A city of healthy schools
Fort McMurray is a healthy city, and it starts in the elementary schools. Since 2011, schools began taking part in a health promotion program called APPLE Schools, working with the organization to make the healthy choice an easy choice for students.
APPLE Schools works with 70 schools across four provinces helping each one to develop its own vision and plan for a healthy school community, and providing supports to make it a reality. The program is proven to improve physical activity, healthy eating, and mental health habits.
Fort McMurray schools have experienced a healthy transformation occur through creative initiatives that became part of the fabric of their communities.
Several ingredients need to be in place for schools to be successful; three of them are: dedicated health champions, engaging student leaders, and creating healthy physical environments.
Dedicated health champions
Every APPLE school relies on an enthusiastic leader to rally people and spearhead healthy initiatives in schools – the school health champion (SHC).
This is usually a teacher in the school who makes sure everyone feels empowered to play a role in the process.
Mandy Dumais is a teacher and SHC at St. Paul School. She said that SHCs are the beacons in the schools.
“Staff and students look toward us for guidance regarding health and wellness and are even motivated to connect those ideas to curricular connections in the classroom. In the past 10 years, health champions in APPLE schools have helped to normalize what was once a formal concept and change it into, "It's just what we do."
She notes that a big part of a SHCs role is to ensure all practices being put into place are sustainable: “You want to walk away from the position and know that all the great initiatives started will continue.”
Students lead the way
APPLE schools empower students to be the change. Most of them have student-led committees called APPLE Core Committees who plan and facilitate healthy activities for the school.
Since opening in 2014, Walter and Gladys School has had an APPLE Core Committee to help fulfill their mission of “happy, healthy students making nutritious decisions while being physically active. ¨
David Hurley, a teacher and SHC at the school said, “our students love being involved in the committee because they know their voices will be heard and their opinion valued.”
He also added, "every year, dozens of students volunteer in some capacity to be a part of the committee. It really is a student-led club that the volunteer teachers simply help to facilitate. Our student leaders know they can make a difference and they love being a positive influence on our school community.”
Don´t walk in the hallways
Physical environments play a major role in shaping healthy behaviour.
One such example is Don´t Walk in the Hallways -- simple, colourful tiles created by Ever Active Schools that transform a passive environment into an active one by prompting students to skip, hop, and jump across patterns.
Christina Gordon Public School was able to dress every hallway floor in the school and had students assist in the layout and creating activities.
“Our students now have the opportunity to be active in a space that normally doesn’t allow it. These simple floor stickers have turned our hallways into activity permissive environments, empowering and encouraging students, staff, even families to be more creative and active while moving through the school,” said Erin Andrews, a teacher and SHC at Christina Gordon.
She noted that you´ll often catch the adults in the act, too.
Fort McMurray does it well
These are three of several ingredients, that help to form a culture where wellness is embedded into day-to-day activities, and Fort McMurray schools lead the way in healthy schools across Alberta.
“At Westview, we are a proud APPLE school. Students and staff have embraced the program and it has become part of our school culture.” -- Healther Redfurn, teacher and SHC, Westview School.
APPLE Schools is a charitable foundation funded by The Public Health Agency of Canada, Allan Markin, Inter Pipeline, Canadian Natural, Joyce Family Foundation, HDF Insurance, and Bouchier Group. Local supporters include: A.P.E Maintenance, C.P. Services Ltd., Hines Health Services, Printing Unlimited, Sultan Management Group, Rogers Insurance Ltd., Finning Canada, Teck Resources Limited, CEDA International Corporation, and Inner City Diesel Ltd. APPLE Schools is currently seeking funding to continue supports to the Wood Buffalo area to ensure supports to schools next year. To donate or learn more, visit appleschools.ca.