February 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.
February Featured Healthy School:
Louise Arbour Secondary School
1. What has your school team identified as your priority health topic for this school year? What inspired you to choose this topic?
We have identified Physical Activity as our priority health topic. As a group, we were inspired by data obtained from two main sources. First, we sent out online surveys (Google Forms) to students, staff, and parents. Upon analysis, results showed that physical activity was consistently one of the topics identified as “very important” by the respondents. In addition, students on our Healthy Schools Team, which we now call the Eagles Health Association (EHA), ran a focused discussion group with their leadership classes. These conversations confirmed what we discovered through the online surveys. Our student leaders were also able to obtain some interesting anecdotal information. For example, even though a number of students expressed interest in having more serious and physical sports teams (i.e. boys’ tackle football), others had the opposite view. They explained that they wanted to see more opportunities for those who were not skilled enough to play for a competitive interschool team. Finally, when it came down to making a final decision, we left it to the students on the EHA and they overwhelmingly decided that Physical Activity would be our primary focus.
2. How does your school team encourage students and staff to make healthy choices?
While completing our assets analysis, we discovered that the Louise Arbour Secondary School (LASS) community had already been working hard to increase physical activity opportunities. For example, there is an annual Terry Fox Run, many bike racks are available on school grounds, we have intramural sports in addition to a variety of athletic clubs and teams, and a breakfast program to name a few. Our Action Plan will introduce four new initiatives that will expand on what we already have in place with the hopes of becoming annual events. In particular, we are very excited about our Classroom Brain Breaks pilot program that will be tested throughout the month of March. After our students conducted an outstanding presentation about Brain Breaks research and details of the program at the February staff meeting, we had 41 teachers sign up to participate! This is such a testament to the talent and drive of our EHA students, as well as to our staff’s support and dedication for health, well-being, and improving student learning.
3. How has your school team motivated your school community to be healthy, safe and inclusive?
Once again, LASS has a plethora of ongoing events and programs that motivate our community to be healthy and inclusive. For example, we have a LINK program where LASS students are trained to run special events to ease the transition for incoming grade 9 students. We also organize a number of feeder school sports tournaments throughout the year that take place in our gymnasiums and have a very active parent council that meets regularly. One Action Plan initiative I would like to highlight is Family Olympic Fun Night, which will be taking place during Education Week, April 18-22. This awesome idea was suggested by Nicole Therrien who is representing the City of Brampton Parks and Recreation on the EHA. The event will be held at the Brampton Soccer Centre, which is a popular community hub, and all families from our Family of Schools will be invited for an evening of active games and fun. A large group of volunteers from LASS will be trained to run the Olympic-themed events. We are hoping to have hundreds of people attend and connect with each other at this event!
4. What is one thing you have learned about the value of following the Healthy Schools approach?
Louise Arbour is a relatively new school. We opened in September 2010 within a recently developed subdivision in North Brampton and this is our 6th year of operation. I was fortunate enough to help open LASS and work together with a remarkable and supportive group of teachers and administrators to build strong Physical Education and Athletics programs. During the last couple of years, I began to feel more strongly about connecting more with families, schools, and businesses in the community. My plan going into the 2015-2016 school year was to run a number of feeder (elementary) school sports tournaments at LASS. However, when I discovered that Ophea had developed a Healthy Schools Certification program, I knew that I had found the perfect framework for something much more meaningful! The Healthy Schools approach has taught me that building community means going way beyond hosting a few tournaments. Through this process, I have connected with students, parents, teachers (both from LASS and from feeder schools), administrators, Peel Public Health, and The City of Brampton Parks and Recreation. In the coming months, after we have completed our Healthy Schools Certification Action Plan initiatives, I am confident I will be able to say that these connections will have grown even more. Yet, I truly believe this is only just the beginning. I am excited to see what the future holds for this community!
5. Do you have any upcoming Healthy School events or links you would like to share?
There are two additional Healthy Schools Certification action plan initiatives, which I am very excited about. Beginning in March, our EHA students will be running Playground Games for K-5 students at Stanley Mills Elementary School (one of our nearby feeder schools). They will be doing this during Nutrition Breaks twice per month in March, April, and May. Finally, right after March Break, we will be coordinating the 100 Mile Challenge for students and staff at LASS. The challenge will run for 1 month and will encourage competitors to move in any way and as much as possible (i.e. walking, running, swimming, skateboarding, etc.). Pedometers will be loaned out to help keep track of personal miles. In the end, individual and team winners will be awarded prizes and everyone involved will be invited to attend a celebration breakfast.
At this point in time, it is so exciting to see all of our efforts evolve into fun events that bring our community together and help everyone to be healthier and happier.
Louise Arbour S.S.
Physical Education Teacher
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.
Image: EHA students, Megan, Ravneet, and Sabreena, deliver their Brain Breaks presentation to LASS teachers at our staff meeting on Feb 17, 2016.They nailed it!