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Through the Looking Glass

by Krista Sheehan ASEBP | December 3 2015 | 3 Comments

Alberta’s Distracted Driving Law prohibits us from applying makeup, eating cereal, texting, brushing your teeth or reading a book—thank goodness! So, while you refrain from brushing your teeth (!?!) and concentrate on driving, you have an excellent opportunity to take in all that’s through your very own community “looking glass.”

I’ve lived in the same neighborhood for the last 10 years. Go ahead and ask me how many golden arches there are or, better yet, how many Winners, Marshalls or Homesense stores there are. For most people these numbers are probably easily rattled off. But when was the last time you made a conscious effort to look for your local Food Bank, Sports Central, locally owned fitness center, spa or community garden? As a nurse, I’ve conducted these types of community “windshield surveys” for years. Essentially, it’s an opportunity to get the lay of the land, find out what the community is like and get a sense of what some of their needs might be.

Have Your Own (slightly less mad) Tea Party

Have an idea that you or your group want to make happen? Now it’s your turn to put yourself in Alice’s shoes and get out your own looking glass! Step out, introduce yourself to the local mad hatters and find what your school community has to offer, or, better yet, look for ways to engage them in supporting your initiative!

Don’t have a car or want to go green? Not a problem! Whether you’re walking, driving or riding a bicycle, the quick, 15-minute survey serves the same purpose. And taking the time to survey and make connections in your community now is going to save you time down the road when you likely won’t have it.

Advice From a (slightly less cryptic) Caterpillar

“How in the world will this help the (possibly mad) genius wellness idea I want to kick start at my school,” you ask? Great question.

My advice is to take what you gleaned from your community survey and ask yourself how you might mutually benefit. For example:

  • Can your local massage clinic provide 10 minute chair massages at a staff wellness day or during recess/lunch breaks?
  • Can your local fitness centre donate passes that can be used as prizes for a wellness initiative?
  • Can your local greenspace host outdoor yoga sessions after school?
  • Can the local sporting goods store host a snowshoeing demo in the winter?

No matter the idea, there is always a resource out there to help support you and make your work a tiny bit easier. Now, get yourself down that rabbit hole, Alice!

Krista Sheehan

Formerly ASEBP’s program manager, Health Promotion Services, Krista holds degrees in both physical education and nursing and offers up more than a decade of experience in public health with a focus on school health nursing. When not obsessively talking about her love of the Philadelphia Flyers, she can be seen awkwardly diving for cover in stealth attempts to avoid her greatest fear: bird poop.

Megan H. ASEBP - | December 3 2015 11:48 AM

Our own backyard! What a curious (and excellent) place to start, I am so glad you’ve identified this Krista.   Often times we drive right past the seemingly small items right under our nose that make a significant impact on our neighbourhood.   

There is a community garden near the school by where I live, last spring I wandered over for the first time to discover the garden is tended to by volunteers and also provides a robust selection of fruits and veggies to our community as a gift.  That’s right, for free.  The garden has also been integrated into the elementary school’s curriculum, providing each grade a different responsibility to contribute to the gardens’ growth.  


I suppose finding the rabbit hole of opportunity is a little like stopping to smell the flowers.  

Matthew M. Alberta Health Services - | December 9 2015 3:51 PM

Krista, I love that you point out how partnerships around school employee wellness should be mutually beneficial. Too often we ask "what can you do for us?", but when there is something in it for everyone, initiatives are much more likely to succeed. Partnerships are a two way street, so it is important to shift perspective from "what can you do for us?" to "how can we help eachother?", and ultimately to "how can we work together to achieve a common goal?".

Lorna M. Alberta Health Services - | December 14 2015 11:06 AM

Some great points Krista.  I know a handful of jurisdictions that have identified staff wellness as a priotity.  It has been fun watching as they reach out to community partners to assist in this endeavour.  One organization donated some prizes but asked that they be distributed in a "pay it forward fashion" where the winner received 2 prizes - 1 to keep and the other to pay forward.  Local recreation centres, golf cources, fitness studios, salons, and other businesses / services have been generous in their support!

I have wondered if the donations were easy to secure because so many of the businesses are owned / operated by parents.