Community Papers

Webster part of provincial physical activity plan

Webster Elementary School students hit the playground for half an hour before digging into their lunches. Teachers find the “Play First, Eat Later” motto helps students build up an appetite.  - Valerie Rossi
Webster Elementary School students hit the playground for half an hour before digging into their lunches. Teachers find the “Play First, Eat Later” motto helps students build up an appetite.
— image credit: Valerie Rossi

It's never too early to have a dance party, according to Webster Elementary School teachers.

Grade 6/7 teaching partners D.J. Wert and Leah Riemer have implemented school-wide daily physical activity every Wednesday morning at about 8:30 a.m. Right now, grades 6 and 7 students are leading their peers in a dance program in the gym but once the wet weather dries up, the elementary school kids will start their day with a walk/run around Haley Park's track.

The teacher team is dedicated to increasing physical activity and healthy choices all while encouraging the older students to lead primary kids. Since 2007, the Warfield school has taken part in Action Schools! BC, a free provincial program designed to assist elementary and middle schools in creating and implementing individualized action plans to promote healthy living while achieving academic outcomes and supporting comprehensive school health.

“We just think that Webster students are great and there is never too many chances to develop leadership at this age because they are so willing and so excited,” said Riemer. “I think that kids who are active and healthy kids are overall just more happy with themselves and more ready to learn.”

With help from retired teacher Marion Hunter, an Action Schools! BC regional trainer, Webster has provided leadership training to its older kids. With suggestions from the program,  the teaching team has introduced changes such as school-wide daily physical activity and its play first, eat second motto.

“Traditionally we've always eaten lunch first and then gone out to play but now we've reversed that so that the kids are more hungry when it's time to eat,” explained Riemer.

Webster has also gone from having two 45-minute PE classes a week to one class every day for half an hour. Of the five morning classes, two are self-guided and designed circuit training classes.

“We've noticed there is direct correlation between getting going and getting active right away, rather than getting active later on in the day and found that it readies their brains,” said Riemer.

Variety is also key to encouraging play, she said, adding that the school has purchased new gear like mini (hockey) sticks and held outdoor activity workshops such as hopscotch and four squares.

“I think across Canada everyone is really concerned about the activity level of our kids and we wanted to have activities where kids could set their own personal goals,” added Riemer.

Webster is also involved in the BC School Fruit and Vegetable Nutritional Program and a healthy breakfast program that provides nutritious food for students. These along with Action Schools! BC healthy eating activities and resources, and having a play-first lunch, have led students to eat more vegetables and fruit and try new foods.

This school year, Webster is the only School District 20 facility to take advantage of a training workshop, according to the provincial program's website (www.actionschoolsbc.ca).  But in 2012, Fruitvale Elementary, the former MacLean Elementary and Robson Community School participated.

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