Schools case Studies

Healthy changes paying off in the classroom

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; recently celebrating receiving a Heart Start Excellence Award from the Heart Foundation.

“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 solid and 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,while the student leaders also successfully requested 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 nurturing 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. Last term we learnt about the brain, and each morning I ask my students about breakfast and what they have eaten to feed their brain”  

This year the school is again holding their boot-camp for the school community, providing accessible exercise for parents, children and staff.

Bairds Mainfreight Primary has received ongoing support from the Heart Foundation by taking part in the Heart Start programme, which provides free nutrition and physical activity tools. Earlier this year, they celebrated receiving their Heart Start Excellence Award.

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 learning services. These are designed to engage families and support better nutrition and wellbeing outcomes for our Kiwi kids.

For more information, visit http://www.learnbyheart.org.nz/schools.