Monday, 28 October 2013

Winter Weather or Not: Dressing for Winter

The first snow of the winter fell Saturday. While many of us are hoping that warmer weather will return and extend to at least Halloween, the cold hard fact is that winter is coming. Staff and students will need to make the necessary adjustments and dress for the cold. Those of us who remain active outside all year round know the adage "There's no bad weather, just bad clothing".  In winter, dressing for success means making good clothing choices, dressing in layers and being prepared.

Active Kids Club recommends keeping activity levels in mind when dressing for winter. This choice is especially important when one considers that school children may have multiple environments to deal with. Waiting for the bus is an entirely different climate zone from riding in an enclosed space with dozens of other students for an extended period of time. Then, depending on the age of the student, they may re-enter the cold for a period of playground activity prior to settling in for a days learning.

Layers are the key. Think three - inner - middle and outer. The inner layer needs to keep students warm but be able to breathe and wick moisture away from the skin. Cotton is a poor choice as once it gets wet, it stays wet, and there are few things less comfortable than sitting in wet clothes for much of the day. The middle layer should be warm and insulating and suitable for a variety of activities. The outer layer needs to be wind proof and water resistant, easy to remove and able breathe to allow for the escape of sweat and water vapour.

Heads and hands require particular attention. According to a toque is more than just a Canadian fashion statement, it can help regulate body temperature. Ear flaps can be particularly helpful. Mittens work best for keeping fingers warm, but even a cheap pair of stretchy gloves can protect small hands from icy conditions.

Its still early in the season, so the debate over snowsuits or splash pants can probably wait but its never too early to invest in a good pair of boots. What a student might give up in cool is definitely more than made up for by having warm feet. Last year winter set in early and hung on late. While the white stuff may be coming later this year, being prepared for the weather is always a good idea.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Daffodils in October

Last week the local coordinator for the Canadian Cancer Society's Daffodil campaign wrote to SD 60 with an appeal for help. Normally, the Daffodil campaign takes place in April, so getting a letter asking for help in October is, at the very least, being extremely proactive. In the past. the BC Cancer Society has taken bunches of freshly cut daffodils to seniors residing at the care home. This practice has been brought to a close, as our new hospital has a strict no scent policy in order to avoid allergic reactions. Freshly cut flowers, while lovely to look at, definitely give off scent.  The society's request was that perhaps some of the district's primary students could create paper flowers to be given to seniors in place of the fresh flowers.

I'm happy to report that once this request was passed on to schools it quickly became a case of 'Challenge Accepted!"  So far three schools have taken on the task, and I'm confident I'll be hearing from others this week.  Despite the six month time gap between when the flowers will be needed, staff and students have eagerly recognized the opportunity for inter-generational interaction. Inter-generational programs are well known for having many benefits for both younger and older generations that participate. lists some of these benefits as ending age segregation of amongst generations and allowing youth opportunities for service learning. For years our district's achievement contract has included the goal of improving social responsibility in our community's members and inter-generational activities are one of the ways we work towards achieving that goal. 

Its perhaps fitting that October is the time when real daffodils need to be planted so that they will be abundant in the spring. Growing socially responsible students is a bit like tending a garden too. We've often said that we want to help our students grow to become persons who are both amongst the best in, AND FOR the world. The willingness of SD 60 staff and students to take on the daffodil challenge demonstrates that we are well on the way down that path.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Triple Threat Program Scores For Literacy

It is said that good things happen in threes. Horse racing has its "Triple Crown" - a champion who can win the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes. Baseball's triple crown is a player who tops the league in homeruns, batting average and RBI. In fact, a triple threat is a person or program that has special skills in three areas. This week our district had its own version of a "triple threat" when our literacy coaches brought author Sigmund Brouwer and Stanley Cup champion Bryan Trottier to schools to entertain students and promote reading and literacy for students.

Sigmund Brouwer is a renowned author with well over 3 million books in print. His eclectic collection of work includes the Accidental Detective Series, Dr Drabble Genius Inventor, Robot Wars,  and the Lightning on Ice series. For more information (and some free samples) of Sigmund's works check out his website -  Brouwer is a fun guy, but he's serious about getting kids to read. In addition to books on his own, he has also enlisted the support of well known sports figures like NHL Hall of Famer Bryan Trottier to spread the word. Perhaps best known for his days as a New York Islander, Trottier's seven Stanley Cup wins and NHL pedigree give him instant credibility with hockey fans. His engaging personality wins over the rest.  Trottier brings the message that good reading skills are the foundation for students to build and reach their own dream as they strive to hoist their own personal Stanley Cups, and build their own personal legacies. Combined with Brouwer the two men team up for a powerfully engaging presentation that combines music, humor, hockey and energy to build a positive buzz about reading.

Brouwer and Trottier would not have made it to our district but for the dedicated efforts of our district literacy team. The idea for the tour sprang out of a chance encounter between district literacy coach Shawna Hartman and Trottier when he was in Fort St John making an appearance at a local Oilmans Association Hockey tournament. Not one to let a good idea slip away, Shawna mobilized local sponsors, colleagues and school district executive staff in support of a literacy tour. The result was this week's event where Brouwer and Trottier visited more than half a dozen schools with students from kindergarten through grade 12, both in town and rural settings, covering hundreds of kilometers and reaching over a thousand students. Like any event of this magnitude there were some bumps to be worked out, but the district literacy team were tireless in their efforts, and pulled the event off so well, that when they talk plans for a return visit, we're all certain it will happen.

A great author, a hockey legend and a dedicated literacy coach - a finer example of a true triple threat would be hard to find. Thanks to their efforts, literacy, and our students, scored big time this week. Districts looking to book their own Rock and Roll Literacy tours  can check out the link and go for their own three star performance.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Positive Steps

We've all heard the stories. When our parents were young they had to walk miles to school, uphill both ways, and usually through three feet of snow.  So when did it all stop? Today's students walk less than ever before. Stop by any school before or just after school and you will see streets choked with cars waiting to deliver or pick up students.  When parents are asked why they don't let their students walk or ride to school two answers prevail - convenience and safety.  

Fearful that their children may get accosted by bullies, strangers criminals, animals, rain, cold, snow, allergies or a variety of other perils, many parents will simply not let their children go to school without adult supervision. Not willing, or unable, to take the time to walk with their children, many parents pop them into the car and drive them a few blocks before they head off to their daily routines. Ironically, the greatest danger for students who are allowed to walk to school is often the other parents driving their kids.

Also ironic is the fact that in trying to keep their children safe, parents who drive their kids to school are actually contributing to their overall unhealthiness. Active Health Kids Canada (AHKC) reported that less than 7% of school age children get the minimum amount of daily exercise recommended by the Canadian Physical Activity guidelines. Getting kids to walk to school would go a long way towards correcting this situation.

Civic authorities can help by providing schools and neighbourhoods with appropriate bike and pedestrian infrastructure but mostly the solutions here rest with parents. Educating children about pedestrian safety, working with other parents to provide safe supervision or just stopping a few blocks short of the school in order to encourage active walking, can all be solutions. Not driving students everywhere could also have an added benefit of developing students who lack the expectation that they should be driven everywhere. Parents would be saving themselves the headaches of being expected to serve as their child's on call chauffeur.

Keeping students safe is a worthy goal. Driving them everywhere is not the answer. Finding ways to get students to school under their own power is better for the students,  the environment and the community. This October see if you can't help your students create some memories so that when they are older, they can tell their own students how they too had to brave those long walks to school.