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Wellness stories need the right conditions to grow. See how the District scolaire francophone du Nord-Ouest created the right social and physical environments for mental fitness to thrive – take a look at the infographic on the right!
How a mental fitness approach is creating a better reality for school kids
A key focus area of wellness, mental fitness and resilience may be the least understood and most overlooked, yet it leads the way to a healthy lifestyle and increases our ability to face life’s challenges. This is a fact not missed by Lise Aubut, who developed a guide on the subject in 2010, entitled “On the Right Track”, in collaboration with Isabel Savoie, formerly of New Brunswick’s Department of Healthy and Inclusive Communities, and Kathleen Rice, of District scolaire francophone du Nord-Ouest (DSF-NO). Lise and Kathleen led a project to increase the understanding and awareness of a mental fitness approach in the schools and offices of the district, under the banner “Seeing Through CAR Glasses”. Seeing every person with needs and not problems.
Staff participated in workshops to help them understand the importance of mental fitness in the classroom and in the workplace. The approach centers around three basic psychological needs: competence, autonomy and relatedness (CAR). It is based on the Self-Determination Theory, and encourages motivation and commitment from staff and students alike. The approach focuses on recognizing the gifts and talents of students and staff, giving them a voice and choices, and on instilling a sense of belonging, being part of a team to which they are all contributing in a positive way.
There is lots of evidence to show that when the environments where we learn, work, play and live and our relationships with others satisfy these three interrelated needs, we are more motivated and engaged, our overall wellness is improved, and we are more likely to make healthy lifestyle choices.
The CAR approach can be used by anyone, anywhere, at any time. In fact, it is a way of living! It can be as simple as a smile or a friendly “hello” on a school bus.
In June of 2014, workshops were extended to school bus drivers. As a first point of contact with students on a daily basis, bus drivers have a significant role to play in the development and education of each kid. They see students grow and develop, sometimes all the way from kindergarten to high school. Every interaction they have with a child is a learning opportunity. A smile, a cheery “hello”, music played on the bus, positive slogans written in and on it, some good humor, and a positive role model at the wheel; these are some examples of ways they made the journey to and from school a positive educational experience.
Now, “On the Right Track” is being taken on the road. Lise and Kathleen were invited to present the project at an international conference in Rochester, New York (5th International Conference on Self-Determination Theory), a testament to the international support backed by research in areas such as neuroscience, health, education, psychotherapy, and more.
Thanks to the support of Superintendent Bertrand Beaulieu, and Luc Caron, Director of Education for the District scolaire francophone Nord-Ouest who believed in this project from the start, Lise and Kathleen have been able to help bring mental fitness and resilience into the classrooms of their 19 schools and the district offices, and even on the buses that bring children to school.
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