Local schools study health and education link

District health promotion coordinator Christine Balfour explained some of the ways in which health and education are interdependent

Good health is tied to learning well in the classroom, and the Vernon School District has a number of initiatives in place to insure optimum learning for students.

At a recent district board meeting, district health promotion coordinator Christine Balfour explained some of the ways in which health and education are interdependent.

“Healthy students are better learners, and better-educated individuals are healthier,” said Balfour, who also teaches nursing  at UBCO.

The Health Promoting Schools program provides a framework for those teachers who have joined their school’s Health Promoting Committee, but are unsure of how to begin the work towards a healthier school.

The Interior Health-funded project takes a four-pillar approach to comprehensive school health, incorporating social and physical environment; teaching and learning; partnerships and services; healthy school policy.

“It’s allowing us to look at health from lots of different angles,” said Balfour.

She said comprehensive school health is not just what happens in the classroom, but encompasses the whole school environment with actions addressing four distinct but inter-related pillars that provide a strong foundation for comprehensive school health.

“When actions in all four pillars are harmonized, students are supported to realize their full potential as learners, and as healthy, productive members of society.”

Last year, inquiry-based learning was introduced, where students are brought together, with a teacher’s support, to look at the four pillars and to ask questions.

“It’s asking a question and figuring it out, and I can provide them with a $500 grant to help them answer that question. Because it’s student-driven, it’s very meaningful.”

Some of the projects that came out of those discussions include a garden at Beairsto, healthy eating at JW Inglis, gardens at Okanagan Landing and Ellison, and a water project at Fulton.

“Beairsto had a fabulous garden, and a wonderful parent who really helped them with the program.

“At Inglis, the students did things like trying different foods such as a kiwi or freezing grapes to see what they taste like. At Fulton, they have gone from drinking from a water fountain to filling their bottles at a station. So this is all inquiry-based learning.”

Unplug & Play is another project that proved to be a success, thanks to collaboration with the Optimists Club.

“They really took it and ran with it and they sourced out all of these activities kids could do for free at very low cost, so kids were encouraged to try different activities, such as yoga.

“And it was about being screen smart, making kids aware of how much time they are spending in front of a screen.”

Balfour said the Health Promoting Schools program has succeeded thanks to the many partnerships, such as Action Schools, Junction Literacy, UBCO nursing students, PacificSport and the Boys and Girls Club.