Healthy Living Feeds the Brain at the Latest SAIL Parent Academy


42 North Hillside Avenue, Succasunna, New Jersey 07876


Mrs. Loretta Radulic, Superintendent             Ms. Ann Rhodes, Community Relations/Community School Coordinator

Phone: (973) 584-6867 / Fax: (973) 252-1434             Phone: (973) 584-7699 / Fax: (973) 252-1434

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ROXBURY, NJ (November 21, 2018) – Being mind-full or mindful was just one of the questions raised at the latest Student Academic Intervention and Learning (SAIL) Parent Academy on November 14th. This parent academy treated Franklin and Nixon School families to an evening of healthy living tips and activities.


These families are afforded this opportunity through Title I funding which is based on the number of students enrolled in the free and reduced lunch programs. Parents and students from these two schools in Roxbury Township started the evening off with a healthy hot dinner of baked chicken and vegetables catered by Maschio’s, Roxbury’s Food Services provider. Following dinner, parents and students made the rounds at a half dozen various stations that dealt with healthy living and mindfulness.


Kelly Freund, SAIL program coordinator and Franklin and Nixon technology teacher, explained the importance of visiting such a topic saying, “I am often approached by both staff and parents if they feel there is a particular subject area they wish to be covered that would benefit both the students and parents at our schools. In this case, the Physical Education teachers wanted to share with our school community the benefits healthy living on brain function. Mrs. Martini from Nixon School was very passionate about getting this message out and is very passionate about the mind/body connection and came up with many of the ideas for the night. Mrs. Martini really was the driving force behind this idea. Her knowledge of the subject was immeasurable.”


Freund and physical education teacher Ann Martini worked side-by-side to organize the sessions, facilitators, and resources from the schools and community.


Physical Education teachers from the elementary schools along with a few other elementary staff ran the individual sessions. Joyce Brooks from Kennedy School and Russ Redmond from Franklin ran cardio sessions with jump roping. Prior to getting their heart rates up, Redmond explained the benefits of Cardiovascular exercise some of which included better heath which leads to better attendance and how increased blood flow to the brain leads to improved attention and focus.


As part of the cardio session, a representative from the American Heart Association was there to provide additional heart health information and tips for the kids and their parents. Roxbury physical education teachers at the elementary level work hand and hand with the AHA every few years with the Jump Rope for Heart fundraiser that raises funds to help fight heart disease.


Another session dealt with the topic of nutrition and healthy eating. Registered Dietitians from ShopRite came to help decipher nutrition labels on products and help explain what the different categories were and what we should all be on the lookout for when buying products such as “added sugars”. They explained that their services aren’t just available at the Parent Academy but can be utilized any time at their stores. “We provide complimentary services like helping you to find healthy items or helping you find certain products if you have allergies,” said Dietitian Tara Gerke.

The third session focused on the mind/body connection with sport stacking. Jefferson PE Teacher Laura Jacobsen was there with fifth grader Aiden Mulholland to help connect the topic of mind and body with cup stacking. Jacobsen shared the benefits of sport stacking. “Sport Stacking is a fitness level sport that kids from all backgrounds and abilities can do. Would you like to offer an activity that not only challenges your child physically but academically as well? Cup stacking improves hand-eye accuracy, coordination and reaction time. It improves ambidexterity and fine motor skills and creates bilateral proficiency (equal performance on both sides of the body). It can also improve reading scores.”


Mulholland knows a little something about this as he is the number one cup stacker in New Jersey. He began his cup stacking career at eight years old when he was in Franklin School and spent the evening helping students learn some tricks of the trade.


The remaining two sessions calmed things down a bit with yoga and mindfulness exercises. Nixon third grade teacher Victoria Arms shared the benefits of partaking in yoga regularly explaining how it reduces stress and anxiety, improves memory and attention span, helps to manage weight, improves flexibility, balance and posture along with promoting mindfulness while encouraging self-love and self-care.


In addition to practicing poses with the families she also provided online websites for kids to do yoga. Those resources included,, and


Martini and Nixon second grade teacher Alyssa Bellardino took time for families to focus on mindfulness. They shared that “being mindful is a basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us. Mindfulness is something we all naturally possess, it’s more readily available to us when we practice on a daily basis.”


During this session, Martini and Bellardino turned down the lights and played a soothing video from as they walked families through some simple meditation practices that they could each do at home.


Nixon’s Occupational Therapist Patricia Russo was also there to help guide families through the new sensory pathway in the gym hallway. As families passed through this area, Russo provided information on heavy work ideas that can help increase coordination, attention, and focus while helping to calm the body.


By holding an academy on this topic, the district continues to work towards it’s district goal. Dr. Chuck Seipp, Assistant Superintendent explained that “Health and wellness have been a focus of our district for the past few years. Earlier this year the district hosted the first annual FitnessRox Fun Run in order to encourage a family event supporting a healthy lifestyle. We also include elements of healthy living into our PE instruction, providing teachers with mindfulness and yoga training, as well as our Tech-free days.


Adding, “One of the overarching goals of the SAIL Parent Academy is to provide parents with an opportunity to experience and/or learn about instructional focus so that they can support it at home. The school-to-home connection is vital to the team approach that is needed for education to be successful. Mrs. Freund has worked closely with the principals to ensure that the focus of each night is connected to this purpose and also provides each family with a take-away so they can infuse what they learned at home. She has also tried to structure the program so that parents and students have opportunities to learn together and from experts in the field whether that be our own RSD experts or those from outside the district.”


Each child that attended received an age-appropriate sports bag filled with exercise fun that included a level-appropriate book, jump rope, sports ball along with a few other little items. Throughout the evening families collected additional items and resources to add to their bags.


Freund commented that “Mrs. Martini and the PE elementary staff shared many resources parents can use and follow with their children at home.” You can take advantage of these resources too at


The district’s purpose of holding SAIL Parent Academics is to educate parents on the things going on in their child’s elementary school and education. These academics were designed to make parents feel comfortable and welcome in their child’s school and to provide help for them in the easiest and most convenient ways possible. The district strives to remove any possible obstacles from participating including having translator services available for our non-English speaking families, free childcare for not just the child in the elementary school but for any age, as well as providing a hot meal.


The next two academies will be parent/child nights where families will participate together and cover Pizza & Paint and Math & Movement. Information regarding the upcoming dates will be shared at these two schools as the dates approach.


PHOTO ATTACHED (courtesy of Roxbury Schools)

  • Sports Bag with Goodies
  • Victoria Arms covers Yoga
  • Families practice yoga poses
  • ShopRite Dietitian Tara Gerke talks sugar
  • Riesebeck family works with Mulholland
  • Brown family works on cup stacking
  • Sensory Pathway at Nixon
  • AHA Talks Heart Health
  • Mindfulness Session
  • Chinese Jump Rope
  • SAIL Academy Collage 1
  • Sail Academy Collage 2


For more information, contact: Roxbury Community School/Community Relations Coordinator Ann Rhodes at or 973-584-7699.



Roxbury Public Schools is a K-12 school district preparing the children of today for tomorrow. As a dynamic and thriving district, in partnership with a supportive and collaborative community, Roxbury Public Schools inspires and empowers all learners to flourish as ethical and global citizens in the 21st century. The district serves students throughout Roxbury Township, New Jersey, including the areas of Landing, Kenvil, Succasunna, Ledgewood, Mount Arlington, Port Morris, Flanders, and Wharton. Connect with us online at or on Facebook at

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