February Feature Healthy School: St. Alfred Catholic Elementary School
We are excited to have 327 registered Healthy Schools, representing 50 school boards across the province for Ophea’s Healthy Schools Certification 2017/18 school year! You can find out if schools from your board have registered by viewing the Registered Schools List.
Every month until June, we’ll be sharing the experiences of select registered Healthy Schools who have been active on Twitter using #HSCertES; bringing you their success stories, challenges and ideas to support you in making your school a healthier school. St. Alfred Catholic Elementary School is our February Feature Healthy School. We caught up with Special Education Resource Teacher Andrea DeFrancesco to learn about their experiences with Healthy Schools Certification. Check out our Q&A!
1. What is your Healthy Schools priority health topic? What inspired you to choose this topic?
Mental Health is our priority topic. Last year, a group of students and I began working on a self-regulation project that was initiated by their concerns regarding the well-being of their peers. We focused on building an understanding of the different domains of regulation, triggers that may impact their ability to self-regulate, and strategies that would support them. At the end of the year the students proposed the idea of creating a student space called the Eagles Nest. This year we took a student survey to determine some of their needs and the desire for a space that provides; fitness opportunities, mindfulness activities, meditations and stress management strategies -all clearly evident.
Our health and wellness committee comprised of staff, students and community partners believes that mental Health is just as important as physical health. We strive to provide students and staff with opportunities to nurture themselves mentally, spiritually, physically and emotionally.
2. How does your school team encourage students and staff to make healthy choices?
We have a variety of activities and opportunities for students and staff such as school wide meditations rooted in our faith, staff wellness lunches, fitness friends, student-led DPA, and workshops on topics such as stress management and mindfulness. Also, student leaders on the committee provide tips for staff and students called “The Hawk of the Week” where they read and/or practice a strategy over the PA system. These strategies are tools to support everyone’s wellbeing. For example, through deep breathing, stretching, tips about sleep, and encouraging everyone to smile.
3. How has your school team motivated your school community to be healthy?
We have provided each class with a “chill kit” to help them stay calm, alert and focused during class. Also, intermediate students support facilitating DPA sessions for other classrooms, biweekly meditations on the PA system, and a daily breakfast program run by staff to ensure every child has a positive start to their day.
We have also used student voice to engage more students in getting involved in all of the initiatives that our committee is a part of. If students have a role in decision making the success of the projects are tend to be greater.
4. Tell us about a success, no matter how big or small, that your Healthy Schools Team has had this year.
Adding students to our planning committee has been very valuable. We really value their input. Also, each time we meet, we celebrate our successes and take time to engage in a mindfulness practice. The chill kits have been very helpful for many students. Additionally, the process of rolling out the Eagles Nest has inspired valuable conversations and collaboration.
5. How have students been engaged as leaders within your school community as a result of Healthy Schools Certification?
We have student reps that sit on our health and wellness committee. They have engaged their peers to complete student voice surveys, filled out grants to receive funding for projects, and have taken on leadership roles by volunteering to support the breakfast club, make announcements and lead presentations.
6. Does your Healthy Schools Team have any upcoming events or activities that they’re excited about?
We are looking forward to the official reveal of the Eagles Nest, body break stations at our school, and fitness friends which is an opportunity for students to attend a fitness/ dance workshop during lunch/recess (led by a trained facilitator). We are also working on a collaboration project with the social justice and eco-schools team for this spring so stay tuned!
Special Education Resource Teacher
St. Alfred Catholic Elementary School