Students in YISD schools are leading moderate to very active lifestyles each day

August 16, 2017

In the Ysleta Independent School District (YISD), 68 percent of the student body is leading a moderate to very active lifestyle each day. If that sounds impressive, it is – particularly considering that a year ago the figure was 32 percent.

Credit a program called Coordinated Approach To Child Health, or CATCH, for the remarkable improvement. The Paso del Norte Health Foundation (Health Foundation) provided funding to YISD in 2016 to begin implementing CATCH as a comprehensive approach to health.

The investment is paying off.

“The immediate benefits that YISD have seen in using CATCH is that our students, campus staff and student families at home are learning the language of CATCH,” says Sonia Noriega, lead teacher for Health and Physical Education at YISD. “They are learning to evaluate what they eat in order to make better choices and they are learning the importance of daily physical activity.” If you were to attend a daily P.E. class at a YISD school, you probably wouldn’t recognize it. CATCH moves away from skill-based activities where you stand in line waiting for your turn and instead focuses on activities that keep the whole class moving.

“It’s the inclusion element in physical activity that is particularly interesting,” says Michael Kelly, vice president of programs for the Health Foundation. “If we think back to old-school physical education, there was a lot of standing in line waiting for your turn. In CATCH, they try to get more kids active all at once.” The University of Texas-School of Public Health (UT-Health) began developing the CATCH program 30 years ago, and then in the spring of 2014 the CATCH Global Foundation was founded to help expand CATCH beyond UT-Health and allow it to operate independently as it expanded into more school systems like YISD and into early childhood and after-school settings.

“CATCH has allowed me to see that we can teach our students all we want when it comes to physical activity, nutrition and health lifestyles, but unless we engage all others who surround our students on a daily basis and educate them as well, change will not be as effective or as lasting,” says Noriega. “The great part of CATCH is that it is all-inclusive. It seeks to educate not only the student, but all the campus staff and most importantly, the students’ families at home. Those healthy lifestyle choices made and practiced at home will be the ones with the most lasting effects.” To implement CATCH, YISD holds a full-day training for campus CATCH teams, which include the P.E. staff, food services, administration, classroom teachers, counselors, and parents. The training focuses on a coordination kit, which guides the team in the activities and roles to follow, while implementing the program. Also included in the training is a review of the classroom curriculum.

A separate training is then held for all P.E. staff on each of the YISD campuses. It’s during this training that the staff goes through more than 300 different activities that complement the classroom curriculum and help improve the moderate to vigorous physical activity during P.E. time.

Noriega says the training doesn’t stop there. “Throughout the rest of the school year, we continue to incorporate an element of the CATCH program into all the P.E. staff training days in order to continue to become familiar with the curriculum.” Two years in, CATCH is proving to be a difference maker in the lives of the YISD students, their families, and the staff of the school district.

“CATCH is a best practice program that the Health Foundation has supported for nearly two decades. We appreciate YISD’s leadership in adopting the program in their district,” says Kelly. “We know that it works.”

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