Blog Posts Tagged: healthy schools

Shaping the Future: inspiring children and youth to be healthy learners

by Kathy Cassels

This week our colleagues in Alberta at Ever Active Schools held their 5th annual Shaping the Future Conference.  Like our Healthy Schools Leadership Conference, now in its 8th year, (save the date it will be held Monday May 5th), the conference brings together a wise mix of people considering how best to inspire children and youth to be healthy learners.

The pre-conference session hosted by Alberta’s Healthy School Community Wellness Fund was organized by the stages of the healthy schools process.  In the “create a shared vision” stage, Bill Gordon took the time to remind us why we specifically were participants at the conference.  He suggested it wasn’t because of our depth of knowledge in health but rather because someone acknowledged us as a role model when they saw our passion, love for the work and the laughter and respectful relationships we nurture and maintain. In “determining the priority issues”  Gail Diachuk; Alberta’s Healthy Schools Coordinator brought home the message, it’s not only changes to learning processes but so too a cultural shift in the systems we work in in order to achieve our goal of healthy learners.

Examining assumptions and shifting thinking was a key focus throughout the keynotes and concurrent sessions.  Young Riley Christensen’s keynote started us off when he shared his own artistic impressions of his autistic brain.  His brains ups, downs and swirling around that we don’t see but so often judge and continued when Brenda Herchmer highlighted Five Major Shifts in leadership as we move from Traditional to Community leaders.  They included:

Traditional → Community

Hierarchy → Network

Fixed → Dynamic

Predictable → Emerging

Reform → Transform

Linear → Holistic


Brenda also challenged us to step away from the 50 plus years of buying ourselves out of responsibility and to step into taking ownership for our health, well-being and how we can each make a difference.   In her work with organizations and individuals she sees an emerging sense that people very much want to make a difference and are looking for ways they can contribute. She told us today’s leaders do not look for followers, they create other leaders.

An inspiring session led by Kate Storey from Healthy Schools, Healthy Futures was about their next steps for their work being focused on  reflective practice.  She told us it’s one thing for schools to have an action plan but, how is it going? Their research questions included:

  • What progress have schools made on their school action plans?
  • What have they learned while implementing their action plan? and,
  • What new insights and learnings have been incorporated into the next version of their action plan?

As the conference came to a close, a presentation by Dr. Phil McRae asked us to consider “How we will create our preferred future?”  Especially as technology rapidly shifts and blurs the online – offline reality that we live in today, when the ringer on the smart phone is turned off but is always connected to the internet.  He shared information from Media Smarts‘ recently released report – Life Online: Canadian students are more connected, more mobile and more social than ever.  The report found more children than ever at earlier ages are connected with fewer parental guidelines and/or oversight.  He offered 4 key areas for a child’s healthy brain and overall development:

  • positive human interactions
  • actively  connecting to the physical environment
  • Free play, and
  • opportunities for creative problem solving

As I packed myself up to come home, I took another look at the beautiful natural environment that we had been learning in with plenty of time to connect with others and nurture our own health and wellness in outside spaces for walking, running, ice skating, cross country skiing to name a few, I was struck how the conference addressed so apply coined by Phil McRae “a preferred future”.   Yes there is much to do, many journeys to travel but connecting it all a strong moral purpose, the healthy development of our children, families and communities.

Meet DASH’s newest team member: Alicia

This September, I was faced with a dilemma that haunts so many recent post-secondary school graduates; what now? Where do I go from here? How do I make an impact? Will I even get to do what I want to do?

Having a degree in nutritional sciences, health has always been on my mind. Through internships and summer jobs, I’ve learned that it is not just about healthy eating, but also about a healthy lifestyle. In all of these past experiences, I have worked closely with children, but found that, although fulfilling, a fully hands-on approach with children all the time was not exactly what I was looking for. So I found myself asking, how could I impact the lives of children and create better futures for them, but in a more behind the scenes way?

So that’s how I ended up at DASH, which provides me with the perfect balance. It’s working for to promote healthy schools at a higher level, but still being able to fully see the impact you make. For example, iWalk has been in the works for the past couple of months and now that it’s here, we are able to go visit the schools and participate in the festivities! Being able to see your plans in action always brings an overwhelming amount of joy and fulfillment and schools tend to give me a happy and nostalgic feeling that I cannot seem get anywhere else.

The past few weeks have been wonderful. I really didn’t know what to expect when stepping into this role as Project Assistant. My favourite aspect so far is being able to have a part in all the amazing projects and programs happening around the office, such as iWalk and the After School Sport and Arts Initiative. The ever changing projects keeps me on my toes, I don’t think I will ever be bored! The culture at DASH is also great, everyone seems to work hard and work passionately, but still find time for the small things like taking a meeting outside on a nice day or reading everyone’s horoscope on a Friday. DASH is definitely unique and I’m very glad that my first out-of-university experience begins here. I’ve found my place and now the only question is; where will DASH take me?

Meet Rebecca, DASH’s new Community Engagement Liaison!

It’s June and in 16 communities around BC, elementary schools are wrapping up their after school programming as part of the After School Sport and Arts Initiative.  The initiative, funded by the BC Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development, provides free programming for kids who haven’t had the chance to participate in after school activities in the past.  As DASH’s new Community Engagement Liaison for this Initiative, I have had the privilege over the past few weeks of learning about all of the amazing activities kids have taken part in this year in communities all over BC, from New Hazelton to Grand Forks to Victoria.  Programs have included soccer, mural painting, snowshoeing, gymnastics, Bollywood dance, Aikido, basket weaving, wheelchair basketball, and more.  The activities follow the interest of the kids and represent the variety in geography and culture of the communities involved.

I was also lucky to attend the Surrey Jumpstart Academy’s end-of-year celebration, where students from 25 elementary schools came together for a fun event.  Gathered at the field at North Surrey Secondary School, the kids rotated through activity stations with relay races, soccer, karate, and creation of a mixed-media mural.

I am thrilled to join this initiative and support programming going forward into the 2013-2014 school year.  My job will involve: supporting communities in the planning and implementation of their programs, facilitating partnerships with community-based and provincial sport clubs and organizations, and exploring the outcomes of the program.  Beyond the benefits of increased physical activity, physical literacy, and creative expression for the kids, there are other impacts we are seeing as part of this initiative.  Kids are excited about the program, gaining confidence in their abilities, and feeling more connected to their schools.

My internship with DASH!

by Alex Inman

Like many university students experience, I was having a lot of questions about my future career path and studies during my last semester at UBC. Fortunately, I enrolled in a Career Development Course run through the Faculty of Land & Food Systems at UBC. As part of this course, I completed a 3-month, 180 hour voluntary internship with DASH BC.

While undergoing my internship at DASH BC, I was able to gain the skills and experience necessary for entry level positions in the health, education and non-profit fields for after graduation. This experience has been invaluable in improving my interpersonal professional, communication skills and team skills in order to accomplish tasks on a deadline.

As part of my internship, I was a part of the DASH team that put together the 2013 Afterschool Sport & Art Initiative (ASSI) Community Forum on February 28th– March 1st at the Delta Vancouver Airport Hotel. My role was coordinating logistics of getting all Forum participants from around the province to be able to attend the Forum, supporting the execution of Forum workshops and discussions as well as facilitating timely reimbursements to participants for any costs incurred. Hearing about all of the great programming that is happening around the provinces, including in some very remote communities, to encourage children to engage in afterschool programming for sport and art was very inspiring. This was an opportunity to see tangible, grassroots work that will help to improve the health and lives of the schoolchildren of our province.

Supplemental to my work with the 2013 ASSI Forum, I supported Ryan Mackey in updating and maintaining both the Healthy Schools BC web portal and the monthly newsletter. Working on writing articles and editing the newsletter submissions helped to improve my written communication skills as I grew to understand the target audience for the newsletter. I have become comfortable working in an HTML-based environment maintaining and updating the Healthy Schools BC web portal with news/updates, new programs and helping users of the portal to troubleshoot their registration and editing their own programs. This experience was invaluable in learning all of the different programs and initiatives that are out there to support healthy schools in BC!

All in all, it is hard to sum up my experience interning at DASH BC. I really enjoyed my time working with everyone on the DASH team and meeting lots of new people working to help make BC schools a healthier place to learn.  I have learned so much in so little time that will help me to be successful in the future.

Coming together to create a healthy future for our children

On Monday, May 6, 2013 we hosted our 7th Annual Healthy Schools Leadership Symposium at the SFU Harbour Centre in downtown Vancouver – and what an amazing day it was!   Over 115 stakeholders from around the province who are all  committed to creating healthier schools and healthier learners attended the event.

The day kicked off with an incredibly passionate and moving address from the Vancouver City Manager, Dr. Penny Ballem, who spoke about the importance of leadership and honesty when working together to create healthy schools.  Her message was loud and clear:  at the end of the day we all have the same end goal in mind – to create a healthy future for our children – and that we all have to put aside our personal, professional, and political differences in order to work together for the sake of all BC’s children.  The Symposium was also a great opportunity to showcase of some of the amazing work that has been taking place across the province in the area of healthy schools (for example the Healthy Schools Network, the After School Sports Initiative, and the G.O. Days program).  Just before lunch, BC’s first ever Healthy Living Youth Council shared some of their incredible work through an engaging and interactive poster session – such inspiring students!

After a fantastic lunch (which included a walk to the Olympic Cauldron), we all refocused to listen to Paige Fisher and Guy Le Masurier speak to how we can use different types of data (e.g., numbers and stories) to assess and provide evidence to the incredible work we are all doing.  The theme of the day was “working together to create healthy schools,” and the content and the structure of the day allowed participants to do just this.  The participants learned together, shared their stories and experiences, and connected on how they can best work together moving forward.  All in all the day was a huge success, and none of it could have been accomplished without the passion and commitment of all the attendees!



Why healthy schools? What does it mean to be a healthy school?

All students deserve to have the opportunity to be physically, mentally, and socially healthy and to learn in an environment that enables them to reach their full potential. The school setting is the ideal place to start and to make that connection. Healthy students are better learners.

Two weeks ago, People for Education, an independent organization working to support public education in Ontario’s schools, released a report that discussed the importance of healthy schools and the province’s plan for building healthy schools. In the days that followed the release of this report, the topic of healthy schools was featured on several newsfeeds.

What is a healthy school though? When most people hear the term “healthy school”, the first things that usually come to mind are healthy eating and physical activity programs. That’s fair, as in the past there has been a big push on getting healthier foods into school cafeterias and vending machines, and ensuring that all students participate in a certain amount of physical activity each day. That’s usually the healthy school news that we hear.

But there is so much more happening! Just as BC’s Minister of Education said in his message addressing the province’s Education Plan, “It’s an exciting time for change, and that change is putting students at the center of their own education. We need to create new learning environments for students to allow them to discover, embrace and to fulfill their passions. Before us, lies a tremendous opportunity. By working together, we can take what is a good education system and make it great!”

Things are changing, and it is becoming apparent that a healthy school is no longer only about healthy eating and physical activity; creating a healthy school is about working together, going beyond the classroom and school walls, and involving the broader school community. A healthy school is organized so that students are supported to be physically, mentally and socially healthy to enable them to acquire the skills and knowledge needed to achieve life-long success.

There is a new movement occurring, the healthy schools movement, and DASH and our partners (including the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Education, and other key stakeholders in the school community) are leading the way in BC. The healthy schools movement supports the BC Education Plan.

Please follow our new blog for discussion on the importance of healthy schools, and to learn practical ways that you can make a difference – today, tomorrow, and in the futures of students in BC – by starting small and becoming a part of the movement.