December 7, 2018 - 10:15am
Breaking down barriers to recreation for elementary school children could contribute to healthier, more active adults.
Thanks to a $50,000 grant from Island Health, Vancouver Island University (VIU) has partnered with the City of Nanaimo Parks and Recreation, Division of Family Practice, and the Nanaimo Ladysmith School District to introduce Grade 5 students to more active lifestyles. The 16-week recreation program, called the Recreation Prescription Project, is offered in three elementary schools to over 100 students.
“We are targeting 10-year-olds as research shows this is the age children are still willing to try new things without fear of peer judgment or are too concerned with personal appearances,” says Joanne Schroeder, VIU’s M.A. Leisure Service Administrator. “We are trying to introduce students to leisure access before those factors start to influence them and it becomes more difficult to get them active.”
The project is grounded in five goals from the nationally recognized Framework for Recreation in Canada: Active Living, Inclusion and Access; Connecting People and Nature Supportive Environments; and Recreation Capacity. Students participate in the program for two hours per week each semester from October to March. They are going on nature walks, playing games to develop physical literacy, treasure hunting, ice skating, participating in sports, swimming, and exploring local parks and trails.
“We are trying to show these students that you don’t have to be part of a program to feel good about being active. There are things within their control that they can access to still be healthy,” says Schroeder.
“For many students whom are participating in the project the only time that they are physically active is during school hours,” says Alyshia Coombs, Recreation Prescription Coordinator. “By allowing the students to have access to the activities such as swimming, walking to their local park, or talking about the importance of imagination and taking screen breaks, it encourages them to participate with their family and friends after school hours.”
VIU Nursing, Sport Health and Physical Activity Education (SHAPE), Tourism and Recreation, and Child and Youth Care students have teamed up to implement the program. The team is conducting a research report focusing on the students’ social, mental and physical well-being through pre-, mid- and post-health assessments, wellness surveys, and photography using photovoice.
What the VIU students have discovered already is that many of the elementary school children are coming unprepared to participate in the recreation activities.
“They are seeing the real risk factors of these kids such as no proper rain gear or shoes,” says Schroeder.
The Recreation Prescription Project is challenging the public to “Shed Your Threads” by donating gently used water-resistant jackets, shoes, boots, sweaters and pants for students to use in the program and afterwards. Drop off locations are at Vancouver Island University in Building 210 Floor 4, Building 250 Floor 3, and Building 356 Room 266.
“If you don't have proper clothing or shoes that fit it can be extremely challenging to focus on the activities planned because all you are focused on his how your feet hurt, how they are wet or that your clothes don't fit or aren’t suitable to the activity,” says Coombs.
“We hope these students will embrace being active which will later translate into them making healthy choices as adults,” says Schroeder.
Rae-Anne Guenther, Communications Officer, Vancouver Island University