In preparation for a Health and Wellbeing Project I undertookof literature, legislation and government guidelines such as Let's Make Scotland More Active (Scottish Executive, 2003), Active Schools, A Curriculum for Excellence (Scottish Executive, 2007a) and the Schools (Health Promotion and Nutrition) (Scotland) Act 2007 (Scottish Executive, 2007b). After discussions with the Assistant Head of Centre and together with the knowledge gained from my studies at university and independent research I was able to go on and develop a project within the setting that promoted health and wellbeing, focusing on physical exercise, which would benefit children, parents and staff in the setting. In this report I will discuss the strategies that were put in place throughout the project to achieve this aim.
The setting is a Health Promoting Nursery offering opportunities to engage in energetic play and has a physical development programme. The Scottish Executive (2007b, p5) defines the role of health promoting schools as "a school or hostel is 'health promoting' if it provides activities, an environment and facilities which promote the physical, social, mental and emotional health and wellbeing of pupils in attendance in the school...". I felt that I would be able to engage with the policies that are already in place and build on the important contribution of families in supporting the development of healthy lifestyles.
The World Health Organisation (WHO 1977 cited in Naidoo and Wills 2000, p78) "suggests that there are five key principles of health promotion which are:
Involve the whole population and not just the people at risk
Be directed towards action on the determinants of health
Combine a variety of methods and approaches
Encourage self help movements
Should not just be medical based but include a wide range of health professionals"
The WHO (2009) recognize advocacy, enablement and mediation as three main ways in which practitioners can promote health all of which I have attempted to incorporate into my project.
To help me understand the children's level of knowledge of physical exercise and its health benefits I used an interactive book to start a discussion, see Appendix 1, Observation 1. From the information gathered I was then able to start planning experiences that would promote physical exercise in the setting.
I used a number of strategies throughout the project which included engaging with staff, finding out their knowledge of government policies on physical exercise and discussing the document Let's Make Scotland More Active (Scottish Executive 2003). We discussed ways in which access to physical exercise could be improved in the setting. I found it unnerving as a student talking to practitioners of many years standing about ways in which they could improve their practice but found that most of the staff where willing to reflect on their practice and engage with me. Two staff in particular had attended workshop training in relation to children and physical movement. The resources from this were made available to me for use during my project.
I planned an experience that provided children with the opportunity to explore the numerous ways in which they can be physically active, see Appendix 1, observation 2. We were able to discuss the ways in which they and their families enjoyed exercising and the health benefits it could bring to them. By increasing the children's knowledge they have been empowered to take more control over the choices they make in relation to their health and wellbeing.
Throughout the project the benefits of physical exercise were emphasised to the children. The experiences planned were based around children's ideas and interests. This together with guidance and support from adults kept them highly engaged, motivated and keen to take part. The children in this setting have a wide range of abilities and the varied opportunities allowed them to participate in physical exercise both indoors and outdoors, regardless of ability or disability. My mentor commented positively on my approach to inclusion and felt that I adapted my practice accordingly see Appendix1, observation 8 and 9, enabling all children to be included regardless of their developmental level or ability which is in line with guidance from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (2009).
The setting works in partnership with a local primary school and has the use of their gym hall on a weekly basis. After discussions with my mentor it was decided that I would build on the settings strategy for promoting heath and utilise this resource. Taking into account the children's thoughts and ideas I was able to plan an experience, see Appendix 1, observation3 Working together with my mentor we were able to provide the children with opportunities to turn, run, throw, catch and work together as a team. The children were improving their motor skills, developing confidence, competence in and positive attitudes towards physical activities. It is thought to be imperative that children are encouraged to develop these skills as the Scottish Executive (2003 Pg43) believe that "these basic movement skills support all our physical activity in later life".
As the project progressed the children's participation and learning was documented through the use of photographs and direct quotes from the children themselves. Health and wellbeing is embedded within the Curriculum for Excellence (Scottish Executive, 2007), enabling children to develop as successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors. The learning outcomes that had been achieved were displayed on a learning wall informing the parents and staff of the learning that had taken place. This also enabled the children to revisit their learning. Whilst the parents were looking at this I was able to speak to them about the project and discuss the benefits of living a more active life. I was also able to determine ways in which they took part in physical exercise as a family and individually which gave me further ideas for experiences to offer the children. On reflection I realised that a number of parents did not visit the setting regularly as their children travelled to nursery by transport provided by the setting. I would have been able to inform more parents of my project and my health and wellbeing message if I have produced a leaflet informing them about my project and its aims. I could have received information back from them by providing a questionnaire regarding the points I had discussed with parents in the setting. It is important that practitioners and parents work together in ensuring that children lead active lives and the Scottish Executive (2003 p39) "recommend that all parents should have support to gain the necessary skills to take an active role in helping their children enjoy an active life". In future I will think carefully about how I can include parents fully in their child's learning.
The final experience, see appendix 1, observation 10, provided enabled me to recap on the importance of physical exercise in relation to a healthy body and lifestyle. Children were able to tell me the effects on their bodies they felt after exercising, demonstrating that they are becoming aware of the impact of physical exercise. As they took part in this experience they talked about healthy bones and strong muscles and how they would grow up to be big and strong if they exercised. The children also stated the types of physical activities that they liked to take part in. This led me to believe that through health promotion I had been able to provide information at an appropriate level to which they could relate to. This has raised their awareness of the importance of being physically active. Naidoo and Wills (2009, Pg63) consider that "process of promoting health .....enables people to take more control over their own health and equipping them with the means for well being"
According to Power and Dodds (2009) there are many health risks of inactivity for example it can lead to poorer levels of self esteem and high levels of stress and anxiety in children which makes them more likely to smoke, drink and use drugs than children who are more active. On reflection it would appear that the strategies that were implemented throughout the project have informed and enabled the children to gain skills to be physically active throughout their lives and to make healthier choices, (see Appendix 1 observation 1-10). The knowledge gained by them will provide a blueprint for a healthy lifestyle that can be carried forward into adulthood.
During the project I have worked in partnership with my mentor and other staff in the setting, attending planning meetings which gave me the opportunity to update everyone on the progress of the children's learning, discussing the learning outcomes and children's next steps. I have worked as part of the team, feeling valued by the other staff. With encouragement and support from them I have been able to lead the project.
Through reflection and discussion with more experiences practitioners I was able to benefit from their knowledge. In order to develop my practice I believe that it is important to continually access current information and resources. I have developed good time management skills during this project which I will carry forward to my studies. The area of my practice that I need to work on most is communication with parents. I believe that I did not make enough opportunities to do so during this project.