A new teaching resource for schools that aims to promote the link between the environment and health has been launched today. The ‘Healthy Places, Healthy Children’ resource has been designed by Belfast Healthy Cities, the World Health Organization initiative in Northern Ireland, for Key Stage 2 children.
The development of the resource, which has already been successfully piloted in more than 20 schools across Northern Ireland, was supported by the Public Health Agency, Northern Ireland Housing Executive and the Education Authority (EA).
The resource, which complements the Northern Ireland Curriculum, will introduce children to the links between the built environment and health and well-being over the course of seven units. It provides an opportunity for children to research their local area; develop proposals on how to make their local environment more child friendly; and, provides guidance on how to share their proposals with local decision makers.
Among the schools which piloted the resource was St Kevin’s Primary School where the pupils undertook a research project which assessed the area around their school and identified how it could be improved to increase physical activity and play for all pupils.
The children brought forward their proposals to the school council and presented their proposals to Councillors at Belfast City Council and other agencies. The project ultimately led to an extensive refurbishment of the school playground, introducing new play areas, active learning spaces and a new football and games area.
Speaking at the launch of Healthy Places, Healthy Children, Joan Devlin, Chief Executive, Belfast Healthy Cities, said: “Belfast Healthy Cites has been working with schools right across Belfast for many years to encourage children to find out more about their local environment and see how it can be improved to encourage more active and healthier lifestyles. The new Healthy Places, Healthy Children teaching resource will allow even more school, and other groups, to benefit from this work and improve their own local environment and wellbeing.”
Commenting on the Education Authority’s (EA) partnership with Belfast Healthy Cities, Carol Weatherall, EA Assistant Advisory Officer added: “The Education Authority is delighted to partner with Belfast Healthy Cities in creating this beneficial resource for schools. We hope that all schools across Northern Ireland will soon be able to reap the benefits of creating ‘Healthy Places, Healthy Children’.”
Fiona Keegan, Principal of St Kevin’s Primary School, who were among the schools who piloted the resource, said: “The Healthy Places, Healthy Children programme encouraged our pupils to take the initiative and work together to transform the area around the school into something that allows all pupils to play, learn and enjoy their time at school. Since the play areas and active learning space have been completed, we have seen a change in how the children play, and an increase in their activity, improving their health and wellbeing. In addition to Belfast Healthy Cities and the Education Authority, we are grateful to Active Belfast and the Department for Communities for they support they have given to make this project a success.”
The Healthy Places, Healthy Children Key Stage 2 Teaching Resource is publicly available for use by teachers, after schools’ clubs and other groups through Belfast Healthy Cities’ website www.belfasthealthycities.com/hphc. Training videos will also be available to teachers through the Education Authority website at www.eani.org.uk/services/eatv.
Schools that produce a proposal developed as part of the teaching resource are eligible to participate in the Joanne Mathers award scheme. This award scheme is supported by the Royal Town Planning Institute and offers an award of £1000 towards the winning entry.