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APPLE Schools is an innovative health promotion initiative that improves the lives of 20,000+ students annually in Canada.

APPLE Schools

location_on Edmonton, Alberta
APPLE Schools works with vulnerable school communities to change students' healthy eating, physical activity, and mental health habits to improve their quality of life. The initiatives are fun and excite students to move more, eat better, and be more mindful. While school staff and parents guide the students, the project's success ultimately relies on student leaders taking charge.
Success Coach, Lee Ridge School - Edmonton, Canada
Students are a joy to watch, making positive choices to empower themselves by eating healthy, staying active, growing their minds, and contributing to the community of CARE in our school.

Success Coach, Lee Ridge School - Edmonton, Canada

Overview

HundrED has selected this innovation

HundrED 2020

Key figures

Innovation Overview

5 - 18
Age Group
100 000
Children/Users
1
Country
2007
Established
Not-for-profit
Organisation
1 249
Views
Updated on October 26th, 2020
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APPLE Schools makes the healthy choice the easy choice

APPLE Schools works with vulnerable school communities to integrate healthy initiatives into the day in a way that avoids giving already busy teachers more work. Its approach aims to prevent chronic diseases so they target children at an early stage in life to embed lifelong healthy habits.

The organization supports each school in developing a unique action plan each year that outlines its path toward a sustainable and healthy community, and they help to implement it.

During the time of COVID-19, APPLE Schools has adapted to the changing needs of school communities by supporting student health at home. Staff regularly share tailored wellness resources and hosted virtual professional development events for school health champions and facilitators to ensure that they feel equipped to keep students healthy and motivated during this challenging time. 

The project is evidence based. Working with the School of Public Health, University of Alberta, we know that APPLE Schools benefits all students, regardless of socioeconomic background. Students who attend APPLE schools take ownership of their own health and demonstrate many proven benefits:

     • Decreased mental health visits in adolescence

     • 35% increase in physical activity, in and out of school

     • 2-3 times more steps taken per day

     • Consume 10% more fruits and vegetables per day

     • 40% less chance of becoming obese than students in comparison schools

     • Show an improved quality of life, leadership abilities, productivity, and learning

     • Take healthy habits home, influencing the home environment positively

      • Decreased chance and severity of ADHD

Each school's plan includes student-led activities which are designed to make healthy living fun and engaging. Examples include planting class gardens, physical activity programs, mindfulness activities, student leadership training, healthy snack programs, resiliency training, Indigenous games and land-based learning, and more.

APPLE Schools uses a comprehensive school health approach in its implementation model, which is an internationally recognized framework for supporting improvements in students' educational outcomes while addressing school health in a planned, integrated, and holistic way. APPLE Schools' model is very unique in that:

1. It is backed by world-class research. 

2. It uses a comprehensive school health approach, along with eight essential elements for implementing comprehensive school health, which is based on this research. This includes having a paid and trained school health facilitator in each new APPLE school to facilitate healthy changes. 

3. APPLE staff help build sustainable practices into school cultures so that eventually the healthy choice becomes the easy choice with minimal support from APPLE Schools. 

4. It has a creative funding model where schools need less financial support from APPLE Schools as they build in their sustainable initiatives and create partnerships with community businesses. 

APPLE Schools is on track to reach 100 schools by 2025. In September 2019, we officially started implementation in four new vulnerable, remote school communities -- two in Alberta, and two in British Columbia, bringing our total to impacting just over 20,000 students in 74 school communities across four provinces. 



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Media

See this innovation in action

Healthy habits lead to healthier lives for youth
Check out how APPLE Schools supports findings in new research that links childhood health to adolescent mental health. Page 20.
School-focused health promotion project gets international recognition
APPLE Schools, a school-focused health promotion project, has been selected as one of the world’s top 100 most innovative and inspiring education projects of 2020 by HundrED, whose goal is to improve education through pedagogically-sound education initiatives. READ FULL ARTICLE.
APPLE School program gains international recognition
An Alberta-based school program is getting international recognition for it’s innovative approach to a school-focused promotion of health. READ FULL ARTICLE.
8 Essential Elements That Help Transform Kids’ Health & Well-being
APPLE Schools has developed a pretty solid model to ensure improvements to students’ long-term physical activity, healthy eating, and mental health habits. Here are the 8 essential elements to consider when building a healthy school community! READ FULL ARTICLE.
Even though students couldn't go to school, many still celebrated Outdoor Classroom Day. They took a walk out in nature to calm their minds, and collected some nature items to use for a math activity at home, combining outdoor play, physical activity and mathematics. 
During the pandemic, APPLE Schools has been sharing healthy snack recipes for students to try at home. These students are whipping up overnight oatmeal and smoothies to stay nourished. 
APPLE schools love to celebrate! And they do so with a fun, healthy lens. This student has decorated her own healthy treat jack-o-lantern as part of a Halloween classroom celebration. 
A school health mentor brought her young children to help her stock grab-and-go apple baskets for a parent teacher night proving you are never too young to set an example. 
One APPLE school had a day full of traditional activities, which included some young talented dancers from the school and an Indigenous elder sharing stories.
When it’s below -20 degrees outside, APPLE schools promote physical activity indoors. These kiddos are making the best out of the brisk temperatures outside. 
This school promoted wellness by hosting a tropical-themed family wellness night which included fruit scavenger hunts, healthy snacks, a salad making activity, and more. 
School heath facilitators and mentors are trying a new activity to bring to school communities to inspire health and wellness. 
Elizabeth School on Elizabeth Metis Settlement is one of APPLE's newest schools, and they were happy to take part in their very first Winter Walk Day to encourage outdoor activities during the winter months. 
APPLE’s health champions and facilitators drive some incredible changes in their communities. Like Les at St. Kateri Bison in Fort McMurray, Alberta, who keeps wellness a priority. 
APPLE schools are getting creative in inspiring learning at home during COVID-19, and students are trying new activities to stay engaged and healthy. 
Many APPLE schools integrate traditional teachings by embracing land-based learning, creating art, learning traditional games, and inviting elders to share their stories.
Staff health is also highly encouraged at APPLE schools. This group planned a salad bar for their lunch.
A Grade 1 class takes a yoga break.
At one celebration, student leaders re-energize the crowd with some of their favourite physical activity games.
APPLE Schools encourages outdoor activities year round. This class is taking a winter walk together.
Entrance to one APPLE school.
Students take a moment to practice mindfulness.
Interactive decals line many APPLE school hallways, encouraging students to hop, skip, or jump as they move to classes.
Many APPLE schools tie Indigenous perspectives into their teachings. In the photo, an Inuit elder teaches about her traditional foods.
Students enjoy healthy snacks. Many schools partner with community organizations like grocery stores, who regularly donate fruits and vegetables for students.
APPLE schools post healthy messages in hallways as part of their monthly campaigns. This campaign focused on the power of a positive attitude.
Many APPLE schools grow their own greens and veggies year-round. Students take care of the gardens, and the harvest gets used for healthy lunches.
These students are holding up a recipe for Grinch Fruit kabobs that they made for a Christmas celebration.
Students cooked healthy soups packed with veggies and held a Friendship Meal with their school.
APPLE Schools promote physical activity throughout the day and provide schools with daily physical bins packed with energizer activities for students.
This girl is participating in indoor Indigenous Arctic Winter Games, learning new activities and physical literacy.
Healthy FMPSD - Your McMurray Magazine
Magazine article from YMM MagazineMental HealthAs with many other themes, it’s hard to speak of mental health without mentioning the wildfires. FMPSD went into high gear as schools started last September. Everyone brought their top game to ensure students felt safe, comfortable, and assisted as needed. Shannon Noble, Assistant Superintendent, Inclusive Education, FMPSD, along with a dedicated team led the mental health portfolio following re-entry.“Students, staff and parents remained our focus even after evacuation. We were thinking re-entry for the FMPSD family even before we had a re-entry date. The Calgary Board of Education provided us with invaluable help, for which we are deeply grateful,” recalls Noble, who has been with the District for five years.Mental health training for staff began taking place in June. Counsellors went first, then teachers, and support staff.“We started with the Journey of Hope. School counsellors completed this training to support students showing signs of trauma or anxiety through a targeted group intervention. The initiative makes use of cooperative play, literacy, discussion and art. Students are provided a small-group setting to explore and normalize their emotions. Trained counsellors lead the structured activities, and students are allowed the space and encouragement to develop healthy coping mechanisms and identify internal and external social support systems,” explained Noble.In addition, Heart Math has been implemented in elementary schools to assist with recognizing and reducing anxiety. It is an online tool that staff and students can identify where their anxiety levels are - then implement strategies to assist with reducing. Some staff have also participated in Psychological First Aide, while school counselors have participated and trained in Mindfulness strategies to be implemented in the New Year.“Many agencies have stepped up to help us, and we can’t thank them enough. The United Way of Fort McMurray, Red Cross, Save the Children, Alberta Health Services, and Canadian Mental Health Association, are some who have come together to provide supports for our families, training for our staff,” added Noble. APPLE SchoolsFrom mental health to physical. All 11 of our elementary schools are APPLE (Alberta Project Promoting active Living and healthy Eating) schools. It is a healthy lifestyle embraced by students, parents and staff alike. From daily physical activity to healthy lunches, so much is implemented in schools on a daily basis. Erin Gates, and Tyler Smith are the District’s APPLE Health Mentors, and explain more.“APPLE Schools is an innovative school-focused health promotion initiative that improves the lives of more than 16,500 students annually in 63 schools across Northern Alberta through supporting healthy eating, physical activity, and positive mental health behaviours.The project is guided by the Board of Directors of The APPLE Schools Foundation, which is a registered charitable foundation,” explained Gates, who is also the Christina Gordon Public School Physical Education teacher, and has been with the District for four years.“Since 2007, APPLE Schools has improved the health and well-being of over 16,500 students in Alberta. Fort McMurray is home to 10 of the original APPLE Schools. The program has continued to grow since 2011 and is expanding into our surrounding communities,” Gates added.Tyler Smith is the Physical Education teacher for Dr. Clark School. He joined the District in 2012, and notes, APPLE’s mission has been to “inspire and empower school communities to lead, choose, and be healthy by recommending and supporting measureable and sustainable changes.”“At FMPSD, we promote healthy school environments focusing on mental health and wellness, daily physical activities, and healthy food choices. All schools are supported by District school health mentors. Our mentors work with each school to determine their goals when it comes to promoting healthy school environments. Together, we develop action plans that outline activities and resources the schools need to achieve their goals. We are extremely pleased to be able to offer support across the District and to see the inspiring and innovative ways ALL schools in our District are promoting health,” enthused Smith.Both Gates and Smith are delighted with student and staff responses to the initiative, which they dub “overwhelmingly positive.”“It is common place in our FMPSD APPLE schools to hear students, staff, families, businesses and the community using common language when it comes to promoting healthy schools. From the provincial nutrition guidelines our schools follow, to daily physical activity, all school communities are working to promote health in all they do. Many teachers have expressed that by encouraging more physical activity and nutritious snacks throughout the day and at home, students are more prepared to learn during lesson time,” Gates continued.“Many parents have said that their children are bringing the positive behaviours home and encouraging the whole family to be more active and eat healthy. School wide health challenges, Healthy Family Fun nights and informative healthy behaviour school displays have all contributed to families being more aware of the importance of proper nutrition, being mentally healthy and being physically active on academic success,” Smith added.Angela Foss, Healthy Schools Champion for Westview Public School agrees. At her school, parents are active participants in fostering a healthy environment.“Our parents are running a breakfast cafe from 7:30-8:10 in the morning. Here they serve most often foods such as muffins, juice, milk and fruit. The moms get together and bake items for the cafe as they run low. Our attendance in the morning can run from 20-45 kids,” explained Foss, who also teaches Physical Education and grade four.Shabana Rahman, Vice Principal, Fort McMurray Islamic School (FMIS) notes, “our aim is to develop health promotion and improve the lives of our students in regards to healthy eating, physical activity, and mental health.”“Our mission is to inspire and empower students with the knowledge and tools to live a healthy lifestyle. Our school’s APPLE Seed Club gives students the opportunity to become leaders and mentors in our school community by learning ways to choose and recommend healthy lifestyle options to their peers. At FMIS we also foster positive relationships and have wellness hour for our staff. Staff play team building games to keep them active and healthy,” added Rahman.Heather Fisher, Apple School Health Champion and Kindergarten teacher at Timberlea Public School echoes similar sentiments.“APPLE is an important part of our school culture. Healthy eating and living are promoted through the program and supported by the staff in our school. We have a healthy breakfast cart program which takes place each morning allowing students to choose a healthy breakfast item should they need it. We also have healthy taste tests throughout the year and healthy fitness or eating activities (Yoga, DancePlay, etc). After school activities such as sports (floor hockey, volleyball, etc) and skipping clubs are also part of the programming,” shared Fisher.

Milestones

Achievements & Awards

November 2019
HundrED Top 100 of 2020
May 2019
100 views
November 2017
ASBA Friends of Education Award
October 2017
Board Award of Excellence (Fort McMurray Public School District)
October 2017
ASBA Zone 1 Friends of Education Award (Northland School Division no. 61)
June 2012
Recognized by the National Cancer Institute on its RTIP database
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