Spring is in the air and on playgrounds throughout the province, the air rings with the laughter of children at play. The rhythmic calls keep time to the slap of the jump rope as the next skipper jumps in for her turn. Rubber bands are collected and knotted to make the flexible bands for Chinese skipping and teams are chosen-up for rollicking games of tag. Sound like a step back in time? Not at A.B. Greenwell Elementary, where the Action Schools B.C.’s trainer is helping kids find new and old ways to play.
“It’s all about creating opportunities for children to be more active,” said Action Schools B.C. trainer, Jamie Covey. “We have programs and ideas that get kids back out and moving around and they’re easy to implement and really fun!”
Action Schools B.C. is a province wide program funded by the provincial government whose mandate is “to provide more opportunities for more children to make healthy choices more often.” It helps schools and communities learn how to provide and implement healthier choices in nutrition, activity and daily habits. Trainers work, not only with teachers and administrators, but also with the kids themselves where they train older children to mentor and guide the younger ones.
“We’re working with the Grade 5s today and teaching them games and activities. They become our student leaders,” Covey explained. “They take what they’ve learned and teach it to the younger children.”
The student leaders learn a variety of games and activities that incorporate everything from healthy eating, to sports, to school spirit. They become the foot soldiers in a movement that hopes to address the current crisis in the health of Canadian children. A 2012 report card on Canadian children and youth, found that less than 25 per cent eat the recommended five or more daily servings of fruits and vegetables and a staggering 93 per cent did not meet Canadian physical activity guidelines. A healthy eating pilot project proved that the program worked to change the pattern of fruit and vegetable consumption in kids in Grades 4 to 7.
“The older children learn what it’s like to be a leader,” said Covey. “When the little kids say that there’s nothing to do, the older kids have a chance to show leadership and implement games and activities.”
The program is all encompassing, not just relying on sunny days outside for kids to be active. Teachers and students learn activities that can be integrated into daily routines in the classroom.
“We have things going on in class and it definitely gets them more active at recess and lunch time,” said A.B. Greenwell Grade 3, 4, 5 teacher, Debbie Martel.
Participating schools receive equipment bins that teachers and students are taught to use hands-on.
“It’s great because they’ve got the equipment right there so they can implement it right away,” said Covey.
Covey has been an Action Schools B.C. trainer for seven years and has worked in schools and communities all over Vancouver Island.
It’s so neat to experience the diversity of all kinds of communities,” said Covey. “And the kids just love it.”