WE SAY IT EVERY YEAR, BUT THIS MAY VERY WELL HAVE BEEN THE BEST SHAPING THE FUTURE YET.
All-day Wednesday and on Thursday morning, the most eager delegates attended pre-conference sessions. Some became certified Field Leaders with the Outdoor Council of Canada. Some learned inclusive teaching practices. Some contributed to re-defining recess to suit modern education and the needs of all students.
On Thursday, an Elder prayer kicked off the conference in a good way. Shaping the Future delegates heard from an award-winning journalist, author and the first Ojibway woman to deliver the CBC Massey Lectures: Tanya Talaga. She spoke of Indigenous culture and history while leaving the room a hopeful message.
“Working in communities is hard work. It’s heavy lifting, but what’s the alternative? We have to keep going.”
The rest of the day saw delegates attending three concurrent sessions. Content ranged from teacher and student well-being to social and emotional learning tools, to cultural connections to a variety of practices.
Friday began bright and early with the always well-loved morning wellness opportunities. Yoga, meditation, smudging, and running helped the early risers start the day with a boost. The first of two blocks of hands-on workshops saw everybody else out of bed.
“Stress days are sick days,” explained Nancy Luyckfassel of the Alberta Teachers’ Association in her concurrent session on recognizing and addressing anxiety at school. “You don’t take ‘broken leg’ days; anxiety and stress are no different.”
Next came back-to-back keynote presentations. A panel of post-secondary education faculty members discussed the importance of wellness in teacher preparation programs.
“Teachers are absolutely fundamental to the wellness of our students,” said panel speaker Dr. Shelly Russell-Mayhew.
“A turtle doesn’t thrive on land,” pondered Dr. Hayley Morrison, another member of the panel. “What work environment are you creating and modelling? Are you sure that is the right environment for others to thrive?”
Then, students from a Recreational Leadership class in the Calgary Board of Education described their experiences in this unique learning opportunity. After one more workshop block, delegates had a chance to explore what wellness looks like to them. Some visited the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise spa, others skated on the lake, and many snuggled into their beds for a well-deserved nap. Shaping the Future’s wellness breaks are always a welcomed chance to relax, get active, socialize and more.
THERE’S NOTHING MORE IMPORTANT AT A CONFERENCE THAN THE NETWORKING OPPORTUNITIES.
That’s why the Friday night banquet was, and always is, a big hit. That, and there’s always great food and a lot of fun to be had. With everyone dressed up and settled in after two days of sessions, the atmosphere felt comfortable and relaxed. It was like a group of long-time friends reconnecting for the first time in a while…perhaps the first time since the last Shaping the Future banquet? While the most outgoing of the bunch danced the night away, others settled in for a quiet night to recover from the fun. All prepared for one final day of incredible sessions.
More wellness opportunities started off Saturday, though they were a little quieter after the Friday night fun. The Alberta Medical Association Youth Run Club hosted a breakfast for registered clubs and those interested in learning more, with a talk from Canadian Olympic Bobsledder Neville Wright. He told his story of the paths that his running career paved for him and inspired the room to encourage their students to lead an active life.
“I have something way better than an Olympic medal,” said Wright. “I’ve built my character and resilience.”
All delegates reconnected for the final conference keynote. Elena (Eli) Belyea, an award-winning queer playwright, performer, producer, arts educator and Artist Director, delivered a presentation using a variety of mediums that explored their experience growing up LGBTQ+ in Alberta. They explained how delegates could work to create safe spaces for students who self-identify as members of marginalized communities, to help them feel seen and supported.
“Being transparent that you don’t have all the answers and being transparent about having challenges or questions is really important to your students,” Elena said.
Following some reflection, delegates attended their final two concurrent sessions. From prevention of tobacco and vaping use, to students with concussions, to health as the driver for academic success, the topics were vast. Everyone came together a final time for a closing celebration. They shared one last meal, heard a closing Elder blessing, and entered their names in for one of the many exciting draw prizes.
FOR 11 YEARS, SHAPING THE FUTURE HAS CONNECTED THE HEALTH, EDUCATION AND ACTIVE LIVING WORLDS ON A COMMON VISION.
We at Ever Active Schools are still amazed every year at the bridges built and how strong we can be together.
We know that there were a lot of considerations to attending Shaping the Future this year, and we appreciate knowing that these few days — of time together to generate ideas and build excitement around the importance of Comprehensive School Health — are still a priority. Thank you for helping us to innovate, to inspire, to learn, to share, to grow, to improve.
We’ll see you again next year, when we aim for the best Shaping the Future yet.
Written by Kayli McClelland, Creative Media Specialist, Ever Active Schools