The Calgary Educational Partnerships Foundation presented a cheque to staff and students of Dr. Elliott School in support of Dr. Elliott School’s Student Wellness Team. The Student Wellness Team was formed last year as a committee of the Junior High Student Council to support student wellness all year long.
Cathy Price, the Wellness Team Advisor, says, “This grant from the Calgary Educational Partnerships Foundation is so beneficial! It will allow us to bring to life some of the big ideas our students have to transform spaces in our school where self-esteem can sometimes be low, such as bathrooms and locker rooms, into spaces that are restorative and confidence boosting.”
The idea for the transformation project began in February 2015 following a guest speaker whose talk focused on everyday acts of kindness. One particular message that deeply resonated was the idea of building a positive legacy through daily acts of kindness and compassion. The grade 9 students began thinking about leaving a legacy and started seriously considering ways to leave a place better, either physically or emotionally, than it was when they arrived. This conversation developed into a kindness campaign and students began thinking about ways they can show kindness on a larger scale. Students on the wellness team took the initiative to begin conversations with their peers about leaving a legacy and coming up with a plan of something they could do this year to make Dr. Elliott a better place. One area that they felt they could really have an impact was in transforming areas where self-esteem and confidence are low. Dr. Michelle Borba, author of Moral Intelligences, calls these areas “hotspots” and defines them as areas that are usually without adult supervision…places like bathrooms, locker rooms, under equipment, far corners, under trees, etc.
Before beginning this legacy project, the bathrooms and locker rooms at Dr. Elliott School were very institutional, functional, and according to students, very unwelcoming spaces. Students felt that by putting up encouraging messaging, providing spaces for students to contribute positive messages, and having a few toiletries to support physical growth and development they would be able to have a positive impact on these hotspot areas. Students decided to run an experiment in a junior high girls’ washroom at Dr. Elliott School to see if it made any difference, and the results were outstanding. “Our locker rooms have many of the original fixtures and appearance from when the gym was constructed in the 1960s,” informed Mr. Kurt Ratzlaff the principal of Dr. Elliott School.
The students collectively decided that they would all work to make this space a positive refuge and a place to share support and encouragement. They determined that they could write only positive, uplifting messages on the graffiti boards and would immediately report any misuse to staff. They also encouraged peers to just take what they needed. Students offered to contribute their own items to the supplies to be used by everyone including bringing in hand soap and artwork. Staff discussed with students what would be hygienic and acceptable to bring and what items should not be shared, such as hairbrushes and accessories and items with a strong odour. One of the greatest moments was when one of the grade nine girls asked a student in grade 8, who is fairly introverted, if she would paint an original art piece to be hung on the wall in the bathroom.
This year, the entire student body will be benefiting from the work of the transformation as plans are underway to update all of the bathrooms and locker rooms at Dr. Elliott School using the guiding force of kindness, compassion, and positive legacy building.
Lane Reimer, President of the Junior High Student Council and key leader of the student wellness team says, “The bathrooms and locker rooms right now are in really rough shape. We have a lot of ideas for how we want those spaces to look and feel and it’s nice that we are able to do that work now.”
Healthy, happy students’ achiever higher results and experience success in more aspects of their lives. The Student Wellness Team is dedicated to supporting the wellness needs of all students.