School health in action:
Culture in the halls
Categories: Mental Health, Health Promotion, Physical Activity, Elementary, Northern Alberta,
The school community
Peace Wapiti Public School Division (PWPSD) is located on the traditional territory of Treaty 8 and within Métis Nation Region 6, the homeland of many diverse First Nations and Métis people. They provide schooling for nearly 6000 K-12 students in northern Alberta, including Indigenous kids and teens from Horse Lake First Nation, the community of Kelly Lake, and others living off-reserve in rural and urban areas.
The school spaces
PWPSD believes that learning environments can help everyone improve their understanding of and respect for Indigenous communities. Their Indigenous Education Services team works closely with teachers to explore new ways of honouring traditional teachings, culture, and history in school spaces. Together, they get creative with physical spaces (like classroom walls, school hallways, and indoor or outdoor common areas) to help students see themselves and their communities reflected in life at school.
"Our goal is to make Indigenous Education come alive within our schools, and to make education better for our kids." — Administration Advisory Committee for Indigenous Education, Peace Wapiti Public School Division
Ever Active Schools' popular Don’t Walk in the Hallway resource gets K-6 students moving in active ways as they travel through hallways or go from one school space to another. It's a resource made of colourful decals in a variety of shapes — students can reach for them, jump over them, and move creatively around them. There are also Blackfoot and Cree versions, infused with traditional vocabulary and teachings.
Rachelle Bell, a team member with Indigenous Education Services, was intrigued by the idea of localizing Don’t Walk in the Hallway for PWPSD schools and students. She had a hunch that custom decals could increase physical activity and spark new ways of learning about the medicine wheel and holistic well-being.
The Indigenous Education Services team installed decals in three pilot schools, setting them up in the form of a regulation pathway for students to travel as they moved throughout the building. Rachelle developed signs and visual instructions for each decal in both English and Cree, ensuring that all students could follow along. Each decal is based on the traditional teachings of the medicine wheel and paired with a specific action, like using the rhythmic pattern of traditional jigging to reset emotions.
The team offered training to student ambassadors in how to use the pathway and encouraged them to share their learnings with other students. This approach gave ambassadors an opportunity to develop mastery and to demonstrate the Indigenous value of connecting with others. It empowered them to guide other students in using and learning from the decals.
Many students now travel their school's pathway daily as they move between classrooms and other learning spaces. Each decal offers them a reminder to take care of the four-part being (physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual wellness). Counsellors and other support staff also use the pathway to help students regulate their emotions and focus their attention.
Without a doubt, custom hallway decals in PWPSD schools have made an impact. They've prompted new ways of getting active throughout the school day, and opened up new conversations, reflections, and learnings on traditional teachings and values.
Learn more about this story
- Indigenous Education Services
Peace Wapiti Public School Division
- Twenty-first century spaces for twenty-first century learners
Ever Active Schools
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