Monday, 22 February 2016

Healthy Living

Fun run/walk in September 
Pinelands North Primary is committed to eating healthily, to selling or giving away only healthy foods, and to ensuring that all our children participate in activities which raise their heart rates! Far too many children today are eating takeaways and fast foods, and leading a sedentary lifestyle. There is an alarming rate of obesity in young children around the world, with this condition affecting children emotionally and physically as they get older. Children can't concentrate properly at school without good nutrition, and eating the incorrect foods sometimes causes behavioural problems in children too.
We encourage our families via newsletters and at public meetings to provide their children with healthy food to eat during the day. Families should try to include fruit, vegetables, protein and carbohydrates every day, and if they include bread, it should be the healthiest one they can afford. These are consumed during break times and during the 'Go Snack' time...usually half way between school starting and break time. These snack times give children the extra boost they need to focus on their learning.
Liquid refreshments should be available for children all the time, and the school recommends a water bottle with cool fresh water rather than fruit juice. Food provided at school should always be the best possible option. 
Our tuckshop has the seal of approval from the Heart Foundation and sells reasonably-priced good healthy food in case families don't have time to create healthy snacks the evening before. Our EarlyAct, the group of children who raise money for people less fortunate than themselves, also sell healthy food on Fridays but they do sell a few 'treat' items too. We also encourage party packs sent to school on birthdays, to be a healthy option. So parents could choose crunchies, popcorn, gingerbread or muffins instead of birthday cake. Our Red Connect parent group serves healthy foods whenever they provide snacks at school functions, and the only time you might see 'sugar' in its various forms, will be every second year at our Red-a-Fair!  Our families might also be pleased to hear that all our school functions only provide food that can be eaten by everybody! We have moved on from the time when people ate separately, and we need our children to learn to be accommodating and inclusive.
Using a piece of our new apparatus
We also encourage our children to 'dispose' of their food in an inclusive way. Any uneaten sandwiches or snacks are taken to our school kitchen so that any child, who may have forgotten lunch or doesn’t have any, can go and collect something to eat there. Spare leftover vegetables or fruit are fed to the school ducks or put into our school worm farms. Boiled eggs are given to the canaries and the finches, and bread crusts to the wild birds.

To encourage children to eat the food they might otherwise not eat at home, an idea would be to buy them a really great lunchbox and water bottle. Cut vegetables and fruit into small pieces, and cover with lemon juice if your child won't eat 'brown' fruit. Discuss school lunches regularly with your children. Do you need to adapt their lunch to their changing needs? Children should have enough food for both breaks if they are older than grade 2, and if they are in grade 1 and 2 and they do extramurals after school, they will also need extra snacks for the extra time they are at school. Packing a healthy lunchbox, day in and day out, can be a real challenge. It doesn't take long to run out of healthy and delicious lunch box ideas. Pinterest and FaceBook have lovely ideas which are easy to make but really good healthy options - sometimes even giving it to your child in a different way, might encourage them to continue to eat 'boring' foods!
One of the 'Dads' races at our sports day
Healthy living includes exercise. Pinelands North offers many different options to make
 children move - from table tennis to swimming, from team sports to individual ones. Because we know every child is different, parents should encourage their children to tackle several different sporting codes - not only to see if they have a particular talent, but also to encourage other life skills like teamwork, perseverance and empathy. Every child should move for as many hours as possible per day. Early encouragement of sporting activities, even just outside play, should be part of every child's daily plan.

Foundation Phase gala
In 2015 Pinelands North staff arranged a GoKart Derby Day to raise funds to build more playground apparatus so we now have a circuit built on the field which can be used for physical education classes or just for children to strengthen their upper bodies or learn to balance during break times. This year we will have another of these Derby Days to raise funds for a 'floor' covering for this circuit so that, should a child fall off the equipment, they won't be too badly hurt. Healthy eating and exercise together affect children positively and a child who is eating well and keeping their heart rate up, rarely suffers from depression.  Give your child the best possible starts to life as, making healthy living a habit, lasts a lifetime!

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Eating the' inclusive' elephant, one bite at a time.......

Ethel Jones teaching Ayden how to knit 
In my professional reading recently, I came across an article written by Gary Bunch in 2008. He wrote the article after having studied inclusive schools around the world, particularly those in Canada. He found patterns emerging in schools where inclusion was successful, and where it wasn't, and after analysing the data, he felt that there were 10 criteria which were essential in inclusive schools.  
Schools who were successful had a questioning attitude. Someone starts the process by asking in their own heads, why children with special needs should have to be taught separately. Where questions were asked and re-asked, the chance of the school being inclusive, is higher. Questioning needs to be seen as the first key for inclusive change. 
Schools who were successful in the inclusive field, had a leader who encouraged leadership in others. Leaders who see leadership in others, create an opportunity for people to step forward. At Pinelands North this is very evident, as leadership is encouraged through all sectors of our school - in classrooms, on the sports field, in aftercare, in music, in the admin department and in the library. When people accept leadership roles they become invested in the whole operation, not only in their own sector.
Grade 7 Amy reading with Isabella in grade 1
Respect for humanity is at the heart of inclusion. This respect is despite difference, and for all people as learning individuals. At inclusive schools there is traditionally a higher level of learning and socialisation. At Pinelands North the desire to learn and all attempts at learning are respected, whether the 'learner' is a pupil who is smarter than the rest, or a staff member who needs to be supported to learn to drive a vehicle.  
Respect in inclusive schools is not only given to those who 'can' learn or for those who learn the most. At Pinelands North our learning community is about everybody in the school learning at their own level. All pupils need to learn what they can, and in the way they can, and not be 'pitted' against an average! Every act of achievement is celebrated, and just striving for learning is also worth celebrating! We have found that in supporting the learning of everyone, we do not diminish the learning of anyone but rather enhance it all!  
Most people in education fields around the world measure learning against a set curriculum and so only those learning at the pace of the 'average', are seen to be learning! At Pinelands North all pupils are accepted as pupils learning at their own levels, at their own pace and therefore worthy of celebration! Each individual child's pace of learning is accepted as perfectly 'normal'! Learning is not seen as a competition or a race that only a few can win. We mustn't forget that as toddlers we all learnt to sit up, walk and talk at different times - why then do we think that suddenly we all will perform the same learning in the same timeframes?  
Lisa and Matt learning to draw
What we have learnt too, is that every teacher knows how to teach. This is not the skill that needs to be enhanced in the classroom, but instead it is the confidence of teachers in their ability to teach every child, at his or her own pace. Our teachers were also scared of this initially but once you start teaching in an inclusive environment, you realise that all we might need to change is the speed of our teaching- either faster or slower or both! This is where teachers need to be able to accept support from volunteers, parents, and other teaching staff. At the beginning of each year at Pinelands North, parents are asked where they would like to contribute to our learning community. This results in grandparents, older siblings, unemployed or stay at home adults in families all participating in classrooms, assisting our teachers and pupils. We accept help from overseas teaching students and volunteers, from NGOs and from neighbours!  
Usually schools have a 'one size fits all' curriculum but inclusive schools like Pinelands North, see the curriculum as a flexible tool, to be adjusted to every child's pace of learning. This allows access to learning for all "learners'! Collaboration between sections in school has a part to play in everybody's learning. At Pinelands North pupils work with other pupils, and pupils work with other adults besides teachers. Walking around the school, I often see a child working in the finance office - not because the child has been 'excluded' from their own classroom, but because that safe space is best for them in their present learning! Examples of this are seen everywhere in the school - on the field, in the garden, in the aftercare during the school day and in offices. In inclusive schools, nobody has all the answers but everyone works with determination towards finding the right support for every child - either through parents or volunteers or admin staff. The whole school must be determined to learn and assist with everybody's learning. 
The final pattern Gary Bunch noticed was that schools who were successful just got started! They didn't wait for someone to tell them what or how to do it, they just translated their thoughts into action. There is a little 'joke' that asks: 'How do you eat an elephant?' And the answer is 'One bite at a time!' If a school starts with little steps, inclusion can happen progressively.
Pinelands North has been on the 'one bite at a time' trajectory for almost twenty years and we are still learning something new every fact, one thing we have learnt is that the 'inclusion elephant' is so big, that no school can ever say they have it all right! Pinelands North though, is determined to persevere until all excluded peoples are included as much as is humanly possible!