Female secondary school students across the Waikato region are beginning to see physical activity in a different light. This is thanks to a new approach that’s changing the message about what it means to be active and encouraging schools to approach things a little differently.
 
As part of its This is ME® initiative, aimed at getting girls and women moving, Sport Waikato is working with a handful of secondary schools across the region to look at new, interesting and exciting ways girls can get active at school that are outside of traditional opportunities offered by schools such as competitive team sports and school events.
 
“Traditional school sports and events can be unappealing to many young women – we see them disengaged, sitting on the sidelines, and sometimes even absent on days where activities like cross country and swimming sports are happening. With this in mind, we need to offer alternative ways for young women to get moving at school that are relevant to them, so they’re not put off physical activity for life,” says Sport Waikato’s Women and Girls Initiative Lead, Amy Marfell.
 
Currently, schools in Te Kuiti, Pio Pio, and Waihi are involved in the programme, which is based on female students having a voice about physical activity in their school and leading the co-design of opportunities to get girls more active. Each of the participating schools has formed a This is ME® council comprised of a senior leader who will guide female representatives from across the year groups to develop and deliver activity opportunities that are exciting, inclusive and relevant to their peers.

For their efforts, the students can gain credits towards NCEA as well as a KiwiSport Leadership Certificate. This is all in an effort to platform critical conversations with schools that encourage them to approach physical activity delivery differently, and to enact policy and process changes to increase participation.
 
Past This is ME® secondary school activations have included a colour festival, a water play day and connections with local community providers to deliver Zumba, Yoga and Self Defence sessions. Feedback from teachers and principals regarding the programme has been positive and indicates increases in participation and a sense of community among young women as well as decreases in truancy.
 
In 2018, the This is ME® Te Kuiti High School leaders received the Innovation in Sport and Recreation Award at the Waitomo District Sports awards and were nominated in the same categoy at the Brian Perry Trust Regional Sports Awards for their dedication and commitment to making positive change for females in their school.
 

Waikato secondary schools embrace new approach to physical activity

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