteers to run these clubs.

The Sixth month: Active recess
Everyone's good at something, so it's a good idea to let young people present their own talent and maybe get others excited about that sport.

Tip! Morning assemblies by students

Students can plan and instruct a light exercise session for the rest of the school during morning assembly.

Tip! Opening up the gym during recess

Additionally, you can set up an equipment rental with students in charge of the log – who lent what and when.

The Seventh month: Teacher participation
Lessons focused on participation and action-based learning require providing ideas and training for teachers on the subject.
The Eighth month: Physical activity
During this theme month focusing on physical activity you can create a physical fitness challenge.

For example, a daily planking challenge for the class is an easy way to include everyone and it can even increase school satisfaction. These challenges should not replace the after-school clubs and recess activities established earlier during the year but supplement them.

The Ninth and the Tenth Month: Maintaining the project and planning for the next year
Analyze the past year and make a plan of action for the following year based on your observations.

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