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University of Texas Elementary

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University of Texas Elementary

Healthy Families Initiative
A Coordinated School Health Program


Our Mission


The mission of the University of Texas Elementary School is three-fold: (1) to develop students into lifelong learners through rigorous, research-based curricula, individualized instruction, high expectations, and a nurturing environment that includes parental and community involvement; (2) to provide opportunities for professional development and outreach for The University of Texas at Austin’s academic units; and (3) to serve as a model of an exemplary educational program for diverse learners.


Our Vision


The vision of the University of Texas Elementary School Healthy Families Initiative is to build a community of dedicated students, families, teachers, companies, and organizations to create an environment that not only promotes a healthy and active lifestyle, but provides opportunities for students to actively explore the benefits of this way of life.

Our Links

Healthy Families Initiative Calendar of Events

Healthy Families Initiative Video Resources

UTES Wellness Blog




Response to Intervention Model


The 3-tier response to intervention model offers multiple levels of instruction that vary in scope and intensity. Instructional decisions are based on physical activity data collected with pedometers, fitness data collected using FitnessGram, and body mass index collected by the school nurse. The 3 levels of intervention consist of the following strategies:


Tier 1- Core Instructional Interventions


  • Quality physical education
  • 120 minutes per week
  • National standards- and Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS)-based curriculum
  • Taught by qualified physical education specialist(s)
  • Research-based
  • ≥ 50% moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA)
  • Sufficient equipment, space, time, teacher/student ratio
  • Quality health instruction
  • National standards/TEKS based curriculum
  • Curricular emphasis on nutrition
  • Functional School Health Advisory Council (SHAC)
  • Effective implementation of a coordinated school health program (CSHP)
  • Strict implementation of a school nutrition policy and a local wellness policy
  • Improved nutrition services


Tier 2- Targeted Group Interventions


  • Small groups of students meeting weekly during school hours with physical educator
  • Physical Activity and nutrition goal-setting and progress monitoring
  • Special homework assignments/challenges related to physical activity and nutrition
  • Assistance with accessing appropriate after-school care facilities


Tier 3- Intensive, Family Interventions


  • WellNest After School Program - Twenty families per semester participate in this after-school program, focusing on physical activity and healthy food consumption. The students spend each weekday engaging in one aspect of the after-school program model with a health expert. One day a week is spent performing physical activities with the school’s physical education teacher Bob “Coach K” Knipe, learning culinary skills with Mrs. Emily Work, learning gardening skills from Mrs Hilger sand one day involves a team practice in either soccer or tennis with coaches from Ignite A Dream, an Austin nonprofit organization. Families engage in WellNest Together Everyone Achieves More (TEAM) Nights where they participate in fitness activities, participate in cooking demos, and take nutrition classes. It is our belief that with this support the whole family will work together to enjoy a healthy and active lifestyle. More Information will be coming soon.


Health Education:


Health education gives students a chance to learn the essential knowledge and skills that lead toward a healthy and active lifestyle for the present and a lifetime. At UTES, certified Health Educators provide weekly instruction using the “Great Body Shop” curriculum on topics such as


  • ·        Injury prevention and personal safety
  • ·        Nutrition
  • ·       Functions of the body
  • ·       Growth & development/cycle of family life
  • ·       HIV/AIDS and illness prevention
  • ·       Substance abuse prevention
  • ·       Community health and safety
  • ·       Self-worth, mental and emotional health
  • ·       Environmental and consumer health
  • ·       Physical fitness.

Visit UTES HFI's YouTube Channel to explore this topic

Physical Education:


UTES Physical Education allows students sufficient activity time for health-related fitness, will teach them a variety of skills so they are capable of participating in an assortment of lifetime physical activities, and will allow students to experience the implicit fun and enjoyment that can come from leading a healthy and active lifestyle. Certified Physical Education instructors use:


SPARK (Sport, Play, and Active Recreation for Kids): A research-based physical education curriculum designed to “promote high levels of physical activity, teach movement skills, and be enjoyable”. Results from multiple publications indicate that SPARK lessons taught by physical education specialists can improve time spent in physical activity andcan improve skill development in catching and throwing, and is given high ratings of enjoyment by students.


CATCH (Coordinated Approach to Child Health): A coordinated school health curriculum approved by the Texas Education Agency that contains a physical education component in the form of a card file of various warm-up activities, aerobic activities, practice activities, and skill lead-up games. The program has been shown to increase levels of moderate to vigorous physical activity during physical education classes and increase daily vigorous physical activity in children.


 Physical activities, lessons, and teaching strategies are utilized from these two established programs in the physical education curriculum at the University of Texas Elementary School to provide students with maximal opportunities to be physically active, practice skills, and connect these learning to principles of good health and positive nutrition.


 The National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) and the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS)[HHD2]  for Physical Education provide the curricular framework for our program. The following student outcome objectives are based on these standards and are addressed within the curriculumand state that students will:


·        Demonstrate competency in motor skills and movement patterns needed to perform a variety of physical activities


·        Demonstrate understanding of movement concepts, principles, strategies, and tactics as they apply to the learning and performance of physical activities


·        Participate regularly in physical activity


·        Achieve and maintain a health-enhancing level of physical fitness


·        Exhibit responsible personal and social behavior that respects self and others in physical activity settings


·        Value physical activity for health, enjoyment, challenge, self-expression, and/or social interaction.

Visit UTES HFI's YouTube Channel to explore this topic



Health Services:


Health Services at UT Elementary School strives to provide compassionate, up-to-date, care to every student honoring their emotional, physical and developmental needs.  Our emphasis is to provide an environment that allows each child to grow to their fullest potential.   This is carried out in an atmosphere of acceptance while engaging them in the pursuit of knowledge that appropriately challenges the students. Our services incorporate:

  • Emergency response to injuries and illnesses
  • Management of chronic diseases including medication administration
  • Health education
  • Staff development
  • Liaison work between family and other health care professionals
  • State mandated screenings including Vision, Hearing, Scoliosis, and Acanthosis Nigricans. 


Close collaboration with our school counselor defines our commitment to improving the mental health of our children.  Likewise, we have a strong relationship with our Physical Education teachers which enable us to help our students develop lifelong wellness habits in safe and enjoyable settings.


Lee Lopez, the schools nurse says “The National Association of School Nurses motto is ‘Healthy Students Learn Better’—that’s what our service is all about.”


Visit UTES HFI's YouTube Channel to explore this topic


Nutrition Services:


Vision for the UT Elementary School Healthy Horns Hall


The UT Elementary School (UTES) cafetorium will be a central meeting place, the “healthy heart” of our community of parents, teachers, staff, and visitors.  We intend to significantly depart from the traditional form of school food service and to strengthen the well-being of our community by offering healthy food choices each day at no cost to our students, improving the physical structure and space of dining areas, educating on sustainable and healthy eating, incorporating multi-cultural values, and involving student families.




UTES will hire a chef, chef assistant, and part-time work-study undergraduate student who are well-versed in sound nutritional practices.  Daily menus will include input from the School Health Advisory Council (SHAC) and faculty at The University of Texas at Austin School of Human Ecology.  Foods of minimal nutritional value will not be allowed, and the school will incorporate both foods grown in its own gardens on the campus as well as those received from local agricultural partners.  Lunch will be offered to every child for free regardless of ability to pay.


Physical Atmosphere:


The UTES kitchen and cafeteria will have as much green technology and natural light as possible.  The UTES kitchen becomes eco-friendly by eliminating trays, plastic/paper plates and utensils, growing veggies, and composting waste.  Dining tables will be circular and the children will use real dishes, utensils and serving containers. Walls and floors will be decorated with children's artwork, artwork from the community, and indoor plants; and the students will choose their own soft music. 




During food service, the children will participate in setting and clearing the table and passing food dishes to one another.   After the meal there will be areas for the children to read or play card and board games.  These activities encourage positive socialization and help create a positive dining experience for all.


The Healthy Horns Hall will be a kitchen with choice and voice. Children will gain confidence and self-assurance from such a high level of involvement in making and serving their own food.  Children will be able to directly participate in growing the food they eat. Organic fruits and vegetables will come directly from the garden and food waste will return to the garden as compost. Children will be able to taste and enjoy food when it is fresh. Children will learn about where their food comes from, what it takes to grow and harvest healthy foods and have the opportunity to try a variety of fruits, vegetables and grains. Children will know that food is fuel, and that the kitchen is the fuel center, and that food waste goes to a composter in the kitchen, which turns it into fertilizer for the garden.


Cultural Atmosphere:


In many cultures, people use food as a way to connect and grow relationships. UTES would like to build that same culture.  In the UTES lunch room, parent education classes, community events and cooking classes will engage parents and the UTES community in accessible activities around healthy eating and cooking. 


Children will also benefit from an experienced chef who will run the kitchen in connection with culturally relevant foods as well as consultants from a variety of ethnic cuisines. The chef will work with local ranchers and producers to ensure that additional food is organic, healthy and free of toxins.   Children and families will be able to learn how to make culturally appropriate dishes in a healthy way. Children will be able to try different kinds of food that they do not normally receive in their own homes and communities. There will be several choices daily such as vegetarian and vegan options.  There will be food themes throughout the year, such as multiculturalism, with recipes available for kids to take home to try at home. It will be a kitchen where everyone in the community is both a student and a teacher. The UTES lunch room will send a message to the children and families of the school - that they deserve to eat fresh, healthy food in a beautiful setting, and that they are worth this substantial investment in their well-being.

Visit UTES HFI's YouTube Channel to explore this topic

Counseling, Psychological, and Social Services:


The University of Texas Elementary School believes in educating the whole child.  Two major initiatives, Healthy Families Initiative and Social Emotional Learning help, to build a foundation for strong learners. 


Social Emotional Learning is a three-tiered program that focuses on self-regulation, self-awareness, relationship skills, responsible decision-making, and social awareness. 


Tier One consists of daily teacher taught lessons and bi-monthly counseling lessons.  In addition to directly taught lessons, social emotional learning concepts are weaved into academic curriculum.  Skills are taught, practiced and reinforced daily.


Tier Two intervention consists of the classroom, special areas teachers, and other significant adults focusing on specific needs of a student and guiding them to the generalization of social emotional learning skills.  A few examples are: the use of a behavior contract, special assignments to empower the student, and mentors.


Tier Three intervention is counselor-focused intervention that can include lunch bunch, specific counseling groups and individual counseling.  The counselor also facilitates special programs to promote academic success, such as special education, Section 504, and Gifted and Talented programs.  In addition the school counselor collaborates with outside agencies and services to support UTES students.  

Visit UTES HFI's YouTube Channel to explore this topic


Healthy and Safe School Environment:


Lil Longhorns experience a unique school environment that visitors characterize as “home-like”. Plants, murals, art work, and inviting tables and benches adorn outdoor hallways and classrooms. Students engage in nature in our urban setting through our twenty four by eight raised vegetable garden beds. Now in its sixth year, the UTES Garden has not only been growing plants, but also students who value the vegetables they produce and the time they have with their classmates and the insects they share the space with.


School Gardens have been shown to;

  •   Increase F&V intake (McAleese, 2007; Hermann, 2007; Lautenschlager et al 2007; Koch et al, 2006; Evans et al, 2011)
  •  Increase Vitamin C, Vitamin A, Fiber (McAleese, 2007; Davis et al, 2011)
  • Increase F&V preference (Lineberger et al., 1999; Morris & Zidenber-Cherr, 2002; Ratcliffe, 2009)
  • Increase Willingness to try F&V & Attitudes (Morris & Zidenber-Cherr, 2002; Pothukuchi, 2004; Lautenshlager, 2007; Cason et. al 1999; Lineberger and Zaijicek 1999; Ratcliffe, 2009)
  • IncreaseSelf-efficacy (O’Brien et al, 2006)
  • IncreaseF&V knowledge (Koch, 2006; Morris, 2002; Ratcliffe, 2009)

The school community helps to maintain this environment daily and at special events such as Beautification Days.

Visit UTES HFI's YouTube Channel to explore this topic


Health Promotion for Staff:


As employees of the University of Texas, staff have the opportunity to enroll in the Fitness Institute of Texas (FIT). FIT’s mission is to enhance the quality of lives through research, service, training and educational programs in physical activity, nutrition, and behavioral health.  Also on a monthly basis the Office of UT Benefits ensures that all staff are aware of classes, screenings, and the most up to date health information.


On the University of Texas Elementary School Campus staff have the opportunity to engage in group exercise each Monday, Wednesday and Friday. HOPSports, the leader in providing multimedia fitness for schools and youth community sites across the nation, is also being utilized to provide yoga, pilates, and kickboxing instruction for staff. The benefits of staff wellness reach far beyond the physical. Staff wellness helps build community in a positive environment.

Visit UTES HFI's YouTube Channel to explore this topic


Family/Community Involvement:


“It takes a village to raise a child” Parents, teachers, administrators, community members and organizations all need to play their part to provide the environment and opportunities children need to adopt a healthy and active lifestyle. Initiatives are Designed by the community to engage the community.


Parents and community members are engaged through:




Are school’s Healthy Families Initiative has led to many community member experiences that help them see a healthy and active lifestyle as the norm. We have

  • Built, grown and been harvesting out of 20 4ft by 8ft garden beds for 5 years now
  • Organized a city wide LiL Longhorn 5k Race and Family Fun Run
  • Measured out 1/8th of a mile walking path for students, teachers and parents around our school
  • Used pedometers to motivate our students to stay active in and out of school
  • Piloted and performed research on the Polar Electro Active Monitor a new line of accelerometers
  •  Developed a relationship with a number of University of Texas departments who help guide the decision made in our school as well as promote school volunteer opportunities to their students
  • Worked closely with the Active Life Movement to help them advocate for healthy change in our country
  •  Biweekly family nights that address cooking, nutrition, parenting, and physical activity at home
  • Morning open gym for students who would like to be active before school
  • Implemented Second Step a school wide curriculum for Social and Emotional Learning
  •  Partnered with companies and organizations that have


o   Runtex Donated running shoes for our 5th graders the past 3 years


o   Green Gate Farms and Gilda Grace Donated Community Supported Agriculture shares which provided farm fresh organic vegetables to our families


o  Ignite a Dream Provided tennis and soccer lessons and equipment donations for the students


o  SANDE Youth Project Ran an International Association of Culinary Professionals Workshop at our school in conjunction with Whole Foods Market


o   Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program Teach Nutrition, Cooking and Nutrition to our students and parents


o   Provided field trips to local farms, sports centers and colleges


Healthy Families Initiative also goes beyond the school walls to spread the word about raising a healthier generation by presenting at conferences and conventions on a local and national level, including Texas State School Social Workers Conference, American Alliance for Health, Physical Education Recreation and Dance, and the American Educational Research Association.



Rogue Running Equipment

SANDE Youth Project-Graden to Table


Sustainable Food Center

Ignite A Dream

West Austin Youth Association

Green Gate Farms

Livestrong Foundation

EFNEP Travis County

Keep Austin Beautiful (KAB)

Polar Electro

Action Based Learning

Active Life Movement

University of Texas Division of Diversity and Community Engagement


By on 03/21/2012 - 8:04am
  Last year I was blown away!!! 550+ motivated people out to make healthy and active the norm at the 2011 IT’S Time School Summit. I have been attending state and...
By on 03/05/2012 - 5:36pm
UT Elementary Jumps Rope for Heart by Dorothy Garretson   Matt Nader encourages the Lil’ Longhorns to live healthy lifestyles.   For the first time UT Elementary...
By on 03/05/2012 - 5:36pm
UT Elementary Jumps Rope for Heart by Dorothy Garretson   Matt Nader encourages the Lil’ Longhorns to live healthy lifestyles.   For the first time UT Elementary...


Saturday, May 14, 2011 (All day)
An East Austin 5k orginaized by the University of Texas Elementary School Healthy Families Initiative.


See video

UTES Organic Food Give away Thanks to Green Gate Farms

Posted on 11/12/2011 - 1:09pm