Teachers and students continue to be impacted by the expansion of the Foundations for a Healthy School program. The entire St. Benedict family of schools is now supported and in 2016-17, six schools from the Resurrection family of schools were brought into the fold. Continuation of the program is a top priority. The Ministry of Education has identified five areas for development:
- Curriculum, Teaching & Learning
- School & Classroom Leadership
- Student Engagement
- Social & Physical Environments
- Home, School & Community Partnerships
In February, 2017, classrooms from across the school system participated in the FITGO initiative. The purpose of FITGO is to encourage students to be more active and healthy in their daily practices. Classrooms were challenged to complete the FITGO card (complete a new DPA activity; drink water in school; bring healthy snacks) and tweet pictures of themselves in action. The initiative was a great success.
Additionally, WCDSB has formalized a partnership with the nursing programs at Conestoga College and McMaster University to launch a Healthy Food Skills Cooking program at St. John CES and a Sun Safety program at Holy Rosary CES. 2016-17 also saw the partnership between WCDSB and ROW Public Health & Emergency Services celebrated at two conferences (When Faith Meets Pedagogy and Ontario Healthy Schools) as a model practice for other school boards and public health units.
The partnership between St. Benedict CES and Cambridge Public Library (Idea Exchange) continued to be strengthened as a result of the Foundations for a Healthy Schools project. This was celebrated with a $545,000 grant from the Lyle S. Hallman Foundation to continue expanding the new Heart of the Community hub.
Our focus on active transportation also intensified in 2016-17 via “Walk to School Wednesdays”, held with the support of our partners at Active & Safe Routes to School.
Through our Mental Health and Wellness Strategy, we have been establishing a common strengths-based language and skills-building approach to promoting student wellness and resiliency in all students. Our goal is to embed wellness principles into every aspect of learning and to help students nurture a growth mindset and establish intentional routines that promote positive mental health and coping skills.
We have been equipping staff across WCDSB through the Resiliency Initiative, which moves through the core concepts underpinning strengths-based practice, and establishes the links to relevant practices in the education setting. This learning series will continue to be delivered under the leadership of the school principals through the 2018-19 school year.
Working with our community partners from the Region of Waterloo Healthy Schools division we have also actively engaged community partners to assist schools in establishing foundational conditions that will maximize and sustain the impact of wellness initiatives. On the individual student level, we hope to “level the playing field” by targeting our youngest students (JK-3) to ensure that all students have the language to identify and communicate the feelings of themselves and others. When children can name their feelings they can begin to work on regulating them. Adequate self-regulation skills are critical for students to be “calm, alert and ready to learn.” Our goal is to equip students at the earliest ages with the underlying skills that will act as a protective factor against mental health difficulties and interpersonal problems.
The 2016-17 school year was marked by several notable accomplishments:
- WCDSB was named as the recipient of the 2017 Jordan James Pickell Mental Health Achievement Recognition Award for the board’s outstanding commitment to combatting the stigma associated with mental illness, through the “Elephant in the Room” campaign.
- The successful pilot of the socio-emotional literacy programming in 2016-17 has led to a Board-wide launch for grades JK-3.
- Forty-seven classrooms across the Board received wellness presentations.
- Twenty-seven staff participated in the Lifelong Learning Series Mental Health Certificate workshops — enhancing their capacity to understand and respond effectively to students with mental health concerns.
- Thirty-seven staff and students received SafeTALK suicide alertness training.
- Positive mental health presentations were offered to targeted high school classrooms.