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Ripple Effect as West Auckland Schools Choose Water as First Choice

Ripple Effect as West Auckland Schools Choose Water as First Choice

Healthy Families Waitakere has been working alongside 32 schools in West Auckland to implement water only policies and strengthen messaging around water within school environments.

With the support of principals, teachers and board members, students have been driving water related changes in their schools. This has resulted in the installation of 61 new fountains and all 32 schools taking a much stronger stance on being pro water.

‘This student-led movement is delivering great results and extends to the installation of quality water fountains, often replacing aged or damaged fountains,’ says Healthy Families Waitakere Manager Kerry Allan.

The students identified opportunities to increase the consumption of water by their peers and explored ideas around the placement and design of new fountains to strengthen their messaging about the health benefits of drinking water.

‘Driving the changes, students mapped locations for these fountains, based on insights gathered on where they play and the highest use areas. Many older fountains were placed in areas which weren’t necessary high traffic areas for the children – and naturally the students were less likely to want to use them,’ adds Kerry.

Healthy Families Waitakere has supported Massey Primary School, Massey High School, Kelston Girls, Kelston Boys, Henderson North School, Henderson High School, Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Hoani Waititi, Lincoln Heights School and many more in strengthening their messages about making water their first choice of drink and sustaining the changes with a water only policy.

Kelston Boys High School was one of the foundation schools leading the way.

‘We worked alongside Kelston Boys High School in 2017. The school community was wanting to make sustainable changes to tackle sugary drink intake among students. This was the start of something exciting and now over 20,000 students from other schools have made the change, with many more to follow,’ says Kerry.

Massey Primary students took great pride in designing their new water fountain and Principal Bruce Barnes says the new fountain has been part of a much wider water-only policy that has been well embraced by the school community.

‘Last year 25 students took part in a pro water project alongside Healthy Families Waitakere, looking at what a water policy would look like. The policy has since shaped a number of initiatives, including students identifying the best location for the new fountain,’ says Bruce.

The water policy has brought about real changes in the school environment.

‘We allow students to freely leave class to drink water from nearby fountains, and we’ve seen an associated improvement in learning. Teachers have also seen noticeable changes in lunch boxes since implementing the water only policy,” Bruce adds. “100% of students who used to bring sugary drinks to school are now opting for their water bottle that can be refilled throughout the day.’

When a new fountain was installed at Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Hoani Waititi Marae, Auckland’s largest pan tribal urban Marae, students put their own spin on the water only challenge in schools by extending a wero (challenge) through the form of a haka.

Hoani student Tuake Pohatu-Ryder led his fellow students in a haka that highlighted the kura’s commitment to drinking wai, which they performed to whanau and community as a wero for Maori to do the same – with the purpose of promoting the importance of making their kura ‘pro water’.

The Hoani Waititi Board of Trustees acknowledged that the water fountain was well used by the students and moved to fund a further two fountains to make water more accessible to whanau and students of the kura.

As part of West Auckland’s pro water movement, a number of school principals are joining others in signing the Healthy Families Waitakere water pledge, a social movement to creative more health promoting environments where water is the first and best choice for all.

School leaders have joined other West Auckland representatives including local politicians, councillors ad community and primary healthcare organisations. By signing the pledge, each person and organisation has committed to take action, drink more water and encourage others to do the same.

Waitakere Alternative Education students help shape Smokefree messages

Waitakere Alternative Education students help shape Smokefree messages

Students of Waitakere Alternative Education are soon to have their say in changing the future for young Maori people who smoke.

Healthy Families Waitakere is extending its engagement with youth in West Auckland schools to include alternative education, marking a first for alternative education students nationwide.  

The innovation will see students co-design smokefree messaging and learning in alternative education environments, co-ordinated by Healthy Families Waitakere in partnership with Waitakere Alternative Education, youth hub Zeal West, Waitemata District Health Board, Sport Waitakere and Ready Steady Quit.

Scott Samson, Manager of Waitakere Alternative Education which provides short term intervention to support students away from mainstream education, says there is untapped potential and creativity within these young people.

“This is a real point of difference because the students developing the messages will be the ones the messages are intended to reach,” he says.

While the average smoking rate in Auckland is 12.9%, 777 of those people are Māori aged between 15 and 19 years located in the Waitemata District Health Board zone. West Auckland local board areas of Henderson Massey, Waitakere Ranges and Whau report higher smoking rates (2013 Census), and with 4000 NZ children starting to smoke every year at the average age of 14, prevention is critical.

Waitakere Alternative Education is made up of 90% Maori students, with 95% identifying as smoking cigarettes daily and latest research tells us that Maori adult smoking rates are very high at over 30%.

 The programme will see students aged between 13 and 18 years old lend their voice and ideas around smokefree messaging, with the backing of the school and wider community.

The student led initiative will allow youth to co-design the learning framework and is likely to incorporate mediums such as art and kapa haka. Youth input will extend to details like specifying start and finish dates to align with curriculum, as well as shaping any awards or recognition alongside the learning.

Healthy Families Waitakere manager Kerry Allan says it’s important to ensure young people are leading the way by facilitating a process where youth can gain first-hand knowledge on the development of health promoting messages for smokefree.  

“This is about using the youth voice – ultimately to bring about systems change in the learning setting.

“Maori participation at all levels of the development and implementation of health promoting messages is critical to the impact it has on the community, and ultimately enhances their capabilities and opportunities as young people in Waitakere,” says Kerry.

“Engaging alternative education students is a critical step to extending the work we’ve already done in schools in the region.  We need to include these students in conversations to understand what young people think about smoking and what messages would encourage them and their peers to stop smoking.”

The project continues last year’s initiatives in West Auckland schools to encourage student leadership and action around smokefree messages, with the ultimate aim of reducing smoking rates in the community’s youth population.

A brighter future for our tamariki in early childhood centres

A brighter future for our tamariki in early childhood centres

Healthy Families Waitakere convened stakeholders and educators from the early childhood sector to develop ideas and create early learning environments where children eat well and are more physically active.

Over a series of workshops, six different stakeholders came together with teachers from 70 West Auckland centres. The workshops provided a space for shared learnings and collective thinking towards actions to positively influence the health and wellbeing of under 5’s.

Educators have had success in making significant changes to their teaching practices and centre procedures. Ranui Kindergarten teachers gained an understanding of how to apply culturally relevant strategies to promote physical activity and re-designed their play activities to reflect Māori knowledge and practices.

Teacher Tui Cusack said they were inspired to apply a cultural lens to their sessions to cater to the 55% Māori children attending the kindergarten. “The teaching team looked at ways to weave a Māori physical activity framework into our setting so put what we learnt into practice and the children responded well.” she says.

Glendene Learning Steps focused on improving their environment and resources to increase physical activity in the centre. Teaching staff redeveloped a number of their active play resources, introduced new activities and upgraded their playground. Teacher, Nalina Nand said the new resources added value to their sessions around play, “The kids are more active since the new resources have been introduced”, she says.

Discoveries Educare in Te Atatu Peninsula want to inspire other centres nationwide to make positive changes around food provision. The centre is working towards the gold level of the Heart Foundation’s Healthy Heart Award and made improvements to their menu by adding a wider variety of fruit and vegetables.

Staff have also seen less food waste since engaging parents in ways to create healthier lunchboxes.

“Over half of a child’s daily diet is consumed at day care, we want our centre to set an example for all Discoveries day care centres to create consistency across the organisation around healthy food messages and to show children that food is fun and nutritious”, says Manager Jessie Lin.

Healthy Families Waitakere Manager Kerry Allan says early learning environments play a huge role in children’s wellbeing with most children spending up to 6 hours a day in early childhood centres.

“By bringing the early childhood community together to think differently about the underlying causes of poor health, we can make changes to create more health promoting early childhood centres to set the foundations for a healthier future for tamariki”.

Culture and physical activity come together to transform teaching practices in ECEs

Culture and physical activity come together to transform teaching practices in ECEs

Placing cultural values at the heart of the teaching methods in a Pacific ECE environment has inspired one ECE to deliver active play and movement in a unique way.  Healthy Families Waitakere having established and supported a network of Pacific ECE’s in West Auckland were able to secure the inclusion of FunSkills into a centre.

FunSkills is professional development for teachers around skills and movement, delivered by Sport Waitakere. As part of the programme delivery Healthy Families Waitakere, Sport Waitakere and Cook Islands Educators worked together to design an approach that involves play activities based on traditional practices from the Cook Islands.

Over 6 months, Nor West Cook Islands Early Childhood teachers developed their capability to teach active play and were supported to embed cultural approaches into movement and play.

This enabled children to be engaged in physical activity which celebrated their Cook Islands culture. Children used stilts made out of rope and coconut shells (tamaka kapu akari) and did an activity that resembles the grating of a coconut while other children and teachers sing a Pe’e kana’ akari’ chant.

By applying a cultural lens, teacher’s capability and understanding of movement and play was enhanced and Acting Supervisor Manava Paroti said their pedagogy of teaching and care had shifted.

“The teachers have deepened their learning and understanding of movement and we have changed the way we think about active play”, she says.

Their activities align with the Ministry of Health’s Sit Less, Move More, Sleep Well: Active Play Guidelines for Under Fives as they enable children to develop skills that will give them the confidence and competence to be physically active for life.

“Since the programme began, the children have got more confident with their balance outside and are also listening better”, says Manava.

With 94% of Pasifika children attending the 225 early childhood centres across West Auckland, Healthy Families Waitakere are engaging more centres to develop other Pasifika approaches to movement and play to nurture and develop children in Early Learning Environments.  

Kelston Girls College take the first steps to becoming a ‘pro water’ school

Kelston Girls College take the first steps to becoming a ‘pro water’ school

Healthy Families Waitakere have been working alongside all twelve of our secondary schools to drive sustainable changes in each school through the leadership of staff and students. One high school, Kelston Girls College have taken the first steps to making long term change by promoting water as the first choice during class and while being active. 

School Nurse Pat Hutchinson was successful in negotiating a change with their vending machine provider Sanitarium, to increase the amount water in the machines. They have agreed to limit the number of other drinks to only one row. Prior to the change, most drinks available contained sugar.

“We encourage our girls to drink water at school primarily to keep hydrated, reduce headaches and improve concentration” says Pat.

Athletics Day and School Cross Country events in 2018 are also being used as an opportunity to promote water.  Sport Activator Jamie Lane believes sport has a role in not only promoting regular forms of physical activity but can be used as a vehicle to promote positive health messages.

Jamie has been proactive in supporting the student committee to consider ways to promote water before, and during the Athletics Day and School Cross Country events.

"Senior management and staff are supporting the promotion of drinking water and other student-led health and wellness initiatives that will hopefully grow year to year and allow the students to feel good about themselves long term", he says.

In addition to sporting events, water has also been included in the curriculum with Year 9 and 10 students exploring water as a topic during enquiry week in Term 4, 2017. Students learnt about water sustainability, water systems and the benefits of drinking water.

This fantastic example of leadership at Kelston Girls College is just the beginning. Their efforts to create a healthier school environment where water is the easiest choice is all part of a movement happening across Waitakere where community champions, organisations and sports clubs are choosing water as the best and first choice of drink. This is a further step to eliminating excess sugary drink consumption in young people. 

To see more, visit their website 

Image: School Nurse Pat Hutchinson and Sport Activator Jamie Lane with their newly stocked vending machine

Positive change keeps happening in West Auckland High Schools

Positive change keeps happening in West Auckland High Schools

Healthy Families Waitakere is influencing the thinking of staff and students across all 12 Secondary Schools in West Auckland. Through taking a partnership approach, Healthy Families Waitakere have supported students and staff to drive changes that are creating healthier environments.

Over the past 6 months, Kelston Girls High and Massey High School home to over 2200 students and 120 staff have achieved success in taking steps towards better food and beverage choices.

With support from senior management, students have been developing solutions to address the challenges with the food and drink availability in each High School. They have tackled high sugary drink consumption, poor condition of drinking fountains, and unhealthy drink options sold in canteens and vending machines.

Massey High School students found only 4 of their 12 water fountains in good working condition and reported that students perceived their fountains as uninviting and unhygienic. Their insights were presented to senior management and in October 2017, Healthy Families Waitakere secured funding on behalf of the school from The Trusts Community Foundation for 2 new water fountains. Senior management are seeking further funding from the Board of Trustees to purchase additional fountains and improve the remaining water fountains.

Students also researched the most popular drinks sold in their canteen and found bottled water among the least popular. The students shared their insights and learnings alongside healthy messages at the Annual Open Day. This sent a strong message about the harm of sugary drinks to the wider school community who came through the doors.

Kelston Girls High School were successful in negotiating a change with their vending machine provider Sanitarium, to increase the visibility of water in the machines. They have agreed to limit the number of drinks other than water to only one row. Prior to the change, most drinks available contained sugar, now all vending machines are full of healthier drinks for the students. 

In Term 4, 2017 the topic of water was integrated into the curriculum with over 200 Year 9 and 10 students exploring water during enquiry week. Students learnt about water sustainability, water systems and the benefits of drinking water.

Teacher Jamie Lane says health and wellbeing has become a focus for the school for 2018, "Senior management and staff are supporting student led pro-water initiatives that will hopefully grow year to year and allow the students to feel good about themselves long term", he says.

These changes driven by Massey High School and Kelston Girls High School are all part of a movement happening across Waitakere where community champions, organisations and sports clubs are choosing water as the best choice of drink. This is a further step to eliminating excess sugar consumption of our young people.

Image: Students from Massey High School at the Annual Open Day