With initiatives including day-long wellness events, a magic show and buddy benches, the Renfrew County Catholic District School Board is putting a special focus on student well-being this year. The alignment of the Board’s focus with the Ministry of Education’s recent release of its Well-Being Strategy for Education, which calls well-being fundamental to student success, is heartwarming, says Mark Searson, a Superintendent of Education at RCCDSB.
“Both our initiatives and the new provincial strategy align with our RCCDSB Vision,” Searson added, “where we strive to nurture the giftedness, self-worth and potential of each individual while sustaining safe school environments characterized by warmth, hospitality, good humour and joy.”
In October, the Board held a full-day event at Shaw Woods Outdoor Education Centre to help Grade 8 students prepare for the transition to high school. Reach Out 2016 included leadership activities, games and discussions. Grade 11 students provided mentorship to the younger students. The program was led by Tammy Peplinski, School and Attendance Counsellor, and Sandy Brannan, Safe Schools Coordinator, with help from Rick Klatt, RCCDSB’s Outdoor Education and Student Engagement Teacher. Several community partners also attended, including chaplains, and representatives from Children’s Services, Addiction Treatment Services, Elevate Youth Fitness Studio and other groups, to discuss how they could support students as they navigate high school.
“Our goal is to create environments that support and promote wellness of body, mind and spirit,” said Safe Schools Coordinator Brannan. “Initiatives like these are critically important. Being well is an important part of student success. We want our students to know there are places to go for help when they are needed by them or someone they love.”
Another wellness initiative, said Brannan, is Restorative Practice training and support for teachers who want to build a restorative culture in their classrooms. Students in classrooms with restorative practices feel more confident, heard and connected, she added.
Buddy benches, built by RCCDSB’s high school Shop students, also are being distributed to elementary schools, Brannan said.“They are a simple way to help eliminate loneliness and foster friendship on the school yard. What a beautiful opportunity to promote inclusion and kindness!”
Rebecca Paulsen, RCCDSB Mental Health and Wellness Lead, points to several other wellness initiatives under way this year. An event called AMPLIFY was held in early October at Wilderness Tours, Paulsen said. It focused on connecting youth to their community, amplifying their voices and giving back to the community by volunteer work or joining groups. Thirty Grade 10 and 11 students from RCCDSB attended the event.
Grade 8 students at St. Joseph’s high school in Renfrew also are taking weekly sessions on mental health and wellness in a five-week program based on a curriculum created by the Eastern Ontario Catholic Curriculum Corporation.
The Phoenix Centre trauma team also is offering a workshop for teachers on the “Trauma informed classroom.” With one teacher from each school attending, Paulsen said, the Board “continues to build capacity around mental health throughout the school system.”
An Anti-Bullying magic show also was recently presented at Our Lady of Fatima School in Renfrew and St. Michael’s School in Douglas. And two new resources have been added to support the Board’s most vulnerable students, Paulsen said. The RCCDSB now has access to Urgent Care from the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, which will allow appointments to be made with medical experts for those students in need. The Renfrew County Community Mental Health Centre also has agreed to support students aged 12 and up with their mobile crisis unit.
“Focusing on well-being in the school system is really about building healthy skills that last a lifetime,” Paulsen said. “It`s investing in a child’s future, because well-being is about their mental and physical well-being as well as their faith journey. When teachers incorporate Christian meditation into their classrooms, they know that there are valuable learning side benefits,” Paulsen added. “Likewise, when teachers can gain valuable insight from community mental health agencies on trauma-informed schools, they are able to support every student in their optimal learning environment.”
October 24, 2016
For further information, please contact:
Michele Arbour, Director of Education
Renfrew County Catholic District School Board
499 Pembroke Street West
Pembroke, ON K8A 5P1
Phone: 613-735-1031 or 1-800-267-019l