January Feature Healthy School: General Crerar Public School
We are excited to have 317 registered Healthy Schools, representing 50 Ontario school boards across the province for Ophea’s Healthy Schools Certification 2019/20 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. General Crerar PS is our January Feature Healthy School. We caught up with teacher Vicky Mercier to learn about their experiences with Healthy Schools Certification. Check out our Q&A!
1. How does your Healthy Schools Team reflect your school community (e.g.: who is represented on the team, why is it important to have different groups of people represented)? What do these different members bring to the team?
Our Healthy Action Team (HAT) is comprised of 33 peer leaders from grades 6 to 8. We have two staff members, a community organizer, and a Toronto Public Health nurse. Half of our team members participated in our Health Schools Certification last year and bring their successful experience and leadership to our group. Our team doubled in size from last year due to our Gold certification in 2019. Many of our team members are also Eco Warriors and their advisor is the second teacher on our team. We collaborate and plan activities with them and support each other’s goals. Our collaboration with Toronto Public Health provides health expertise, resources and weekly organizational support. Sara Ford-Stevens, our community organizer, gives her enthusiastic support and encouragement providing us with a parents’ point of view and planning skills. She has made our group feel connected to the greater community, especially around advocating for people with special needs. We are very excited to have such a diverse and active Health Action Team.
2. What is your Healthy Schools priority health topic? What needs are you hoping to address in your school community through this health topic?
Our goal this year is to promote Mental Health. We made this decision based on surveys we conducted at the beginning of the school year to determine the opinions of our junior and intermediate student population. We hope to promote awareness of mental health, increased positivity, awareness of where to get access to mental health resources and where to go for help. We want to help students increase their resiliency in facing life’s challenges.
3. What is an activity you are planning or have planned this year? What difference will/did this activity make?
We are starting our plan of action by promoting the national BELL Let’s Talk event on Wednesday, January 29th. We are creating announcements and posters promoting the event as well as going into classrooms to present key mental health messages. HAT is hoping to have a direct impact by creating opportunities for real discussions about mental health in the classrooms. We are also collaborating with our Eco Warriors to promote and participate in Winter Walk Day on Feb 5th organized by Ontario Active School Travel to raise awareness of the link between good mental health, exercise, and connection to nature and community. We successfully led a Winter Walk Day last year and we’re creating a tradition of collaboration with our Eco Warriors to promote health and eco-friendly initiatives.
4. Tell us about a success, no matter how big or small, that your Healthy Schools team has had this year. Who was involved? What changed in your school?
Last year, our team achieved Gold certification and we feel the impact of that success by the number of students who wanted to join our team this year and make their voice heard. Our group has doubled from 15 to over 30 student leaders. This is a huge success for us because we have a more diverse group of students who want to participate and make positive change in our school, bringing their ideas and enthusiasm. We also were able to organize a Health Action Team survey asking our junior and intermediate to share their opinions about which health topics were the most important to them. This survey garnered over 200 responses from our students. Our leaders were excited by the positive, helpful responses which were key to guiding their decision about our choice of health topic this year. Creating a survey is a real-life math skill that our leaders were excited to conduct and collect data from for our team.
5. How have students shown leadership within your school community as a result of Healthy Schools Certification?
Our student HAT leaders have learned that goal-setting, planning, and teamwork will create positive change in our school. They have organized workshops, poster campaigns, school announcements, and whole-school activities and assemblies as a result of Healthy Schools Certification. Students feel empowered and they are more confident in their skills as leaders and change-makers.
6. Why is being a Healthy School important to you and your school community?
Being a Healthy School is important to us because it brings a broad range of school and community leaders together to work toward creating a caring, safe, and healthy community for everyone. We love working together and creating a plan of action where students are developing their leadership skills, finding their voice, and learning what’s important to them to then see the success of their hard work. We are proud to be creating a school culture of leadership and empathy.
Vicky Mercier @madame_vicky
Teacher and HAT rep, General Crerar P.S.