Several teachers at schools in the municipality registered to take part in the ParticipACTION Community Better Challenge this month. They saw it as a way to motivate their students and to get them involved in helping the community.
“It is coming at a great time for us, as we are just completing our Kids Run Ottawa Challenge, and we want to keep our students moving!” says Laura Oliver, the principal at Oxford-on-Rideau Elementary School.
The school kicked off its effort in the ParticipACTION challenge by having a whole-school, online workout on June 1st right after its remote morning announcements. The school, located in Oxford Mills, has 70 students. Teachers are planning other events for their classes and some for the whole school to participate in remotely as ways to earn minutes for the municipality.
“It is so important to keep our students active right now, especially to counterbalance the screen time,” says Oliver. “The students at Oxford have been doing a great job of learning synchronously and staying connected, so getting (them) up and moving around is imperative.”
Students at Kemptville Public School are also participating in online workouts led by enthusiastic teachers. Robert Matheson, one of the school’s physical education teachers, runs online workouts for three or four classes a day. He has cleared out a classroom at the school to allow him to lead his students during 40-minute sessions.
“It is awesome to see them working out with me,” Matheson says. “Some of them are having their siblings, parents or grandparents join in our workouts. That’s a great thing to see.”
“This challenge is a great way for families to bond. We know that children are more likely to be active if they see their parents lead an active lifestyle. This is a way for the kids to kind of lead the way.”
Not all of the students at KPS are participating in online classes. Some of them are submitting activity logs to their teachers. The teachers are then logging the minutes into the ParticipACTION website. Active minutes can come from riding a bike through the neighbourhood, playing at the Riverside skate park, walking the dog, or vacuuming the house. It is open to anyone and people can register online or download the app to join in.
Michael Lalonde, a physical education teacher at Académie Catholique Notre-Dame is asking his students to set a weekly goal and try to reach it. He will then log their minutes for them. “The challenge will complement the physical education classes and will add an opportunity for the students to set personal goals throughout the month which will motivate them to be active,” says Lalonde.
There are 200 students at Notre-Dame, which is located on the Kemptville Campus. Lalonde is also hoping to run a virtual day dedicated to promoting an active lifestyle with a variety of different activities throughout the day. He believes there are so many benefits for his students to gain by being active.
“Studies have shown that being active has many benefits - improving mood, self-esteem and concentration are just a few - which can also improve academic performance,” says Lalonde. “It's also my hope that creating an active lifestyle at an early age will give the students the tools to continue living a healthy lifestyle throughout their life.”
Selina Parnell, a physical education teacher at Holy Cross Catholic School, is also using participating in the challenge as a way to motivate her students. She also sees it as an educational tool and a way to build community.
“We know it's important to be active but sometimes that's easier said than done,” says Parnell. “By giving students a tangible goal, something concrete to work towards and get excited about, they may be more motivated to be active each and every day.”
“By participating in ParticipACTION, they may be more likely to go for that walk, bounce on their trampoline, do some yoga, or go play a sport,” she adds. “This event also creates a sense of community at a time when we need exactly that. After 15-plus months of living with COVID restrictions, it's exciting to participate in a community event again.”
There are 474 students at the elementary school located on Clothier St. Normally in June; the school’s teacher would be running a whole-school track and field meet and other kinds of special activity days. The Community Better Challenge offers a different way to get students active even when they cannot be in school together.
“With the pivot to online learning, our students are sitting in front of a screen more than ever,” says Parnell. “Daily movement, exercise, and fresh air have endless benefits for our bodies and minds. By Participating in ParticipACTION, students will be motivated to be more active, and happier and healthier overall.”
The 185 students at École publique Rivière-Rideau are also having their active school-time minutes logged for them. Students are getting credit for minutes spent being active in virtual physical education classes and when they are active for école de la nature (outdoor education class). Teachers are calculating the minutes and submitting them to parent volunteer, Andrew Sparling, to log the time into the website.
“We thought this was a fantastic opportunity to do two things for the kids still stuck at home,” says Sparling, who has two sons at the school. “Give them a focus on participation and our region’s efforts in friendly competition with surrounding communities. As well as allowing them to use the exercise they do in school and see something for their effort.”
Participating in the challenge will look a little different at Madison Montessori. At least there, some of the school’s students can get involved in person. School-aged children are not allowed in the building under the province’s COVID restrictions, but 162 pre-school aged students (aged 1-6) are allowed to attend. A normal day at Madison Montessori involves a lot of physical activity, but current restrictions have meant adjustments were needed.
“This has pushed us to be more creative!” says April Hughes, the school’s director. “We have been doing yoga, obstacle courses, and races and will be hosting a school-wide dance party soon!”
“We think it is important for us to be involved because it allows our children to be cautious about being more active and also doing something that benefits the community!” adds Hughes.
KPS teacher Robert Matheson, who is a member of North Grenville’s Health, Wellness, and Fitness Advisory Committee, has been helping support the other schools’ involvement in the challenge. He has shared ways for them to log minutes and how to host online events.
“I think getting the schools on board with this challenge, gives us (North Grenville) a chance to finish at or near the top of the leaderboard,” Matheson says. “It definitely shows the people at ParticipACTION that the people of this community, including the children, believe in the benefits of being active.”
The Community Better Challenge runs throughout the month of June. There is still time to join in and help North Grenville win. Visit www.northgrenville.ca/GetActive for more information on how to get involved.
Photo: Robert Matheson, a PE teacher at Kemptville Public School, leads students in an online workout. He is logging his students’ minutes for the Community Better Challenge.