Active Schools Week – April 25th-29th.
According to the website www.getirelandactive.ie , 4 out of 5 children in the Republic of Ireland are still not getting enough exercise, posing serious risks to their wellbeing.
The benefits of being active for physical and mental health are huge. Being active helps release chemicals in your brain (endorphins), which have a positive effect on your mood, not to mention the benefits to your heart, lungs, muscles and bones. Getting out and being active is also a great way to manage stress.
It is well documented that physical activity has a beneficial effect not just on the physical body, but also on mental health, and there is a growing amount of research to show that this beneficial effect is increased considerably when physical activity is combined with exposure to nature. There is also concern, however, that children are not benefitting from ‘green exercise’ in the same way as adults because they are not connected to the natural environment in the same way that adults are, quite possibly as a result of the amount of time children are spending in front of screens! Getirelandactive.ie encourages families to limit ‘screen time’ and get children out and about, and gives suggestions for some ‘family-friendly activities’ that will not just get children active but will also help them to connect with nature and avail of the associated mental health benefits.
During the year we have encouraged and promoted activities to get children more active, most of which can easily be outdoor activities during the summer months. Fifth and sixth classes were given some introductory lessons in orienteering, which we hope will spark a new interest for some of the children. We had our annual skipping day to remind children of the benefits of skipping, encourage them to increase their skill and see this as an activity that they can take with them wherever they go – no equipment needed except a rope and an outdoor space! We have extended our basketball coaching to the younger classes and have indeed spotted some potential future stars, again hopefully igniting an interest in this sport for some of our younger children. Senior basketball has been very popular again this year and children have seen for themselves how well they improve with practise. Soccer is continuing thanks to the voluntary commitment from two of our teachers, Rebecca and Conor, and again, practise has paid off in terms of confidence and performance this year, with important wins for both teams.
Our gymnastics and athletics programmes have proved very popular, with great potential for further involvement for those with a particular interest. Many joined running clubs as a result of the athletics programme last year and many more may do so again this year. Great for those who are not particularly fond of team sports! The athletics summer camp being held in the school will no doubt be very popular again this year. In addition to the athletics camp, a number of summer camps are being held in the school which will give the children an opportunity to get active, be out in the open and enjoy time with their friends. There is also a range of Parks Tennis camps in local DLR parks, at a subsidised rate.
Our weekly Walking Bus is still proving very popular, even throughout a cold winter, and hopefully this good walking habit will continue for children throughout the summer, maybe even extending to hiking and other related activities in the open air.
We in RETNS are great believers in outdoor work when possible, understanding completely the huge benefits to children in learning about and interacting with their physical environment, therefore as the weather warms up children are already being seen in the wildlife garden, exploring the school environment for maths and science activities, geography trails, art activities, making extensive use of our all-weather surface for sports and digging and planting vegetables which they will tend until harvest time. All of these activities are getting children out of the classroom, walking or running around and interacting with their environment.
Active Schools Week will spark greater activity as summer approaches and hopefully will also encourage a more long-term habit for children of becoming active in the great outdoors!