L’École Sainte Bernadette Teaches An Important Lesson

From my Healthy Living column in Moncton’s Times & Transcript.

Marilyne Lavallée is a public health nurse in the Healthy Learners Program who works to promote health to kids from School District 01 (includes francophone schools in Moncton, Dieppe, Memramcook, Oromocto, Fredericton, Saint John) in kindergarten through eighth grade. She prepares resources for teachers, and helps oversee several projects. The Crunch and Move challenge, an In Motion initiative, is one of the projects she works on.

S
he points out that while she is happy that many schools participate in the Crunch and Move challenge and other School District 01 health programs, she is even happier that some schools take the initiative to promote healthy eating and physical activity year round. L’École Sainte Bernadette, a francophone elementary school situated in Moncton’s West End neighborhood, is a great example of an active, healthy school. Says Ms. Lavallée, ”Promoting health in the classroom usually snowballs within a school. Once a teacher goes above and beyond to promote healthy eating and physical activity, other teachers tend to follow. Such was the case with L’École Sainte Bernadette.”

Ginny Cosgrove, a parent of two who’s children attend École Saint Bernadette, says ”We chose to live in Newton Heights because of Sainte Bernadette. In my mind, it is a true ‘community school’, in part because of its size but mostly because of the attitude that staff and parents have.   While the age of the school presents many challenges (and the school district and parents are working towards addressing this ), as a parent, I believe that what is unique is the positive focus and team approach that I see with the staff, along with a broad understanding of student health and well being.  I am also impressed with the various approaches to physical activity.  One of the teaching styles that I am very very impressed with is the idea of movement in the classroom while also learning fundamentals (the idea of a physical game that is tied to a math lesson for instance) –my son, and I imagine many children enjoy these kinds of activities. Because our school is located in a neighborhood setting, the children get out for walks in the community. I think that is a wonderful way to connect with nature and your community while also promoting fitness.” 

Susanne Leger, principal of L’École Sainte Bernadette, says the school has been working hard to achieve the provincial recommendation of 150 minutes of physical activity each school week. The school made a deal with the school district last spring: they would meet the province’s physical activity recommendation and improve the quality of the school’s education if the district would provide them with a full-time gym teacher. Normally, the school would have had a part-time gym teacher. 

L’École Sainte Bernadette doesn’t have a real gym; the school uses its cafeteria as a gym.  Yet with the services of the new gym teacher, their students in grades 3 to 5 were able to go from having two gym classes per week to having three gym classes per week and teachers, who usually use the periods while their students are in gym class for planning, were able to use their additional planning period to provide extra help for students in need. Students now participate in upwards of 150 minutes of physical activity, thanks to the additional gym class and active classroom activities. L’École SainteBernadette teachers will be offering workshops about their ”active pedagogy” teaching for other teachers in School District 01 this August.

And soon, many schools in NB will be having more conversations about health and wellness. District 1 has named health and wellness a priority for the 2011-2012 school year.

Originally published in the Times & Transcript on July 16th, 2011.

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