April Healthy School Feature
In September 2015 Ophea’s Healthy Schools Certification was launched. We are thrilled to have 182 schools across Ontario committed to making their school community a healthier place. From January – June, we’ll be sharing the experiences of select registered Healthy Schools across Ontario, bringing you success stories, challenges and ideas to support you in making your school a healthier school.
April Featured Healthy School:
St. Timothy Elementary School, Mississauga, ON
What has your school team identified as your priority health topic for this school year? What inspired you to choose this topic?
St. Timothy School’s Health Action Team chose healthy eating as the school’s health priority. In October, the Health Action Team members were asked, “What makes a healthy school?” Three common themes were found: a healthy school is one where students and staff participate in DPA, are eating healthier snacks and are drinking water, instead of sugary drinks. Team members shared that they were finding many students eating lots of prepackaged snacks and choosing sugary drinks like juice and pop.
Before deciding on our school’s health priority, our team decided to conduct a school-wide survey about students’ opinions on health priorities at St. Timothy School. Our sample included students ranging from grades 1 – 8. The top priority identified by students was healthy eating and drinking. Through the collection of this data, we decided to make healthy eating our top priority.
How does your school team encourage students and staff to make healthy choices?
Our Health Action Team has been very enthusiastic about spreading the excitement about eating healthy, especially eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Members have written and presented weekly announcements, highlighting the benefits of eating the Fresh Snack Attack Fruit or Vegetable of the Day. They also created posters using popular children’s celebrities, to pitch the importance of eating fresh, healthy snacks.
To encourage students and staff to make healthy snack/lunch choices, we had a Twitter contest called ‘Spot Your Healthy Lunch!’ Team photographers walked around to classrooms on Wednesdays to take pictures of healthy snacks and lunches. These photos were posted on the Health Action Team’s Twitter page. If students and teachers identified their snacks/lunches on Twitter, they would win a healthy prize (skipping rope, ball, or a Parks and Recreation gift card). Sharing these photos got students excited! It also provided the school community with new ideas for healthy eating options.
The most positive feedback we received from our students and staff members has been regarding our free weekly healthy snack option that we provided to the entire school. This included, for eight weeks, the whole school participating in Wellness Wednesday’s Fresh Snack Attack. For this event, a bowl of the “fruit/vegetable of the week” was delivered to each class every Wednesday. Everyone enjoyed fresh produce such as; apples, bananas, carrots, and cucumbers. It was great for students to taste test produce they may not have usually had for snack, and to see empty bowls returned week after week was truly rewarding. We can’t thank our community partner[f1] enough for their weekly delivery of fresh produce.
How has your school team motivated your school community to be healthy, safe and inclusive?
Social media has helped motivate our school community to be healthy, safe and inclusive. Our Twitter page has provided staff, students, and our parent community with numerous examples of healthy living activities taking place at school, and has provided information on ways to be active and safe in the community.
We’ve also used technology to share the message of healthy eating and drinking. For our Great Big Crunch and Gulp event, we created a Nearpod™ presentation to actively engage students and teachers, and to provide an opportunity for student voice. A slideshow presentation was led by the Health Action Team and broadcast to every classroom. The entire school was given the opportunity to answer survey questions regarding their opinions on our Fresh Snack Attack initiative. Technology helped us creatively share all the health benefits of fruits and vegetables and the health benefits of drinking water.
What is one thing you have learned about the value of following the Healthy Schools approach?
The one thing we’ve learned about the value of following Ophea’s Healthy Schools approach is the importance of having a detailed plan. The approach guided us through the early stages of establishing a school team and assessing our school community’s needs and assets. By providing us with guidelines and templates, Ophea’s Healthy Schools approach helped our team stay organized throughout the entire process. Once we had chosen our top health priority, the online tools helped us stay focused on our healthy eating priority throughout the year. With so many creative ideas shared during our meetings, it was easy, at times, to lose track of the direction we were headed. The action plan always brought us back to our health priority.
Do you have any upcoming Healthy School events or links you would like to share?
On May 11th, staff, students, parents, and community partners will gather for a Healthy Minds Healthy Bodies event as our Healthy Schools Celebration. We will acknowledge the Health Action Team for their dedication and accomplishments by presenting each member with a certificate. We will have a slideshow presentation showcasing the school’s activity in all of this year’s school health events, such as; The Great Big Crunch and Gulp, Fresh Snack Attack, Dance for Kindness Flash Mob, and our Winter Walk Day. Lastly, all students will take part in healthy living activities throughout the morning. Students will sign up for events such as; drumming, smoothie making, gardening, martial arts, and yoga. We will have some of our community partners leading the activities, as well as students, staff, and parents.
Teacher, St. Timothy Elementary School
Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board
Check back next month for the next featured Healthy Schools blog!
Not registered but interested in supporting your school in being a healthy school? Access Ophea’s Healthy Schools Certification Guidebook to follow the step-by-step process and learn more about this approach.