Making a Difference in Our Lives and Community

Sarah Judd and Jen Cirillo meet with Burlington Mayor Peter Clavelle.
A reflection by former staff of VT Forum on Sprawl SSP's partner in the development of the Healthy Neighborhoods/Healthy Kids project.

Making a Difference in Our Lives and Community:
The Healthy Neighborhoods/Healthy Kids Project

by Sarah Judd, Vermont Forum on Sprawl

Green Up Day in Burlington on May 1 held special meaning (and special responsibilities) for a group of children from Champlain Elementary School. Partnering with the city of Burlington’s First Response Team, community members, family, and friends, these children were completing clean-up and safety projects they’d planned this past winter as part of The Healthy Neighborhoods/Healthy Kids Program.

A year-long partnership of the Sustainable Schools Project, Vermont Forum on Sprawl, Linking Learning to Life, and Champlain Elementary School, the program aims to reduce environmental health risks for children in Burlington neighborhoods. The program empowers Champlain’s 4th and 5th graders to improve their local neighborhoods by acting as future citizen planners, all the while boosting their level of physical activity. The program hopes to reduce the negative effects of “unhealthy” development patterns—unwalkable neighborhoods, sedentary lifestyles, auto-only development and drive-though diet—which are contributing to higher rates of obesity and diseases such as asthma and diabetes among Vermont’s children.

This past year, participating children moved to make their neighborhoods safer and healthier. In October 2003, the children developed their own neighborhood report card, assessing features such as condition of sidewalks, presence of graffiti, safe crosswalks, and clean parks. They then met with Mayor Peter Clavelle and Steve Goodkind of the Department of Public Works to find out how the city and children could partner to make neighborhood improvements. Children presented their report card findings to community groups, family and peers to let others know what they could do to improve the quality and health of their neighborhoods, and generated their own list of improvement projects. Some of these projects were tackled during Burlington’s Green Up Day. The Healthy Neighborhoods/Healthy Kids Program is a great example of education for sustainability: students learn about their place, how they are connected to their community and how they can make a difference.

The Healthy Neighborhoods/Healthy Kids Program project was made possible by the EPA’s Healthy Communities Program and the Jessie B. Cox Charitable Trust. Special thanks to Collen Cowell & Pat Fitzgerald, Champlain 4/5 teachers.

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