August 8, 2019

Health Month: Celebrating Health Within The School Community

Each year in May, I organize a month-long program called Health Month.

If you’ve been reading the blog for a long time now, you may remember that I’ve written about this initiative in the past. That was a long time ago, and Health Month has grown and evolved since with this past year’s initiative having been bigger and better than ever before!

In this five-part blog post mini-series, I will be walking you through the different activities I ran throughout the month of May, with each post focusing on a different aspect of Health Month. If you want to make sure you don’t miss out on any of the upcoming posts, be sure to subscribe to my newsletter.

What Is Health Month?

Health Month is a month-long celebration of healthy, active living that I organize each year in the month of May. Along with a couple of month-long initiatives, Health Month is broken down into four themes with each theme being assigned its own week in May.

The theme’s for this year’s Health Month were:

Week One: Physical Activity Week 💪

Week Two: Mental Health Week 🧠

Week Three: Nutrition Week 🍎

Week Four: Sleep Week 😴

Throughout each week, I organized a variety of activities, resources, and challenges that would help educate the school community on the importance of that week’s theme in regards to one’s overall health. My focus this year was to get the entire school community engaged in our Health Month activities. This included students, faculty, staff, admin, and parents.

In this first post of my Health Month mini-series, I’ll be taking a look at the two month-long initiatives that I brought to my school this May.

Faculty Challenge: Health Streaks

As I mentioned earlier, Health Month is meant to have an impact on the lives of the entire school community, including the faculty. I’m a firm believer – mostly because I have experienced the opposite and know how harmful it can be – that teachers need to be well in order to teach well.

To help my school team live a little healthier throughout Health Month (and, hopefully, beyond), I created the Health Streak Scoresheet challenge.

The purpose of the Health Streak Scoresheet challenge was to encourage teachers to maintain an active streak of health-enhancing behaviours throughout the month of May.

Based on what I’ve learned in past Health Months, I knew that the challenge had to be more supportive than it was competitive and that it needed to meet the individual needs of the different members of our school team. I also wanted to create a challenge that piggybacked off of the Wellness Day presentation I led during our faculty Wellness Day back in January (you can learn more about that presentation/access the resources I created for it in this blog post)

So here is what I came up with:

Health Streak Scoresheet

Faculty and staff were sent an introduction email that explained the challenge and included a printable copy of the Health Streak Scoresheet.

The Faculty Health Streak Scoresheet is available for download as part of the Health Month Teacher Pack!

On the front page of the document, I included areas in which faculty/staff members could set a health streak goal and reflect on how reaching their goal could benefit their lives. I also encouraged the team to set a reward for reaching their goal because, you know, treat yo’ self.

From there, the cover page includes a calendar layout on which individuals could log their health-enhancing actions and keep track of their score (more on that in a second). The goal was to keep a healthy streak going on throughout the entire month of May by scoring at least one point per day.

So how do you score points? Well, in order to provide faculty/staff with as many options choice and personalization as possible, the Health Streak Scoresheet would be self-scored.

The Faculty Health Streak Scoresheet is available for download as part of the Health Month Teacher Pack!

On the second page of the document, I included the eight dimensions of wellness that the team was introduced to back in January. For each dimension, I provided four examples of actions take that benefit that dimension. I based the examples on the following four-point scale:

  1. One Point: You can score one point for an action that is something simple you could do any day.
  2. Two Points: You can score two points for an action that is easy for you to do (i.e. not a big effort), but that requires some planning to fit it in your schedule.
  3. Three Points: You can score three points for an action that represents a challenge to you (e.g. something you know you can do, but only do very rarely).
  4. Four Points: You can score four points for an action that is completely out of your comfort zone (e.g. something new that you’ve never done before and that kinda scares you).

It’s important to note that the examples I provided were just that: examples. Faculty/staff were encouraged to take any action they chose to take and then decided, based on their own health/comfort levels, how to score that action.

For example, I can confidently say that I can get up right now and run 5K. So if I ran 5K today, I would probably score myself two points (since I have to plan that run into my day). However, so someone who doesn’t run, the idea of running 5K could be wildly outside of their comfort zone! So if that person got up and ran 5K, they could score themselves a full four points for their run.

On the other hand, making time to hang out with friends and family is something I struggle with (social wellness was the domain I decided to focus on). Going out for drinks after school may seem really easy for some, but I struggle to make that time. Whereas they may score themselves one point for that, I would probably score myself three.

By having faculty/staff self-score their own health streaks and focus on a dimension of wellness of their choosing, this removed any competitive/peer pressure elements from the challenge and, instead, opened up the doors to a more supportive, community-driven experience.

Supporting Each Other’s Goals

To best support one another, I created a #healthcomesfirst channel on our school’s Slack workspace (which we are using for internal communication). “Health Must Come First” is the founding principle of our school, so the title seemed fitting. In the channel, faculty/staff were invited to share their #humblebrags, their struggles, their plans, and any articles/resources they felt could support others as they strived to reach their goals.

This is an example of what the Health Streak Scoresheet can look like when completed. I shared this with my faculty in that original email.

The Health Streak Scoresheet was a hit: I even had a couple of faculty members tell me that they had sat down with their partners to create a shared plan. Personally, I loved keeping mine on my fridge at home and have even continued to use the sheet to (try to) keep my streak going!

School Challenge: Race To A Million Steps

Five years ago, I did some work with the good people over at StepsCount. In exchange, I received a set of 60 PiezoRX (now PiezoRD) pedometers for my school.

Since receiving the pedometers, I’ve used them in a bunch of different ways at my school (I’ll elaborate on this in another blog post). One of the main ways the pedometers get used is as part of our Health Month steps challenge.

In the past, I would assign two pedometers per grade and create a month-long schedule of students steppers. Basically, each grade would have two students assigned to pedometers every weekday in May. The assigned students would have the day to log as many steps as possible.

At the end of the day, the classroom teachers would fill in a Google Form to submit their steps for the day, which were automatically logged in a Google Sheet on my end.

I would keep a running score of each grade’s steps and maintain standings on the physical education pillar in the hallway at school. Also, I would keep a total step count for the school and update students on how far we had walked across North America (assuming that one step was equal to one meter).

This intra-scholastic challenge was a lot of fun for a couple of years with friendly competition and excitement around how far we had walked creating a lot of buzz at school. However, this year I wanted to do something a little more grandiose and use the pedometer challenge to generate additional school spirit at St. George’s School.

My brother James has taught at a rival school up the street (The Priory) and, over the past few years, we organized friendly sports games between his students and mine. Since we already had a friendly rivalry going on, I decided to invite James to bring the Health Month pedometer challenge to The Priory and have his students and mine compete in a month-long Race To A Million Steps Challenge!

Here’s how it worked:

The setup for the Race To A Million Steps was very similar to the one I used for our annual pedometer challenge. Using a calendar template I created in Google Sheets, I created the student schedule by listing students in alphabetical order to start and drawing names randomly for additional slots/days.

This is the layout I created in Google Sheets to create the student schedule. I’ve removed my students’ names here for privacy reasons.

I then created another tab in the sheet in which I would enter the daily step totals from each pedometer. This tab would also tally up a running score for each school which I would then use to display on the standings poster.

The Race To A Million Steps Standings Poster is available for download as part of the Health Month Teacher Pack!

I introduced the Race To A Million Steps during the morning active assembly that kicked off Health Month/Physical Activity Week (more on that in Part Two of this mini-series). The students were super fired up about taking on another school and couldn’t wait to get stepping!

I may or may not have created a crazy presentation to ummm… you know… get the kids super hyped!

I created the standings poster, laminated it, and put it up on the physical education pillar in the hallway by the gymnasium. Using the running scores from the step totals Google Sheet, I would update the poster every morning before the students entered the school with a dry erase marker.

The kids were always so excited to come running into school to see which school was in the lead! Throughout the month, I cannot tell you the amount of times I had to send students back to their classrooms after I’d catch them just staring at the standings during an over-extended bathroom break!

Throughout the month, the Race To A Million Steps proved to be an exciting one! The step counts were close and we had several lead changes throughout Health Month. During the third week of May, both schools were in a position to pass the million step mark on the same day. Because of this, we decided to throw the challenge into overtime and have it go on in a winner-takes-all, greatest-step-count wins challenge that went right up to the final Friday of the month!

So those were the two month-long initiatives I brought to this year’s Health Month. In part two of this mini-series, I will share all of the different activities and resources I created for Physical Activity Week.

If you are interested in accessing any of the resources I created for my school’s Health Month program, be sure to check out the Health Month Teacher Pack in the #PhysEd Shop.

Download The Health Month Teacher Pack

If you have any questions about these initiatives, feel free to drop them in the comments below.

Once again, thanks so much for reading! Happy Teaching!

Joey Feith
Joey Feith is a physical education teacher based out of Nova Scotia and the founder of
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