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Healthy Schools


Learn about creating Healthy Schools in Halton Region.

What is a Healthy School?

A Healthy School is one where school administration, teachers, parents, students and community agencies work together to create an environment that will have a positive impact on a child’s health and learning.

"Healthy Learners are Better Learners" (Health Canada)


Benefits of a Healthy School

A Healthy School builds a healthy setting for the whole school community to live, learn, work and play. Benefits of a Healthy School include:


Healthy Schools Approach

The Healthy Schools Approach brings staff, students, parents/caregivers, and the community together to impact the health of everyone in the school. The Healthy Schools Approach motivates and supports school communities in establishing healthy, safe, and inclusive learning environments where all students can reach their full potential, all while supporting school board and provincial level policies.

A Healthy Schools Approach follows the Ministry of Education’s Foundations for a Healthy School framework (external link).


Healthy Schools Certification

Healthy Schools Certification gives schools the tools to promote and enhance the health and well-being of students, school staff, and the broader school community.

Schools plan and carry out activities that address their school community needs and priorities. Through a point-based system, schools will be able to report on their Healthy Schools Process steps online and apply for Gold, Silver, or Bronze Healthy Schools certification. Healthy Schools Certification is an annual process that reflects the reality of each unique school year.


How to implement a Healthy Schools Approach

  1. Assemble a Healthy School Team
    Involves bringing together members of the school community to form a team and learn about the Healthy Schools Approach.
    • Educate and gain commitment from the school community about the Healthy Schools Approach
    • Recruit members for the committee: administrators, teachers, parents, and students
  2. Identify school community priorities, assets, and health topic(s)
    Involves working with a team to better understand the priorities and assets of the school and select a health topic(s) to focus on for the school year.
    • Collect data from different members of the school community (e.g., parents, students and teachers/staff)
    • Identify school assets and priorities
    • Identify health topic(s)
  3. Develop a plan and take action
    Involves working with the team to develop a plan to address health topic(s).
    • Choose activities to address health topic(s)
    • Formulate an action plan
    • Promote activities to school community
    • Implement activities from the action plan
    • Monitor activities, revise, and update as needed
  4. Celebrate and reflect
    Involves celebrating the contributions of each team member and reflecting on the Healthy Schools journey.
    • Review and evaluate activities
    • Celebrate achievements
    • Plan for the next year

Healthy Schools Professional Development videos (YouTube video link)

Watch the Healthy Schools Professional Development videos for brief overviews of the steps to Healthy School Certification.


Principles to Strengthen a Healthy School

Asset building

Key Points:

  • All kids need assets
  • Relationships are key
  • Everyone has strengths
  • We need to work together to build assets

Developmental Assets® are traits, values and experiences that all young people need to be healthy, successful and reach their full potential.

These building blocks, or Developmental Assets®, are grounded in research on child and adolescent development, risk prevention and resiliency. The more assets young people have, the more likely they are to thrive, make healthy choices, and avoid harmful behaviours.

About Developmental Assets®

The positive power of assets is seen across all cultural and socioeconomic groups in youth around the world. There are 40 Developmental Assets® that are divided into two categories – external and internal.

External assets include the first 4 asset categories that make up Search Institute’s 40 Developmental Assets®. These are the external structures, relationships, and activities that create a positive environment for young people, such as:

  • Support
  • Empowerment
  • Boundaries and expectations
  • Constructive use of time

Internal assets include the second 4 asset categories that make up Search Institute’s 40 Developmental Assets®. These are the internal values, skills, and beliefs that young people need to fully engage with and function in the world around them, such as:

  • Commitment to Learning
  • Positive Values
  • Social Competencies
  • Positive Identity

Caine’s video is an example of how caring adults can be asset-builders in children.

Note: This guide has been adapted from the Our Kids Network Asset Building Toolkit to reflect the strategies that can be used to build assets within the school community.

Asset building has the power to promote positive behaviours and attitudes. Young people with high levels of Developmental Assets® are more likely to:

  • Succeed in school
  • Value diversity
  • Maintain good health
  • Demonstrate leadership

Protect youth from high-risk behaviours. The more Developmental Assets® young people have, the less likely they are to engage in risky behaviours such as:

  • Substance use
  • Gambling
  • Violence
  • Sexual activity

Asset building is about connecting with our children and teens as they make the transition into adulthood. Relationships are key! It is important to be intentional because most young people are not experiencing enough of these assets. While there are 40 assets, researchers have found that on average, young people report having only 20.

Note: This guide has been adapted from the Our Kids Network Asset Building Toolkit to reflect the strategies that can be used to build assets within the school community.

We can help our children and teens grow up successfully by encouraging them to connect with other caring and responsible adults who can be their mentors, guides, and role models as they make the transition toward adulthood. Relationships are the key!

You are probably already building assets in your school without being aware of it. Asset building is incorporated within the work that school staff do every day – the key is to be intentional!

To get started you can:

  • Assess what your school is currently doing to build Developmental Assets®. Use an asset-building checklist to identify areas of strength and need within your school goals, programs, and policies.
    Things to consider:
    • Do students feel welcome and engaged in the activities offered at your school?
    • Does your school share stories of positive contributions by students with board members and the community?
    • How does your school strengthen students’ leadership skills?
  • Connect with other schools to see how they have incorporated asset building with their youth, parents and staff.
  • Discuss with members of your school community about the power of assets for all young people. 
    Remember - everyone can build assets – it’s about:
    • Recognizing all kids
    • Developing positive relationships
    • Being intentional
    • Focusing on strengths
    • Being consistent
  • Look within your school community for natural asset builders who exhibit these qualities:
    • Advocate for children and youth regularly
    • Demonstrate relationship-building behaviours
    • Empower children and youth to have a voice
    • Are open to trying new things
    • Are mentors and role models
  • Develop an asset-building plan to become more intentional about sharing strategies and embedding assets into your school.
  • Start small by focusing on one or a few assets. Assets are all intertwined—as you build one asset, others will naturally follow.

The 40 Developmental Assets Part 2: The story of David – Government of Yukon

The 40 Developmental Assets Part 3: Developmental relationships – Government of Yukon

How to Support Young People – Search Institute


Encourage staff to be intentional about building assets in young people by:

  • Teaching respect for cultural differences
  • Encouraging school success
  • Seeking opinions
  • Reporting positive behaviour
  • Guiding decision making

Everyone can contribute to the building of Developmental Assets®. Below are tools and ideas for everyone in your school community.

School staff and administrators

Make Developmental Assets® part of your everyday activities by using:

  • Developmental Assets® ideas including greeting children/youth by name every morning, establishing peer-mentoring programs, catching kids doing things right and more.
  • Incorporate asset building policies that kids can thrive on!
  • Begin each staff meeting with a discussion or activity about asset building by using video clips (YouTube Video) or great group games (external link), which is available for purchase and also has free downloadable sample worksheets.


Parents are an important part of your school community. Include parents and caregivers in your Developmental Asset® messaging.


You can support asset building in students by:

  • Engaging students in all program planning and decision making
    • Include several students on school committees such as school well-being teams.
    • Allow opportunities for youth to provide ideas and influence decisions that affect students.
  • Involving children and youth in asset building. Have students complete the Developmental Asset® checklist to see how many assets they have and to identify areas to build on
  • Forming a student asset team and support them to identify, plan, and implement initiatives to build assets among their peers – help them:
    • Identify their passions (YouTube video) and how they can share them with others
    • Start a student club (for example book, art or music club)
    • Challenge students and staff to reduce screen time and increase physical activity
    • Fill peer’s buckets (external link) with positive affirmations and recognition
    • Lead peer to peer support group that address homework help, playground leadership P.A.L.S. or reading buddies
    • Organize a student volunteer program at a local senior’s center

When building assets, it is essential to reflect on how your initiatives are going. Throughout the process, it is important to:

  • Assess where your initiative is with regards to each of the seven essential goals for community-based asset-building:
    • A shared vision of positive development
    • Shared norms and beliefs
    • Connections across socializing systems
    • Everyday acts of asset building
    • Unleash the asset-building power of organizations and systems
    • Identify, affirm, and expand the reach of existing asset-building activities
    • Introduce new asset-building efforts
  • Identify specific actions to make further progress if you have not achieved all of your objectives or if you’re ready to create even more change
  • Review the twelve critical culture shifts and reflect upon whether your initiative has resulted in a positive change from:
    • Deficit language to asset language
    • Some youth to all youth
    • Early childhood only to the first two decades of life
    • Age segregation to intergenerational community
    • Self-interest to shared responsibility
    • A program focus to a relational focus
    • A fragmented agenda to a unifying vision
    • Conflicting signals to consistent messages
    • Efficiency to redundancy in asset building
    • Youth as objects to youth as actors
    • Shifting priorities to long-term commitment
    • Civic disengagement to public engagement
  • Ask for student feedback about your existing school programs to determine whether they are enjoyable, offer meaningful involvement for youth, and build skills and relationships
  • Create a video to tell the story of your success incorporating Developmental Assets® into your school community
  • Share your success story at a student assembly or family event, or write about it in the school newsletter. Even better, involve youth in sharing the story!
  • Make your work sustainable by:
    • Committing to continuing your asset building efforts
    • Incorporating Developmental Assets® into your school improvement plan
    • Making asset-building a standing item on your staff meeting and parent council meeting agendas
    • Offering ongoing training, presentations, and resources to new staff and parents

Equity and inclusion

Ensuring an equitable and inclusive environment is a fundamental component for a student’s positive sense of self, well-being, and academic success.

Equity means fairness, justice and levelling the playing field so everyone has what they need to succeed. Equity is both an ultimate goal and a process. Achieving equity means that no part of a person's identity gets in the way of their ability to thrive.

Inclusion is a sense of belonging and is central to creating a culture where we are valued, embraced, heard, accepted and respected for who we are.

For more information about the Ministry of Education and Halton Region school board strategies, see below:

Ministry of Education:

School Boards:

Parent engagement

Student learning and achievement improve when parents play an active role in their children’s education and good schools become even better when parents* are involved.

There are many different forms of parent engagement. Each is an important contributor to student and school success. Parent engagement includes:

  • Providing a positive learning environment at home, actively working with children to support what they are learning in school and making learning an important part of the day
  • Having conversations and clear communication between the school and home
  • Becoming involved in school activities and volunteering to help with school events, trips and other activities
  • Participating in a school council (external link) at the school level and parent involvement committee (external link) at the school board level, to provide perspective

*The word parent(s) is used on this website to refer to parent(s), guardian(s), caregivers or close family members who are responsible for raising the child.

Parent Engagement Policy – Ministry of Education

This policy represents the government’s formal commitment to parent engagement in education. The policy identifies actions to be undertaken at the provincial, regional and local levels by the Ministry of Education, schools and district school boards. For more information, visit the Ministry of Education Parent Engagement Policy (external link).

When schools engage parents in their child’s education and healthy schools initiatives, everyone benefits from the positive impacts.

Benefits for students and parents

There is a direct connection between parent engagement and:

  • improved academic achievement
  • positive attitudes about school
  • improved success with homework
  • higher rates of high school graduation
  • consistent school attendance
  • fewer behavioural problems
  • a brighter future for students at school and later in life

Benefits for teachers

Teachers who actively partner with parents enjoy better parent relationships and the following additional benefits:

  • parents are more supportive because they understand what is happening in the classroom
  • parents help to ensure homework and assignments are done
  • parents share the responsibility for student success and work with the teacher
  • parents have a more positive view of teachers and the school
  • teachers have a stronger connection with parents, feel supported by parents and have higher job satisfaction

Benefits for schools

Together, parents, community members and school staff can create a powerful support network and enrich the life of the school. As a result:

  • families and community organizations more fully support the school
  • school and individual student achievement often improve
  • schools are connected to businesses, agencies and services in the community
  • schools gain greater recognition for their achievements and their valued role as an important part of community life

Three key activities to support readiness for parent engagement include:

1. Assess your school's current level of engagement

Reflect on your school’s current level of parent engagement. How many of the following does your school offer?

  • parents are welcomed, respected, and valued as partners in their children’s learning and development.
  • parents have a variety of choices on how to support student success.
  • parents have opportunities to be involved. 
  • parents are engaged through ongoing communication with school staff to support a positive learning environment at home and school.
  • parents are provided with the information and tools necessary to participate in school life.

2. Get started: How to make parent engagement "come alive"

The Planning Parent Engagement Toolkit is a practical resource that provides useful exercises and proven techniques to begin this process. To incorporate parent engagement in whole school planning you need to:

  • provide training and resources for all school staff
  • build positive relationships with families
  • involve community partners
  • use multiple communication techniques
  • enhance school policies for parent engagement
  • develop a recruitment strategy

3. Create an inviting school environment where parents feel safe and welcome.

To help facilitate this:

  • invite staff/students to greet parents as they enter the school.
  • organize coffee mornings or school refresher sessions to help network and share cultural activities.
  • talk with parents. Ask them to share their stories and actively listen.
  • encourage parents to volunteer.
  • use signage that is welcoming and culturally responsive to visitors, for example: instead of ‘visitors please report to the office’ try a more welcoming message like ‘Welcome guests. Please sign in at office’.
Schools and school boards can use the following resources to promote parent engagement:

Student engagement

Student engagement is a key component of the Ministry of Education’s School Effectiveness Framework (K-12) (externa link) and Foundations for a healthy school (external link).

Other related terms include student voice and youth engagement.

Youth engagement is defined as:

"Empowering all youth as valued partners in addressing, and making decisions about issues that affect them personally and/or that they believe to be important. It is about adults working with youth to create opportunities for young people to become involved and contribute to the betterment of an organization and/or community in which they live." – Pereira, 2007

What meaningful student engagement looks like:

  • Listening to student ideas and being willing to try them out
  • Ensuring equity and access to opportunities for students to contribute to their learning and school environment
  • Involving students in activities that that are meaningful to them and have a purpose
  • Recognizing that all students have skills and strengths that benefit schools and the community
  • Involving students in all stages of planning, not just toward the end
  • Giving students access to mentors and opportunities to build skills and experiences
  • Having realistic expectations. Considering their life stage, level of experience, and other commitments at home, school, work and in the community

Committing to meaningful student engagement ensures that young people become an integral part of the work of schools and communities and that their voices help shape the future. To get your school ready to engage students, follow these simple steps:

Assess readiness

  • Gaining buy-in for meaningful student engagement is essential. Make sure school staff and parents/guardians understand that this is a priority.
  • Reflect on how you are currently involving students. Use the following questions as your guide:
    • Do you have any students on your school well-being team?
    • How do you ensure equity and representation of voices that reflect the student population?
    • Are there opportunities for students to take on leadership roles at your school?
    • Who sets the agenda? Who decides what happens?
    • When are meetings scheduled? Is it a convenient time for students to attend?
    • What incentives do you offer? (i.e. food, honorarium, volunteer hours, references)

Identify and engage champions

Create a youth-friendly environment

  • Be welcoming and respectful of differences in student perspectives, skills and knowledge
  • Create an atmosphere that is non-judgmental (i.e. avoid assumptions, generalizations)
  • Hold meetings in spaces that are convenient and where students feel comfortable
  • Be authentic and genuine
  • Make it fun!

“An adult ally helps youth have their voice heard through meaningful engagement. With support of an adult ally, young people can be meaningfully involved in every stage of an initiative” (Centre of Excellence for Youth Engagement, 2007).

An adult ally:

  • Recognizes that all students have strengths and skills and actively looks for the strengths in others
  • Takes the time to build trust and connections with students
  • Looks for the things students are passionate about – the “hook” or “spark” that motivates them
  • Is willing to work collaboratively with students, even if it takes longer
  • Looks for teachable moments
  • Has the wisdom to let students try out ideas even if they might fail
  • Recognizes that the process is more important than the outcome

Video: Sparks Matter: Finding your spark (YouTube video)

The following is a list of tips for engaging and empowering students:

School staff meetings

  • Include student engagement or student voice as a standing agenda item
  • Invite guest speakers who are experts in youth engagement to conduct staff training (i.e. high school students, youth peer facilitators)
  • Have students provide updates to staff about programs or events happening the school

Student surveys

  • Focus group (external): Hold a meeting where students can offer insights and provide meaningful input to the data collected.

Peer-to-peer programs

  • Reading Buddies: Encourage older students to help younger students with reading
  • Encourage student mentorship opportunities where older students can share their experience and perspectives with younger students (e.g. high school students visiting elementary feeder schools)

School activities, clubs and committees

  • Include students in the development of the purpose and vision of a school club or committee, selecting meeting times and locations, and developing the agenda
  • Diversity of youth voice: Consider the multitude of identities in your school community and whether those voices are represented. Whose voices are missing?
  • Tell students about the impact of their involvement and let them know how their participation resulted in positive changes
  • Invite student leaders to train younger students to take over in the following year
  • Encourage students to invite friends to join activities, events, clubs and committees

School community events

  • Recognize student strengths by inviting a student artist to help design flyers for school events, or asking a student with good public speaking skills to introduce a guest speaker
  • Invite students to speak at parent nights, sharing their experiences with school clubs, sports teams, and student leadership

Community initiatives

  • Encourage and invite students to participate in coalitions/partnerships and community run events
  • Include students in the early stages of planning when forming partnerships with community partners to ensure initiatives and activities under development are relevant to students

Reflecting on the student engagement process

As an adult ally, it is important to reflect on the youth engagement process itself. Ask yourself: What went well? What would you do differently?


  • Did students and staff share in decision-making responsibilities? Check out the youth engagement traffic light to learn more (external link)
  • Did youth input receive equal weight when making decisions as compared to adult input?
  • Were youth consulted when activities and timelines were being decided upon?
  • Were youth given leadership roles within the group? (e.g., chair meetings)
  • How did youth voice shape the direction and purpose of the initiative?
  • Were meetings held in youth-friendly spaces, at locations and during times convenient for students?

Help students reflect by asking:

  • What went well?
  • What would you do differently?

Keep asking these questions as you work through the stages of planning and implementing your group’s ideas. This teaches students about the importance of reflection. There may be opportunities for teachable moments, especially when something did not go well.

Think about sustainability

  • How can your student leaders train younger students to take over next year?
  • Consider ways to recruit students throughout the school year.


We all want to feel valued. Celebrating youth involvement sends the message that you value their input, time and dedication. Hopefully this will lead to more involvement in the future!

  • Find a meaningful way to honour students’ involvement. Send a personalized thank you note, make a PA announcement, write a reference letter, or have a party for your last meeting of the year.
  • Hold an end of year assembly to recognize student contributions to clubs, committees and teams.


Additional Healthy Schools Resources