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Meghan Williams and her brother Matthew take a break at the Windsor Secondary turf field recently. The teen siblings are avid soccer players. Schools across the North Shore have recognized the importance of teaching physical literacy and providing activity opportunities to students throughout the school day. PHOTO MIKE WAKEFIELD

Physical literacy focus includes class time

ROSALIND DUANE rduane@nsnews.com

Agility ladders are becoming as common as crayons in West Vancouver primary classrooms.

And that’s by design. An agility ladder is a piece of exercise equipment that can be rolled out on a flat surface. It looks like a ladder lying down, and users can practise various types of movement such as skipping through the rungs,

shuffling, jumping, and more. It is meant to promote co-ordination, focus, and cardio. The equipment is just one small piece of the plan as the West Vancouver district school board refines its system-wide approach to physical literacy. “The importance of teachers creating quality movement opportunities for students to become more physically literate is not a new concept in West Vancouver schools, but what is different is the district’s systemwide approach to nurturing the development

of healthy, confident, competent movers,” explains Diane Nelson, director of instruction, learning and innovation. For years, the district has focused on three domains of learning that worked somewhat independently of each other: cognitive (such as memory, understanding, and attention), emotional (such as self-regulation and self-awareness of emotions), and physical (such as fundamental sports skills taught during gym class). Each domain had a district leader working

with teachers to design and implement programming. About six years ago, the district brought together the cognitive and emotional domains, recognizing the affect emotional well-being has on student learning. Emotional awareness and skills to recognize and self-regulate those emotions are now a component of classroom learning, contributing to regular academic study. Last year, the district decided to bring

See Activity page 21



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Stress management part of school tool kit LISE BOULLARD Contributing writer

Lazy days by the pool, road trips and fun-filled days at summer camp.

The dog days of summer are slowly slipping away and soon we will be doing the back-to-school (and work, for those of us who took time off in the summer), countdown. The change of pace from long stretches of unstructured time to a hectic schedule where no moment is left unplanned can take a toll on the mind and body, says naturopathic doctor Cameron McIntyre of Marine Drive Naturopathic Clinic. “Change of any kind (a new school year included) often results in stress for both children and parents. Poorly managed stress can affect many areas including mood, learning and focus, immune system, digestive system and sleep patterns,” he explains. Along with re-establishing proper sleep patterns and not over-committing your kids after summer holidays, the following tips may help make the transition a little more pain-free. Guided meditation apps: To meditate between meetings (or on the bus ride to school), download a free meditation podcast or app, such as the Smile Meditation by Tara Brach (tarabrach.com), or check out one of the resources at mindful. org. “Being in the moment and breathing deeply are effective ways to reduce stress and improve wellbeing, and three practices that help you focus on the present are meditation, mindfulness and yoga,” says Anne Rodgers, communications co-ordinator at North Vancouver Recreation and Culture. North Vancouver Recreation and Culture offers a wide range of yoga programs, drop-in YoFit classes, and a meditation program called Breathe-Flow-Meditate, which starts on Tuesday, Sept. 19 at the new Delbrook Recreation Centre. Screen-free contracts: A variety of studies have linked social media use and network size with increased cortisol levels, as well as stress, worry and burnout. To limit screen time, McIntyre suggests parents create a written contract “that you

Healthy meals and snacks are an important part of preparing for a productive day at school. FILE PHOTO CINDY GOODMAN and your child design together and both sign (e.g. no screens after 8 p.m. for kids, 10 p.m. for teens, no screens in the bedrooms at night and no screens before homework),” which can be altered for weekends. Portable, BPA-free and reusable water bottles: Water transports good nutrients in and helps move waste out of our systems, and not getting enough can bring on fatigue. To keep

energy levels high and minds alert, McIntyre recommends sending kids to school with water bottles as opposed to juice boxes, which are often packed with sugar, a substance that can impact immune function, worsen and prolong infections, and increase stress on the body and mind. Healthy meals and snacks: Limiting packaged foods and eating a diet based primarily on whole grains, lean proteins and fresh fruits and vegetables can help rev up energy levels and prime the brain for learning. “Much of the added chemicals in packaged foods are challenging to process and may compromise brain function in some people. Kids are more susceptible generally,” McIntyre explains. Breakfast is a great time to load up on protein. “This regulates our blood sugar and metabolism and allows our brains and bodies to optimally manage stress throughout the day,” says McIntyre. But do watch for signs of children and teens taking healthy eating to extremes. “It all boils down to calories at the end of the day: 1,600 minimum for inactive teen girls and 2,000 to 2,200 for active or athletic teens. Too little calories will disrupt energy, hormones, immune function, mood and obviously weight. Medical attention may be necessary if you notice things slipping into unhealthy ranges,” says McIntyre. Exercise gear: The benefits of exercise for managing stress are well documented, and heading back to school is a great time for the whole family to get back into a fitness routine. Whether it’s scheduling your own “me time” at a gym or a yoga class, or planning activities (such as cycling) as a group, make time for exercise to help stress melt away. To boost benefits, take your workout outside. “More and more research is showing the health and wellness benefits of being out in nature. A walk on a local trail or along the beach is a great de-stressor and the weather is usually wonderful in September,” says Rodgers. NVRC’s Fall Registration started in mid-August. Contact 604-987-Play (7529) or nvrc.ca for program and lesson options for September.

Start routines early to help ease back-to-school jitters Kids and teens will soon say hello to a new school year.

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For some it’s an exciting time, but the change in routine can give some students back-to-school jitters. “Children and youth can build up a lot of stress and anxiety about having to get back into a routine and what to expect when the new school year begins,” said Dr. Susan Baer, a psychiatrist in the Mood and Anxiety Disorders clinic at B.C. Children’s Hospital, in a press release. “These feelings are normal, and there are steps parents can take now to help ease the transition from summer break to the new school year.” Baer recommends parents plan ahead and gradually expose kids to their environment and new schedule. ! Get into a routine one to two weeks before school starts, plan nutritious meals and snacks, as well as morning and bedtime habits. ! Talk to your child about what may be worrying them: try role-playing through situations they may face at school ! Throughout the school year, encourage your child to share their fears by setting up

a regular time to talk. ! Help your child develop healthy coping and problemsolving skills. ! Be mindful of your own behaviour, model confidence and comfort when your child is anxious. ! Focus on the positive and celebrate small accomplishments. Consider seeking more help if your child does the following: ! Frequently attempts to remain at home or with a caregiver. ! Refuses to attend school on certain days (e.g. field trips). ! Refuses to eat in public.

! Refuses to use public bathrooms. ! Worries constantly. ! Continually seeks comfort and reassurance. ! Shows extreme shyness, avoiding social situations or events. ! Raises physical complaints with no medical explanation (stomach aches, headaches, difficulty catching their breath). ! Throws tantrums, cries or screams excessively. ! Begins to act in a way that is out of character, or if a sudden and unexpected behaviour change is observed.

Start a school routine well before September, including morning and bedtime habits. FILE PHOTO LISA KING


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Activity breaks include a variety of movement options From page 19

physical learning into the classroom as well. Nelson explains that physical literacy has been a part of the curriculum for years, but has mainly focused on fundamental sports and movement skills. That focus was fairly narrow and took place during regular physical education classes. “We’ve been doing a very good job for a number of years,” says Nelson, but adds that assessment of Grade 2 baseline physical literacy showed there was room for improvement. So the focus shifted slightly to reflect a new emphasis on “movement all day any time.” That means teachers now work in action breaks and activity throughout the day. That could mean 10 minutes of yoga, some jumping jacks, stretching, creating shapes with bodies as they are learning about shapes in math class, or even just a quick run out to the school yard to touch two trees and return to the classroom. “There’s a lot more movement throughout the day,”

Students at Westcot Elementary incorporate various forms of activity throughout their regular school day. PHOTOS SUPPLIED notes Nelson. In general, physical literacy refers to learning basic movement skills, such as sending and receiving (catching and throwing), balance and body control, and locomotor skills such as running, jumping, skipping, and rolling. Those skills

continue to be taught in specific physical education classes, but that learning is then reinforced in the classroom. Nelson compares the process to learning any other subject, such as math, in which teachers try to get students to talk about it and do it in different ways

at different times for more practice, not just during a specified math class. Last year the systemwide effort went into effect and Nelson says classroom teachers observed not only dramatic changes overall in skill development in the gym, but they also noticed

a positive impact on the students’ ability to manage their energy levels within the classroom setting. She calls the past school year “a real breakthrough,” with plans to continue the momentum during the

upcoming school year. “Our overriding goal for physical literacy is we want to ensure that we have competent, confident movers who are motivated to move and be active for life,” says Nelson.

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