Kids are full of energy, always moving, and that is a good thing.
Physical activity not only improves physical health and reduces risk of disease, regular exercise helps students concentrate in school, sleep more soundly, avoid harmful habits, and develop confidence, all proven through research. With that in mind, South Slave schools have begun implementing physical activities that go beyond the typical gym period and recess breaks.
In most classrooms, students are no longer required to sit still, straight, and silent. Some of our classrooms have chairs that swivel or rock back and forth, tall desks that allow students to stand, stationary pedals under desks to combat restlessness and so on. Many teachers lead “body breaks” when students start to fidget, where they stand up and stretch to improve concentration before resuming their lessons.
At Deninu School in Fort Resolution the entire community has come together to ensure that the school’s gymnasium remains open for the students until it’s time for everyone to head home – often not until ten or eleven o’clock at night. Community leaders monitor the gym as different age groups utilize the space for games of pick-up intramurals, or practicing their basketball and soccer skills for hours on end. The fun doesn’t stop on the weekend though, as the gym is open again on Saturday evenings. In addition, teachers volunteer to lead cross-country skiing treks every Sunday morning.
In the ?utsel K’e Dene School, volunteers and staff lead weekly nature walks so students can check rabbit snares. When the weather is nice, students are eager to go cross-country skiing and even when the weather is less than favourable, they still head out on their snowshoes three times a week after school to practice for 5 km snowshoe races.
Chief Sunrise Education Centre in K’at?odeeche is currently participating in a pilot project, where a physical literacy coordinator works with all of the students on fundamental movement skills and strength and stability training. The goal of the program is overall physical fitness, as opposed to traditional sport-based programming.
For some time the older students in both Fort Smith and Hay River high schools have had well-equipped and well-used fitness rooms that stay open after school. Extracurricular sports teams at the schools offer students a chance to compete across the NWT and in the Arctic Winter Games. At Paul W. Kaeser High School in Fort Smith for example, junior high students have each identified fitness goals and are active in the fitness room every morning.
For the younger grades, Princess Alexandra School and Harry Camsell School in Hay River rotate a schedule of activities at lunch and after school, giving students extra time to play dodge ball, soccer, volleyball and basketball. Students average an additional extra three hours of physical activity per week thanks to these programs. At Joseph B. Tyrrell Elementary School in Fort Smith, the Student Leadership Team dedicates some of their recess breaks to leading a variety of “hands off” games which integrate activity and positive behaviours for their younger peers. The JBT Student Leadership Team should also be commended for organizing occasional cupcake sales, which tend to get everyone in the school running to the canteen!
We want our schools to be places where the positive cycle of healthy, active living can begin. Active students are healthy students, which leads to healthy families and healthy communities.
We wish all of our student athletes the best of luck at the Arctic Winter Games!
Dr. Curtis Brown is the superintendent and Sarah Pruys is the public affairs coordinator of the South Slave Divisional Education Council.