St Mary’s NS is in the process of applying for The Active School Flag. This flag is awarded to schools that strive to achieve a physically educated and physically active school community. The process aims to get more schools, more active, more often.
Active Schools Section 1: PE-Curriculum & Planning
As part of our Active School process, the staff highlighted Outdoor and Adventure activities as an area for development. Some of our staff are really strong in this area and are part of the Staff Active Flag Committee. They agreed to share their expertise with the staff. We chose Wednesday, 3rd May as a staff training day. We intend to lay out 3 activities – scavenger hunt and two orienteering activities. Staff will participate in the activities and share ideas. Photographs will be uploaded in the next fortnight.
A second improvement we made through the ASF process was to introduce PAWS to our PE curriculum. Some of our classes are chosen to attend swimming lessons in Kells Swimming Pool where they develop their swimming strokes. For the remaining classes this year, we introduced PAWS- (Primary Aquatics Water Safety). Teachers can take their class through the first three awards without going near water – Land PAWS 1, 2 and 3. These awards consist of theory of water safety – safe swimming, safety on the farm, safety on open water etc.
Through PAWS pupils learn to understand and appreciate the water and most importantly, to be cautious and safety conscious around any water.
The school now has an overall PE timetable ensuring that every class has 1 hour of timetabled PE per week. Free time slots are also shown on the timetable allowing teachers to make use of the hall for discretionary time.
The school now teaches PE as 2 x 30 minute classes as opposed to in a 1 hour block, thus allowing pupils to be active on two separate occasions during the week.
The school now adopts a more structured approach to PE planning especially regarding the time allotted to each of the PE strands. Previously we were over concentrating on games and athletics at the expense of dance and gymnastics. All class teachers have now agreed to allot equal time to each of the six strands and the school PE timetable has been re-structured accordingly.
The ASF co-ordinator joined the IPPEA. I regularly share information and resources with the staff from the IPPEA.
On Wednesday, 3rd May 2017 the staff got together for an ideas sharing session on the Outdoor and Adventures strand. Aine O Reilly, from the Active School Committee, co-ordinated all the resources and ideas. We now have a folder with sample scavenger hunts for our local forest, orienteering ideas, maps of the school, worksheets and answer sheets. All the staff agreed that by having this at hand, it will make this strand less daunting. Three of the Active Committee took a sample orienteering activity each – one for lower, middle and for upper classes. Teachers went to the section that they were interested in and took part in an orienteering task in pairs. By actually experiencing these activities, we then shared ideas to extend them or simplify them.
We, as a staff, agreed that we would dedicate the next three weeks to the Outdoor and Adventure strand. This will facilitate teachers sharing the laying out of resources and gathering them back in.
Section 2: Physical Activity
St Mary’s NS introduced DEAR (Drop Everything and Run) time in January and we have seen huge improvements in the fitness level and endurance of our pupils across the school:
Our DEAR is displayed on our Active School display board in kilometres ran. Every fortnight the Active School Committee collect up the results and we tally them. The class who ran the most in the lower, middle and upper school are rewarded with 30minutes free play with PE equipment of their choice.
As a staff, we have made a concerted effort to introduce more movement breaks in to our learning day. Ms McEntee, from the staff ASF committee, made out a comprehensive table of activities at low, mid and high energy levels from GoNoodle. This was a fantastic start for teachers and we all have favourites that we use regularly now in our rooms.
In February, we incorporated the Operation Transformation 10@10. We have used 10am since as a time to get the children up and active for movement breaks. 12pm has also been highlighted as a whole school time for busy breaks. This is very flexible but it is a good reminder to get up and active in our rooms.
On wet days, each class tries to incorporate more movement in their day or they go out in between showers for DEAR time.
Every Friday, we rotate the loud speaker around the yards for Free Dance Friday. This is a huge novelty for the students and they thoroughly enjoy the music. They get into groups and make up dances and it gives an extra energy to our break time activities.
On Friday, PE equipment is allowed out on yard for the children to play with. The Active School Committee are responsible for bringing out equipment and collecting it in again.
We have No Football Friday to allow greater variety of play. This has worked well especially for those students who do not enjoy soccer/football.
Playground helpers are assigned from 6th class to the infant yard each month. These 6th class pupils have been assigned playground games to teach and set up every Wednesday with Junior and Senior Infant pupils. The children adore these games as they are managed by the older students and are really successful. You can see the benefit of teaching games throughout the week as the younger children try them out themselves other days.
At our last staff meeting, we have decided to teach a playground game a fortnight to all class levels. This is to improve the quality of play on all yards. We will use our Whats App conversation to suggest “Game of the fortnight” and teachers can use this as a warm up game in PE or in the main body of their lesson.
Fit lines have made a big difference to children’s waiting at the end of breaktimes. The Active School Committee students lead their classes in exercises before lining back up to return to class.
Our ASF committee was chosen by taking two representatives from each class from 1st – 6th class. The committee meet regularly at lunchtime in Rm 2 with Mrs Brennan and Ms McEntee. The students feed back to staff on what is working well and suggestions they have for our Active School process.
A suggestion box is featured at the ASF display board. All students are invited to make suggestions through this box. Some good ideas for Active Week came from this box.
The ASF committee had a really pivotal role in Active School Week. They made suggestions for activities. They learned the Macarena and 10 circuit exercises. Two mornings of the Active Week, the committee members led the students in their “Wake up, Shake up”.
Currently, the children have been given the opportunity to make suggestions for Sports Day. These suggestions are being considered by the staff while we draw up a timetable of activities.
From the outset of the process, through the Parents’ Association and the school website, parents were informed that the school had decided to work towards achieving the ASF and kept up to date with progress.
Parents and members of the local community were invited to put their ideas about how we could make the school more active into the ASF Ideas box.
The school, with the co-operation of parents, is now participating in the Be Active After-School Activity Programme (HSE). This programme has been made available to the pupils of 1st and 2nd class.
Parents were invited to help out and demonstrate their skills during Active School Week. As a result we had 2 parents volunteer to give taster sessions in their area of expertise. Other parents are willing to come in at a later date.
The ASW programme will include a Parent and Child walk in June up to Ramor football pitch and back to the school (approx. 4-5k).
Working with the local community:
The school organised a GAA Jersey Day the Friday before the Cavan county final where Ramor was playing Castlerahen. Children and teachers were encouraged to wear their club colours.
Ramor players visited the school to celebrate winning the county final. All classes attended this celebratory assembly. During Active Week, players came in again with the cup and provided taster gaelic sessions.
The school invited different local clubs into the school so children could try out different activities, both competitive and non-competitive and both team and individual sports. We have had tennis, gaelic, pitch and putt, rugby, Cavan Kenpo and yoga coaches visit the school to give ‘taster sessions’ during the year.
Clare McCrystal from Virginia Triathlon Club gave a talk to 5th/6th class.
Working with National Agencies:
The school contacted the Local Sports Partnership (LSP) to let them know that they were working towards the ASF. The school has been added to the LSP database and now receives regular communication from them. The LSP officers have been extremely helpful and provided a range of activities and support to the school throughout the ASF process.
We contacted Cavan Sports Partnership and there are 20 students from 5th and 6th completing a TriHeroes programme training for a duathlon event, beginning Monday, May 15th.
We also contacted the Sports Inclusion Development Officer as we have a new Moderate Learning Unit this year. We wanted to ensure our PE ideas were as inclusive as possible. Twenty staff members completed Games 4 All training in March.
Section 4: Active Week
Our Active Week took place on March 13th – March 16th. We tried to incorporate as much variety as possible. We wanted to allow our students to experience a wide variety of movement in our attempt to achieve our 60 minutes of activity every day. By doing this, we hope that we are sending them the message that they can achieve an hour of activity a day.
The week was launched by Kevin McElhinney for our Wake Up Shake Up session. He provided music and moves to get us all warmed up.
A Zumba teacher provided each class with a half hour slot. This day proved extremely popular across our school community.
Lunchtime volleyball club was on for 6th class refereed by Mrs Brennan.
Tuesday: Ceili Dance (Seachtain na Gaeilge)
Our Wake Up Shake Up saw us walk a 2km circuit around our school.
Two local dance teachers from Tracy Taffe Academy provided a half hour dance lesson for each class.
On Tuesday, two GAA coaches came in and gave taster sessions to first and second classes. Older classes tend to get these coaches each Friday.
Teachers also provided extra PE. There was a lunchtime handball club for 4th class supervised by our principal who encourages and coaches a variety of sports throughout the year.
Wednesday morning’s Wake Up Shake Up was led by the ASF committee doing the Macarena.
Kevin McElhinney took each class for half hour sessions. His sessions challenged the students with core work as well as gross motor movements.
We had a lunchtime basketball challenge game of hotseat for 5th class. Sixth class students joined in as well.
Throughout Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday Cavan Kenpo came in and gave each class a 30 minute slot in the library as our hall was being used.
Thursday morning’s Wake Up Shake Up was an exercise routine similar to the 10@10 to get us warmed up.
A yoga teacher provided each class with a 20minute slot.
Overall our first ever Active Week was a huge success. We do have plenty more ideas for next year on how we can improve it.