The Principle of Health & Wellbeing
The next principle is the principle of Health. When we are young, it’s easy not to think a great deal about being healthy and yet this age and stage is a critical time to embed good habits. We know that we are what we eat so in school we believe that our food should be local for freshness, seasonal for abundance and wherever possible organic. We believe in organic food because we see it as the best way to grow food in harmony with Nature. Although as a State school we don’t have as much land as some private schools, we use a high proportion of our land to grow organic food and it is free. Our children participate in and learn about what we grow and for much of the year there is something on their meal plate that has come from the school grounds. The children also understand the importance of drinking water to keep hydrated so they have established a lunchtime challenge that everyone drinks a glass of water every day. Good habits are being instilled every day and there isn’t a plastic bottle in sight.
We often see physical well-being as participating in sport. Whilst this has great value, we are keen that our children also take part in activities such as gardening and outdoor construction, activities that connect them to the land and the soil.
As well as the physical well-being, there is the mental well-being that comes from stimulating, challenging learning. This is an area that education has to get right if we want our children to grow up with a real love and passion for learning. This doesn’t happen when the teacher talks too much. It does happen however when children and young people are engaged in relevant projects of learning and when the teacher’s role in turn informs and questions what they do. This requires the teacher to have a constant awareness of where the children are in their learning and what needs to provoke that learning to the next stage. But is this what we are training our teachers to do? When we get this balance right, the children really do thrive. It is a huge part of what makes them healthy.
Alongside that, our children must learn the value of reflection times and stillness to refocus or clear their minds. As they grow, they begin to realise that moments of deep quiet can lead to moments of great revelation. This practice is gaining in popularity in schools across the world and it is having a beneficial impact on many young people. It is essential to their future well-being. We must keep encouraging it.
The culture within which this health initiative is set is a values culture where values are explicitly taught so that the children grow up with a foundation of values that underpin how they live their lives. These values need to be lived out, too. Children need opportunities to lead projects of change based on what they think is important. They need time to plan out and prepare for their projects and they need time to make them happen.
When we allow this to happen, we are developing leadership that goes well beyond the captain of the sports team. In fact the children often realise that it is in their collective leadership that they are most successful.