There’s plenty of research to show that eating well and being active at school has a positive impact on students’ learning and wellbeing. But staff at Bairds Mainfreight Primary School don’t need research to tell them that – they witness it in their classrooms every day.
The inspirational Auckland school is reaping the benefits of many years’ commitment to creating a heart-healthy environment.
“Our teachers have seen big changes in the students’ behaviour, focus and enthusiasm to learn. This is largely a result of students eating a healthy lunch and taking part in daily physical activity,” says deputy principal Fiona McAree-Ngaau.
Fiona says the school has a well-established physical activity programme, working closely with Counties Manukau Sport and staff are encouraged to be active role models, regularly seen out on the sports field at lunchtime. The goal is to engage every student, and give them a fun, positive foundation in physical activity.
“The key is small steps,” says Fiona, “and giving students leadership to make their school a healthy environment.”
One example of this is a group of student leaders who proposed a nutrition policy to Bairds Mainfreight’s Board of Trustees. This resulted in the school becoming a water and milk-only environment and student leaders requesting healthier food options at their school canteen.
Brogan Harvey, the Heart Foundation’s Health Promotion Coordinator in Auckland, says Bairds Mainfreight should be incredibly proud of its hard work to nurture healthy young hearts.
“With statistics showing one in three young people in New Zealand don’t meet the daily guideline for physical activity, this school is really leading the way,” she says.
“Providing consistent healthy messages – from the classroom, to the sports field, to the food sold in the canteen – is a real challenge for schools but Bairds has shown it can be achieved through collaboration and determination.”
Fiona says her staff have a shared vision for a healthy, supportive school environment.
“Healthy eating and physical activity are embedded in all aspects of our curriculum and culture. Our teaching team recently held a boot-camp for the school community, inviting parents and their children to take part in free, after-school exercise.”
Bairds Mainfreight Primary has received ongoing support from the Heart Foundation by taking part in the charity’s Heart Start programme, which provides free nutrition and physical activity tools. Not surprisingly, the school earned an award from the Heart Foundation last year for its dedication.
The real reward, however, is seeing students who come to school each day with a passion to learn, and who are responsible for their own health choices.
Bairds has made a lasting impression on hundreds of students, who will continue into secondary school and adulthood with a strong foundation for good health and wellbeing, Brogan says.
The Heart Foundation offers a range of free programmes for schools and early childhood education services. These are designed to engage families and support better nutrition and wellbeing outcomes for our Kiwi kids.