John McCrae Public School
565 Fred McLaren Blvd
565 Fred McLaren Blvd
At our school we have 3 large raised planters we use for our edible gardening. We applied for the Metro Green Apple Grant to help with the funding to build the planters, fill them with soil and get the plants/seeds. We chose the raised planters so the students in our community class could also participate in the gardening as they are in wheelchairs. We start our seeds indoors in compostable pots. We grow herbs, vegetables and sun flowers-the herbs are all edible and are aromatic so the students can smell the fragrant herbs such as mint, basil, lemon thyme, rosemary, coriander, carrots. The students are responsible for weeding, watering, picking the weeds and any other maintenance the garden requires. When we are in the garden we talk about how we feel when we garden…it relieves stress! Any class in welcome to the gardens to dig, water and plant! We had tasty carrots last year our students enjoyed. We made teas with some of the herbs and have also saved the seeds to begin again this month! Students also go to an accessible farm every year to explore and learn about how things grow and are harvested. My favorite part is seeing the students work in the gardens and also the excitement from the whole school, as the gardens grow the interest also grows!
We have several events during the school year. Many of our events are food free ie: Family Fun Night – a monthly event that encourages families to come to the school in the evening for organized play in the gym. Students and families are reminded to bring a refillable water bottle to use at our water fill station. If our event is going to have food we serve tasty, nutritious food. The only beverage we will serve is water. Our grade 8 students are currently planning an extended day at the school and have approached Healthy Schools about their options for a ‘healthy meal’ they could order, I was so thrilled when I found out they were doing this! Our Family Healthy Living Conference is a large community based event held in the evening. We have resources, health professionals, York Region Public Health; we serve apples (1500 apples) and have the Town Of Markham come with their portable water fill truck. We have over 200 families attend! The Healthy Snack Program is available daily to our students and staff. We serve a variety of fruits and vegetables each day, up to 3 choices! Our school has a monthly event called ‘Snack Attack’, our Healthy Schools Reps deliver a snack that is culturally sensitive ie: gelatin free yogurt tubes to each student at recess. Our served items always meet the Student Nutrition Program Guidelines. During snack and lunch recess our students sit at desks with their peers. Our staff that are on duty during these times have been encouraged to be mindful of what they may be eating when they are present around the students. Milk is an option offered daily to our students, delivered by students! We are and ECO friendly school and have a new water bottle fill station. Each student is encouraged to bring their own water bottle in. We strive to have zero waste!
Last year our school started with a menu makeover for the pizza offered to our students weekly. It had been served with a cookie and juice for several years. The pizza is now served whole wheat! The cookie and juice have been eliminated from the menu! Our families also have an option to provide healthy, nutritious, fresh lunches daily from an outside provider. Our provider meets all of the PPM 150 guidelines, is nut-free, and encourages families to call for individual needs and serves hot or cold as ordered. Last month we had My Healthy Lunch Challenge-the students and staff was encouraged to bring 3 of the 4 food groups from Canada’s Food Guide in their lunch, we had a daily announcement with challenges and ideas. This month we are doing sugar awareness with Healthy Schools. On the bulletin board for Healthy Schools we have a display with drinks and sugar, as well we created a ‘Sugar Shock’ board-we collected snack wrappers throughout the school, on the board the wrappers are posted with a package containing the corresponding amount of sugar the particular snack contains. I have communicated to staff that if they or another student are wondering how much sugar is in a particular food item they have at school to bring it to Healthy Schools and we can show them and possibly place the wrapper on our ‘Sugar Shock’ board (we also put healthy snack choices on the board). When I pass the bulletin board I often see students and staff ‘checking out’ the items on the boards….favorite moments!
Our students are learning how to prepare and serve nutritious good tasting foods. Our grade 8’s and grade 2’s are meeting as a group weekly to prepare smoothies. The teachers are teaching how to cut the fruit and vegetables safely, safe food handling, washing hands with the proper technique as outlined by York Region Public Health, safe storage, wearing an apron. They meet in the staff room, cooperate working together. To make it fun and interactive the teachers are having a contest with the students to create and produce the best tasting smoothie. The winner will have their recipe served to the staff (we can’t wait)! Our registered dietitian from York Region Public Health has given our junior/intermediate Healthy School reps a workshop about nutrition, choices, Canada’s Food Guide. Our Healthy School Reps assist with snack preparation and delivery. They wash their hands, plan, cooperate, ‘buddy up’ with the kindergarten and grade 1 students to get them to meetings and deliver snack items. Healthy Schools only serve the food items including pizza delivery days!
We have put up an information bulletin board for Healthy Schools using the Sip Smart resources and cut outs (see picture). The display has drinks ranging from water, juice, pop, milk, yogurt, sports drink etc. By each container is a package containing how much sugar is in the drink. I have also used Twitter to send out a picture of the board to our school parent community and to check out Sip Smart Ontario for more information. We also have teachers doing lessons and having contests, and demonstrations on how to prepare a fruit/vegetable smoothie. The students are preparing their own recipes to try out their own smoothies! The best smoothies will be served to our staff! Students will vote to see which smoothie wins. Since starting the sugar ‘Re think Your Drink’ board I have staff bringing me drink containers to put up with the amount of sugar that is in it. It has brought an awareness to everyone to be more conscious of reading the Nutrition Facts label, wonderful positive changes!
Our school offers free fruits and vegetables on a daily basis. We have varied selections and will offer 3 different choices daily. Vegetables are served raw-we often have peppers, carrots, cucumbers! Our staff have modeled healthy nutrition in their own choices and promote healthy nutrition. Our Family Healthy Living Conference is supported by our Public Health Nurses and our Registered Dietitian, there are learning centers, nutrition check wheel, workshops for the parents on healthy choices, size of food containers, milk or water promotion! Our raffle prizes are all non food items-cookbooks, water bottles, balls, frisbees, swim passes for the family, there were free apples available to everyone-we ordered 1200 apples! We also have the Town of Markham support the Conference. The water refill truck is outside with water bottles and fill stations, resources on the benefits of drinking water and conservation! Holiday celebrations in the class room are 100% food free, parents and staff are reminded in the monthly newsletter that we promote food free celebrations. Last month we put together a ‘toolkit’ and sent it home to each family, it contained literature from York Region Public Health on ‘Nutrition Matters’, ‘Oral Hygiene’, bicycle safety, bicycle trails and meal preparation encouraging choosing 3-4 food groups every day. One of the challenges was to prepare a meal as a family choosing all the food groups! One of my favourite outcomes is seeing the posters throughout the school promoting Canada’s Food Guide and how to make it appealing. Subtle changes have great impact. Our York Region Registered Dietitian Lucy Valleau has provided resource material and workshops to our students. With our Healthy Lunch Challenge 2 weeks ago was full of learning resources for the teachers and the students. Each student received a Canada’s Food Guide and a bookmark with hints and tips to get involved with packing their own healthy lunch!
We achieved Gold Certification last year from Ophea, we are working hard to keep that status! We have a Healthy Schools Committee consisting of 52 student champions, 2 parent champions, 1 teacher, 1 health assistant, Principal, Vice Principal, Region of York Public Health Nurses Paula Viscomi and Pauline Gillen, Registered Dietitian Lucy Valleau. We meet 3-4 times per year discussing innovative ideas and how to promote the healthy messages. We collectively listen and share ideas. The driving and present force is our Principal Helen Hart. We also listen to staff, students and the community that have ideas/suggestions. This is a team effort requiring many hands to continue the success we have enjoyed with healthy changes. New resources such as Sip Smart and Bright Bites are welcomed and researched. Ideas sent to us by our York Region Public Health team are implemented with an event monthly to promote Healthy Schools. This year we had an assembly promoting active transportation with a power point presentation put together by students and staff, presented in whole by the students! We also partnered with the Town of Markham to promote Markham in Motion by having an assembly, the Director of Education and the Superintendent for York Region District School Board, the Mayor of Markham were present and addressed the audience. Our Family Healthy Living Conference is a large event with many community partners to present to our students and parents. In preparation for this event our junior/intermediate Healthy School student reps. were given a workshop regarding Canada’s Food Guide, and healthy choices by Lucy Valleau Registered Dietitian , the students had a booth with a spinning wheel with food based questions/ideas that our community visitors could win a prize. Some new ideas we have been doing are the Family Healthy Challenge, students and their families complete up to 5 of the challenges to enter a random draw-one of the challenges is to prepare a healthy meal together, another school wide challenge we have is our Walk Across Ontario-classrooms have made a mascot and if they walk to school on Walk Wednesday the mascot is moved accordingly on our bulletin board. The Principal Ms Hart also lobbied and received a crossing guard for our school to promote student safety! Last month we sent home a ‘toolkit’ to each family-in this toolkit there was information about nutrition, oral hygiene, activity, cycling, cycle maps, bicycle helmet safety, Family Healthy Challenge! We had positive feedback on these new initiatives. My favourite part of these moments have been the positive environment this has created for the staff and students, I hear “we have so much going on at this school, I love it!” Our principal Helen Hart is the encouraging person here, receptive and responsive to ideas/questions/concerns.
Milk Program-School Parent Council has approved this fund raiser. Students are able to have milk daily. The milk is delivered directly to the students classrooms daily, the students from the Student Support Center deliver the milk each day, promoting inclusiveness, responsibility and healthy eating behaviours.
Pizza Lunch-School Parent Council has approved this fund raiser. Whole wheat pizza is available once weekly to students. In the past it was served with juice and a cookie. The cookie and juice have been removed from this program.
Dance-a-thon-School Parent Council has approved this fund raiser. This fundraiser will promote healthy lifestyles with activity and music. The students are excited about this fundraiser and have indicated this is the most popular choice for them to raise funds. The funds raised will go to update our kindergarten area markings and also to update our acquisition of musical instruments. The team was been assembled to put the assembly together, excitement is building and discussions with students have taken place regarding the fundraiser concept. A staff memo has been distributed outlining the steps involved prior to the dance-a-thon. The assembly is today, promoted with ‘Pump It Up’! The whole school is involved in the dance-a-thon. There will be no door to door canvassing for funds to keep everyone safe. This will be a food free fundraiser. Prizes will be given to individuals and classroom prizes as well. Each student will be recognized with a Certificate of Recognition. The dance-a-thon will promote physical activity, enjoyment of music and team building as well as a sense of community. Students are to have the sponsored money in to the school early March. Staff will be kept informed and thanked for their contribution.
These are the three fundraisers we have done this year as approved by School Parent Council.
Being a Healthy and ECO friendly school we wanted a water fill station to refill bottles. We had it installed in October, up to date we have saved 5579 plastic water bottles from the landfill and have also encouraged drinking water instead of juices or pop. Each student is permitted to keep a refillable water bottle on their desk. For now we have a water fill station on the lower level-we hope to get one for the upstairs as well! At 2 of our events we invite the Town of Markham water fill truck to participate, the truck has several water fill stations, free water bottles and resources and information about the benefits of drinking water. Our next display for Healthy Schools is “Rethink Your Drink” as well as a “Sugar Shocker” display. Healthy Schools sent home a ‘toolkit’ last month with articles on nutrition and the benefits of drinking water.
Our school this year has become a food free celebration zone. This has included several steps to facilitate the change to have everyone ‘on board’. It started with the education of staff through communicating in newsletters and memos. Monthly (and prior to major holiday celebrations) reminders are sent out to all staff via our ‘McCrae Weekly’. In the message there are suggestions on how to celebrate without food eg: stickers, pencils, cards. I have seen younger students wearing a crown for the day on their birthday…older students will decorate a fellow students locker on their birthday. We also had a parade this week celebrating Chinese New Year. Students in kindergarten and grades 1 and 2 wore cultural dress and participated in a parade! Families are given a newsletter monthly reminding them we are a food-free celebration zone with tips and ideas given to acknowledge special occasions. We want to continue to celebrate in a healthy way!
In December we started an organic recycling program, boomeranging all lunch waste home and encouraging litter less lunches school wide. Last week the school participated in My Healthy Lunch Challenge. Several classes participated in a challenge with their healthy lunches to win a random draw for a free healthy lunch for the entire class! We placed posters throughout the school. Each student received a Canada’s Health Food Guide and a book mark outlining ways to help pack a healthy lunch and how to get involved. Lessons in class included healthy choices inclusive of all cultural backgrounds. A daily announcement promoted choosing 3 of 4 food groups in their meals and reflective messages. The students were involved in the Challenge assisting with posters, distributing material. My favorite part of this is hearing a student come for a snack and say: “I don’t have a Healthy Snack, may I have an apple?”
Every year students receive education around the idea of healthy eating and we try to connect it to other initiatives such as the My Healthy Lunch Challenge, healthy eating resources we send home in our healthy school toolkit, and information we talk about at our Family Healthy Living Conference. So healthy eating is always on our mind, not just in our health curriculum, but something we talk about and encourage all year long. The heroes that helped us earn this badge our our teachers and students and staff! Everyone who discusses healthy eating together are helping us to earn these badge.
Staff and students often ask questions regarding our Snack Program for example, how is it funded, where do we get the vegetables/fruits from, how to promote healthy choices as well as how to access resources. Our Healthy School reps have made thank you cards that we mailed to our local food grocers that participated in the fundraising for our snack funding. Celebrations in our school are 100% food free. Our students are involved with announcements, delivering snack items. We have a buddy system to assist students in kindergarten and grade 1 to deliver their snacks and get the younger students to Healthy School meetings. We also have parent Champions that attend workshops, meetings, school events, assemblies, and help to communicate messages to our community. Twitter is used 3-5 times weekly to promote school healthy choices, changes, happenings. When a student wants a snack, they will ask for “a healthy snack”! For the occasional time a student needs a lunch we provide food that meets the SNP Guidelines. Our heroes are the Healthy School reps that have shown dedication, passion and willingness!
We actively engage the entire school in the Healthy Schools thinking. We provide a healthy snack daily and have a Healthy Schools Rep Team. The administration and staff in this school are interested and continue to engage the students in discussion and participation in promoting healthy choices!
We have assemblies – our current non food reward assembly is ‘John McCrae Walks Across Canada’. Each class will have a Healthy Schools rep tally students that walk to school on Walk Wednesday. On the Healthy Schools Bulletin Board there is a large poster of Ontario, each class has produced their mascot that will travel across Ontario. The class with the highest percentage of students walking to school on Wednesdays for the month, they will receive a trophy to hold on to -‘the Gold or Silver Running Shoe Award’. The 2 classes that have the reward will be given a lunch recess in the gym for the entire class supervised by a staff member! The students love this! We have I Walk in our school each Tuesday and Thursday totally run by our Healthy School Reps during morning recess. The students are given a tracking card and walk laps in the downstairs hallway. After the bubbles have been filled in by their laps they can earn a key chain foot charm. Promoting and encouraging the reps on our Healthy Schools Committee has been very important. The students have required minimal supervision running this and all of the staff love this idea!
We have an event monthly regarding nutrition! A healthy snack is available daily, as well we have implemented a ‘Snack Attack’. Each month the Healthy School Reps will deliver a healthy snack to each student at recess! We apply for the SNP grant each year to enable us to provide some of the snacks. The Administration of our school is supportive with a plan provided to them. There are teachers and support staff active in each initiative. We are also making a display to create visual effect ‘Sugar Shockers’ and ‘Rethink Your Drink’. There will be reputable nutritional information outlining Vitamin D, calcium, carbs, etc. included as well as the actual amounts of sugar an item contains. We have 2 Healthy Schools bulletin boards outlining our ongoing initiatives, nutrition information. Public Health has been a valuable resource for information and materials. Over the last 2 years I have witnessed a change in our students choices as well as staff members!
Having the time to register is important!