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WEST END WELLNESS: Ishpmeming Middle/High School recognized with award from MDHHS

Ishpeming Middle School students dig up potatoes in the Partridge Creek Farm School Garden site located by the middle/high school. From left are Ella Niemi, Marie Salisbury and Sophia Nerfli. Ishpeming Middle/High School just won a School Wellness Award for its efforts in promoting health and well-being. (Photo courtesy of Kaitlin Rich)

ISHPEMING — If taught early enough, health habits can be ingrained at a young age. In fact, they are being literally sprouted at a local school.

Ishpeming Middle/High School has been awarded a School Wellness Award in the gold category by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

“Despite unexpected school closures, teachers and staff across the state have continued to support knowledge building and healthy habits through opportunities to participate in physical activity, nutritious meals and snacks, and to engage families in health promotion activities using technology,” MDHHS Director Robert Gordon said in a news release.

Gordon also said the recognized schools went “above and beyond” to create healthy environments that support lifelong healthy habits.

MDHHS recently recognized 50 Michigan schools for fostering healthy eating, physical activity habits and tobacco-free lifestyles impacting over 25,000 students.

“There’s a number of things that we do in our district for health and well-being of our students,” said Carrie Meyer, superintendent at Ishpeming Public Schools.

They include a school improvement health goal, an active wellness committee and staff that applies for health and wellness grants every year.

It helps that the school gets help from the community.

“Different clubs and organizations revolve around health and wellness,” Meyer said.

Those include the girls’ running club and the Range Area Mountain Bike Association, which conducts a biking club with Ishpeming Public Schools.

“Those are little things above and beyond our normal athletics,” said Meyer, who noted employees can attend after-school workouts.

The district has a partnership with Dan Perkins and his Partridge Creek Farm, whose mission involves improving local access to fresh produce and sustainable food systems.

“They’re in our school on a pretty regular basis in our science classes, teaching how to grow your own food and produce for yourself with the apple orchards and his other gardens throughout town,” Meyer said.

What contributes to the school’s wellness too is the Hematite Health Clinic, which has a lot of social support for students, according to Meyer, who noted the West End Health Foundation enables the district to employ a second full-time guidance counselor in the middle/high school.

“We try to maintain a safe, nurturing and healthy environment for our students, and it’s amazing that it just becomes natural for us without thinking, because all of our staff have been trained on how to handle social situations and encourage health and wellness,” Meyer said.

Kaitlin Rich, who teaches science in fifth through seventh grades at Ishpeming Middle School, has formed a collaborative partnership with Partridge Creek Farm that allows her students to participate in a hands-on, farm-based education program.

“Throughout the year my students not only learn about food sustainability, healthy food choices and gardening techniques, they get to practice them as well,” Rich said in an email. “We have gone on an apple hike, created vermicompost, grown our own sprouts and have done a lot of gardening. I love getting my students outside and their hands dirty!”

So, what’s a litle dirt when it comes to overall health?

Christie Mastric can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is cbleck@miningjournal.net

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