March Healthy School Feature | Ophea.net

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March Healthy School Feature

Wednesday, March 30, 2016 - 11:31
Little Falls Public School Students Group Shot

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.

March Featured Healthy School:  

Little Falls Public School

1.   What has your school team identified as your priority health topic for this school year? What inspired you to choose this topic? MENTAL HEALTH

GOAL: We wanted to change the way people think about mental health.

After reviewing our School Climate Survey, we recognized it was important to rethink our focus and build a collaborative, dynamic team, rich in student voice.  We imagined a Vision that supported our beliefs about the importance of Mental Health and Wellness:

With strong Community Partnerships, Little Falls PS will help raise healthy, flourishing and resilient children.”

We are proud of the vision that our team created.  We no longer utilize or focus on ‘bully’; we talk about wellness and provide support for those requiring it through various means. 

2.   How does your school team encourage students and staff to make healthy choices?

Herons Care Wellness Week is just one example of our Leading Mentally Healthy Schools Team’s efforts to promote positive school climate, encouraging students and staff to make healthy choices.  The outline of the week’s events is below:

Day 1- Pink, in honour of the two students in Nova Scotia who took a stand, each day everyone received a different piece of coloured yarn representing wellness concepts

Day 2- Green- to focus on concepts of self-regulation and mindfulness, with our Forest School partners, sit-spot activity to be at one with nature

Day 3- Blue- after viewing “Just breathe” Video, 500+ students collaborated to create a giant human peace symbol following a school wide student led Sun Salutation

Day 4- Purple- Post It Positivity Day Door Decorating!  Focusing on character attributes and powerful, meaningful statements of affirmation, drop everything and mandala!  To demonstrate ways to focus the mind through art and relaxation.

Day 5- Yellow- The Golden Rule, random acts of kindness, just drop everything and dance, playing songs over the PA at random where EVERYONE would stop and dance, school wide movie- “Inside Out”

3.   How has your school team motivated your school community to be healthy, safe and inclusive?

GOAL: To foster realistic and achievable fitness goals in support and development of mental health and wellness, perseverance and resiliency, to create healthy habits for life.

Four of the students on our Leading Mentally Healthy Schools Team were in a class where we wanted to determine student understanding of mental health and wellness.  We created a survey that asked a grade 6 class to consider how they saw themselves, how others saw them, their thoughts on their own fitness and wellness and what did mental health and mental illness mean.  They were asked whether they felt they could run 5k.  We collated the data and together, we set out to achieve our goals of running 5k as well as ‘unpack’ our understanding about mental health and wellness.  This lived experience is one that I can truly say had a profound impact on all of us!  The skills set that can be acquired for taking on a goal such as running 5k, lead to life-long positive habits.  Belief in oneself, empathy and understanding for others, perseverance… and so many more attributes can be developed through this process.  The importance of gathering data was critical.  We look forward to repeating this in the spring and following up with a concluding survey.  The maker of the Couchto5k App, Active.com noticed us on Twitter and asked if we would consider being interviewed.  Student reflection was very powerful.  Our interview will be published on Activekids.com and Active.com!  Our PhysEd instructor has also fashioned an age appropriate Couchto2k program for her primary classes based on her observations of this experience and just how engaged the students were.  

4.   What is one thing you have learned about the value of following the Healthy Schools approach?

A Healthy Schools approach is good for all, mental health and wellness is the foundation that every community should strive for.  Our students are happy, and those that are not, we wrap around them in every possible way.  Our students are a reflection of the amazing staff and supports we have in place for our students and their families.  The culture, climate and sense of wellness in our building and in our community is strong, positive and caring.   Students are beginning to implement mindfulness strategies on their own, breathing techniques are the norm!  It is so exciting to see students of all grade levels practicing yoga in the halls!  Students want to run 5k!!!  I am constantly asked when we are starting up again.  People want to hear our story, we receive positive feedback on Twitter; parents, the community and followers from around the continent are acknowledging tweets that we post depicting the happenings of our daily school life that celebrate wellness and extraordinary learning.  We are proud to be a Forest School, with nature as another link to wellness.  As we have documented our journey using Twitter, we share and celebrate our initiatives and activities.  In recognizing and acknowledging our community, the most incredible things happen.  Very quickly, one can see that our Team has not just created a bunch of ‘add-on’, non-sustainable activities.  We are creating spaces for Wellness in our own community.  We are changing mind sets, we are building collaborative community partnerships, we are passionate in what we believe- that Mental Health and Wellness is important and that we CAN make a difference in the lives of others. 

5.   Do you have any upcoming Healthy School events or links you would like to share?

GOAL: Through community partnership involvement, creating a Wellness Space that is accessible for all. 

Through community partnerships, we are creating a Wellness Space in our library that is open and accessible to any student, staff or community member.  Members of our local hockey team, The St Marys Lincolns, have partnered up with us to support our goal of raising funds to create such a place for Wellness.  The Lincolns attended our LMHST meeting and helped us to coordinate our plans.  They had insight into the stresses they endure as athletes balancing their educations, being billeted and the pressures they feel to perform and achieve in sport.  They visited with students to discuss sports and wellness and the importance of balance and connections to a supportive and caring adult.  Together, we organized a school wide Road Hockey Tournament where the focus was on participation and positivity. Our LMHST members refereed with members of the Lincolns, providing more leadership and positive role modeling.  In turn, Little Falls PS were the Guests of Honour at a Friday night home game where students sang O’ Canada and promoted Mental Health Awareness with our local Health Unit and Hospital.  Our gift- we received half of the profits of all tickets sold!  We envision this space to provide anyone who enters it, with materials to aid in relaxing and calming- for sensory needs, mandalas, colouring and drawing materials, mindfulness activities, music, a fish tank, greenery, music, comfortable seating and beautiful sunlight etc… in order to aid anyone entering, a calm, safe place to self-regulate, to have a place to go to ‘just breathe’.

Kerry Carlyle
VP, Little Falls Public School
Avon Maitland 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.

Image: Our Leading Mentally Healthy Schools Team, receiving an invitation to go see the Toronto Blue Jays as a way to celebrate all of their hard work and achievements in making a difference in our school community. Left to right - Justin (glasses), Thomas, Keegan, Carter, Vice Principal & Chair of LMHST - Kerry Carlyle, Jillian, Garret, Emily, Olivia, Sadie and Kirk. Absent - Lydia