Palsson Elementary School’s recent Activity Before Learning (ABL) pilot program proved to be popular with students and staff alike, and now principal Jan Bradley is hoping that enthusiasm will carry over to report cards and attendance records when the full program, planned for September, starts.
The ABL pilot program included 20 minutes of exercise and a healthy snack for all students before their classes began and ran three days a week during the last three weeks of classes. Each teacher designed their own activites for Wednesdays and Fridays, which included dancing, using exercise videos and an obstacle course. Classes cycled activities each day, giving each student an opportunity to try each activity. On Mondays, each class met in the gym for a school-wide aerobics class.
“Our PA system can broadcast outside, so we would play music to the kids outside. Some of the kids would be dancing as they walked to class,” Bradley said. “The kids loved it and the staff loved it — even some parents joined in. It was a fun way to start the day.”
Bradley said that due to the short run of the pilot program, they weren’t able to study what kind of effect the program would have on students’ academic performance or attendance, though she’s looking forward to seeing what kind of improvements the full program will have if they are able to bring it back in September.
Though educational initiatives are funded by the province, Bradley explained that the program is not mandated by the Ministry of Education, so Palsson was required to look elsewhere for funding. The Town of Lake Cowichan and Island Savings both stepped forward with donations of $300 and $200, respectively, which paid for fresh fruit. Though Palsson hasn’t secured funding for a full program, Bradley said the school is hoping to pursue an Island Savings grant, and she’s confident that town councillor Tim McGonigle will help them acquire funding from the town, seeing as he was “instrumental” in getting the pilot program funded.
“[The ABL Program] fits well into our school’s literacy goals, and we’re always looking for ways to increase student achievement,” Bradley told the Gazette in May. “If children come to school hungry, they can’t concentrate in the same way. It’s also good to get kids into a healthy lifestyle as well. It’s a win-win.”
Bradley said that the program would only cost $25 to 30 per week. If Palsson is able to launch a full program in September, it will run each day of the week.