To the various building blocks of literacy — cultural, visual, functional and scientific among them — School District 73 has laid the keystone: Health.
About 500 Grade 6 students and teachers from 15 schools gathered in the Tournament Capital Fieldhouse on Wednesday to learn and practise health literacy.
The Health Literacy Forum grew out of consultations with teachers, community partners and Interior Health.
Beyond the basics of exercise and healthy eating — including a table brimming with fresh fruit — a number of innovative ideas were laid out. Workshops entitled Training Your Brain, Feed Your Brain and Play Is The Way were focused not only on physical fitness but on the whole student — emotions, attitudes and all.
The forum was a first for the district and has raised interest elsewhere, said Sherry Stade, the district's health promoting schools co-ordinator.
"This is a one-day event, but not really," she said. "We want to challenge students to take action themselves and not wait for parents and teachers. This is really about self-awareness, self-management, winning and losing with grace."
Paralympic athlete Jessica Vliegenthart helped bring the concepts down to gym-floor level.
"Resiliency means the ability to overcome challenges, and that's what I'm here to talk to you guys about," she said, her special basketball wheelchair at her side.
Vliegenthart personifies resiliency as a young woman who bounced back from a disabling accident to parade into the London Olympics in front of 80,000 spectators. It wasn't a slam dunk, though.
"To make a long story short, it was awful," she said of having to adapt to the world in new ways. "I didn't know how. I'd lost the ability and knowledge on how to be active without my legs."
The basketball chair enabled her "to run again," but was a challenge in itself. She was lucky to have a coach who saw her potential.
"I want to encourage you to encourage someone else to keep being active," she said.
If you're good at basketball, pass the ball to someone who's not.
Viiegenthart played professionally before pursuing a law degree. She started her practice with Fulton & Co. on Tuesday.
"I played for Team Canada for five years and I'm a professional at missing the net," she said, encouraging kids to give it their best shot regardless of their ability.
Excited applause was an indication that she'd hit the mark.
"Inspirational," said Wyatt Jensen, a Lloyd George student.
Denise Harper, school board chairwoman, was also in the audience. District figures show a healthy trend — about half of all students are involved in athletics, a marked improvement.
"We've got fabulous young teachers working in the district and they're setting a good example for students," Harper said. "I also think, as a society, we're more active now. It's in the culture. We've really increased awareness."
The lesson extends beyond teamwork to include citizenship and social awareness, assets that equip kids for life, Stade said.
"Like Jessica said, if you're really good at something, pass the ball to someone else."