As a new team member of Health Promotion Services at ASEBP, I was excited to hear we were attending the Shaping the Future conference in February—talk about perfect timing to start a new position! Shaping the Future is a pan-Canadian school health summit that brings ideas of health, wellness and ideal learning environments together for all students and staff. The conference is a great opportunity to really dive into all things Comprehensive School Health; to get a hands-on approach to what teachers, principals and wellness champions were experiencing; to meet new, friendly faces who share the same passion for health; and to get to know all of the brilliant partnerships and organizations in Alberta.
Heather, an avid wellness champion for 20 years and physical education and wellness consultant with Edmonton Catholic Schools, was the lucky winner of The Sandbox’s free registration to Shaping the Future—an opportunity she made the most of. Her fun-loving, go-getter attitude provides a unique perspective on the conference. I was able to ask her a few questions about her experience and learn that—spoiler alert—even as adults, we should never stop playing.
Kristyn: What was the value in attending Shaping the Future?
Heather: It was an incredible experience! From the location and weather (hello, Lake Louise!) to an all-encompassing approach to health, this conference had it all. This was my fifth year attending the conference and every year brings something new. A time to network, make new friends and see familiar faces, Shaping the Future provides opportunities to discover the many great health initiatives out there.
The conference atmosphere and social activities throughout the weekend provided a chance to really focus on my own wellness and take some time to “play.” During the wellness break at the conference, I was able to get outside and enjoy a snowshoe hike with some fellow conference attendees. Everywhere I looked there were people around us getting active and enjoying the beautiful outdoors—from skating, to playing shinny, cross country skiing, walking around, laughing and taking pictures—it was so energizing to see everyone in high spirits!
K: What will you bring back to your workplace?
H: It was so valuable to make connections during the conference with my wellness curriculum counterparts from Edmonton Public Schools, Calgary Board of Education and Calgary Catholic School District. The four of us are all on the same page and, collectively, we hope to move health and wellness programs forward in our respective districts. It’s nice to collaborate, share ideas and get to know each other in person.
I also furthered my understanding and passion for adventure play and the idea that we need to get back to the basics—meaning the more we can play outside, the better it is for all of us. I started working on this concept last spring and the Extending Curriculum Outdoors session at the conference was exactly what I was looking for to move this forward in my school district. Adam and Jill Bienenstock hosted this session through Bienenstock Natural Playgrounds, which focuses on interaction with nature. My biggest takeaway is that it’s not about reinventing the wheel—sometimes it’s just finding a different way to look at it. It’s important to be in the mindset of always learning and developing new skills. Sharing ideas and learning from each other ensures that we’re creating meaningful experiences.
K: What were some great moments you experienced at Shaping the Future?
H: The picture below was taken at one of the hands-on activities I attended on adventure play. It was a sunny winter day for the outdoor session, Extending Curriculum Outdoors, which incorporated a challenge among groups to create a two-person shelter using outdoor materials such as trees, shrubs, snow and whatever else we could find in nature. I had an awesome group of people to race around and gather materials with to build this shelter. Being outside for this activity was in itself a great experience to play and practice wellness for ourselves. It was neat to see that people took pride in what they created. It was a special time to laugh, connect and enjoy ourselves. Even as adults we need to take the time to play and have fun outside.
The fun didn’t end there. Throughout the conference, I would sit with someone different each meal, each session and each activity. I’d introduce myself and get to know other like-minded individuals. It’s not about who you know, but rather, about who you get to know. Everyone is so friendly and open to connecting. Meeting new people is so important—that’s how learning keeps going!
Well there you have it, folks—a perfect excuse to get outside and play. Learning and growing never stops and it’s nice to hear just how significant getting outside can be. For Heather, connecting with other wellness champions at Shaping the Future was a great way to gain momentum with her wellness initiatives and gather insight on how to use others’ ideas to implement health and wellness in her own school jurisdiction. You can find out even more ways to engage staff in The Sandbox through the resources page.
If this winter wonderland experience sounds like something you’d be interested in, be sure to check out Shaping the Future in 2019. Be sure to also take a look at The Sandbox to find other events, conferences and webinars pertaining to workplace wellness in Alberta. Never stop exploring!