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Making a Splash: Water Bottle Filling Stations in Madison Schools

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Making a Splash: Water Bottle Filling Stations in Madison Schools

Twenty-five percent of American children don't drink any water during the day.Madison, Wisconsin - Kids don't drink enough water. An American Family Children's Hospital initiative is providing students at three area schools ample opportunity to reverse that recently-revealed trend.

Working with the Childhood Obesity Prevention Collaborative, Madison Water Utility recently delivered water bottle filling stations to three Madison schools: Leopold, Huegel and Elvehjem.

American Family Children's Hospital's Julia Stanley is the collaborative's program coordinator, and she says the water stations are part of the group's broader effort to make schools healthier places.

"We gave water bottles to every student and we hope they bring them to school," Stanley says, adding that increased water consumption often means a decrease in less healthy beverage alternatives. "We hope kids will fill up at the stations instead of drinking sugary drinks from home at lunch."

The water station delivery preceded a study by Harvard scientists that revealed school-age children need to drink more water. Children and teens should take in as much as three quarts of water every day (including water from food), but nearly 25 percent don't drink any water during an average day. The resulting dehydration can cause fatigue and behavioral and learning challenges. And, as Stanley asserts, less water may mean more sugary sodas and juices, which may quench thirst but provide only empty calories.

The solution may seem simple, but one of the study's researchers, Erica Kenney, says drinking water at some schools, particularly those in metropolitan areas, can be perilous.

"A lot of schools have struggled with providing tap water to kids because of concerns about older plumbing infrastructure and concerns about lead," Kenney said in an interview with National Public Radio.

That won't be a problem at Leopold, Huegel and Elvehjem. Those three schools were chosen for the water stations because they are in areas of high pediatric obesity, and water as substitute for high-sugar drinks is one facet of a larger effort to help schools emphasize healthy habits. Stanley is working with schools in applying for the the Wisconsin School Health Award, a Department of Public Instruction recognition for state schools with policies, programs, and the infrastructure to support and promote healthy eating and physical activity.

Stanley is training teachers and administrators on the principles of Active Schools Core 4+, which incorporates 60 minutes of physical activity into every school day, and smart lunchrooms, which use innovative marketing approaches to encourage kids to eat fruits and vegetables.

"If you put fruits in light-colored bowls or fun baskets, or give kids the chance to name the items, the kids are more likely to eat them," Stanley says, adding that she believes the cumulative effect of these programs will have a greater impact than their individual components.

"It's a cultural shift, and a systemic approach to change," she says, "and we can have a bigger impact if we work together."


Date Published: 06/18/2015