By Sue Tiffin
Alongside a group of friends Grade 11 student Abigail Kauffeldt traced her hand with a marker onto a sheet of paper covering a table showcasing the work of Visible Voices where others who had been at the table before her had written messages like “many hands can change the world” inside the mark they had left.
Many hands were involved in planning the Feed All Four Festival that brought students parents teachers and community members together at Haliburton Highlands Secondary School on May 7.
Using a provincial Parents Reaching Out grant designed to engage parents the HHSS school council hosted the open house during Mental Health Week. The TLDSB’s Feed All Four model based on both Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and a First Nations medicine wheel promotes the idea of physical mental social and emotional health and wellness within schools.
“We decided you know what this is a good place to put our money and by feeding people we’re hoping it’s going to bring them through the door” said Sharon Brinkos co-chair of the school council.
Community groups and organizations including Visible Voices Point in Time Harmony Yoga Walkabout Farm Therapeutic Riding Association Grow Optimism the Ontario Provincial Police the local health unit and family health team were invited to share how they can help support students and families toward optimal health and wellbeing.
“We wanted to tie in a lot of things that were happening both with the students as well as the parents so it’s more of a family event” said Heather Kauffeldt school council chair
Those in attendance each found something that appealed to them whether it be the services offered or the specialized food options. Jenny Barry-Pascoe of West Guilford there with Haileigh Pascoe said it was incredible a great event in which she picked up a rubber band meant to wrap around a phone with the message “THINK b4 u Send” distributed by OPP constable Amanda Gilbert reminding internet and social media users to be mindful. Grade 9 student Logan Malette there sharing a meal with his mom Linda was able to later show her examples of the work he’d created during class time in a display of student projects. Abigail said she learned about what was available in the community.
“It showcases the [organizations] that are here in Haliburton to help and I’m going to say for your mental health but I know it’s more than just for your mental health it’s to feed all four” she said. In particular she was interested in chatting about Harmony Yoga with Amanda Lytle and Leslie O’Brien and Grow Optimism with life coach Nancy Brownsberger on hand.
“I had only ever heard about a life coach a couple of years ago and I think it’s a great thing I think it’s good for even kids who are my age because it’s a really stressful time” Abigail said. “You’re having to make those decisions about living away and things like that which is also why I think Point in Time is great too because it helps with that too.”
Brownsberger said the event was fantastic looking around the room to note teachers sitting with students for dinner and organization representatives sharing and connecting with each other between visitors.
“I think it should be something that’s regular especially with food because it provides the opportunity for marginalized families to [sit for a] really good meal a lot of this stuff [services by organizations] is free or costs very little to get people engaged” she said.
In the hallway and throughout the school student work was on display. An HHSS production of Mamma Mia was available for viewing in one room while a metal-work piece showed the skills being learned in tech class. Teachers Alexis David and Rebeka Borgdorff helped to compile and exhibit the projects.
“It’s awesome in every class to see the range of things you don’t see just pencil paper stuff” said David. “In science you’re building catapults in tech class they have videos of all of their demonstration of their skills it made me very proud of our student body. Not only our student body but our faculty too. Everybody works so hard and they’re very proud of it. The fact that there’s so much – we were overwhelmed by the amount of stuff we could have today and that’s a really good problem to have. There is so much good work from students and feedback work and improvement work.”
The free meal was prepared by Darla Searle and members of the HHSS hospitality class and served by volunteers including members of the Shout Sister choir.
“If it’s something we tie into that we continue on in some fashion maybe as time progresses it will become sort of an annual thing” said Heather. “An open house showing off what our students do and the pride we have in them.”