By Chad Ingram
Published Nov. 2 2017
The Trillium Lakelands District School Board’s Young Warriors program is based on the Japanese martial art of aikido which translates to “the way of harmonious spirit.”
Young Warriors which is designed for nine- to 12-year-olds grew out of the mindful martial arts program at the Haliburton Highlands Secondary School. That program which was initiated a few years ago uses martial arts philosophies and focuses on the development of the entire person; the mind – through cognition attitude self-instruction etc.; and the body – through wellness nutrition breathing flexibility etc.
The Young Warriors program employs similar philosophies.
“It targets students that might have mental health issues or difficulties self-regulation issues or difficulties as well as students that might have learning disabilities” says Cheryl Roffe manager of mental health services for TLDSB. “The premise behind it is that they learn a number of different strategies in order to cope throughout the course of a day and a frustration if something occurs. They learn throughout the course a number of different martial arts strategies – breathing approaches physical approaches. It is incredibly cool.”
Last year five schools throughout the board including Minden’s Archie Stouffer Elementary School offered the program. Some of the students who participated gave a demonstration at a recent school board meeting.
“We had students who did a presentation and they just did such a great job” Roffe says. “We had a mom get up to the mike and say ‘I don’t know if I’m supposed to do this but this has done so much for my child. His confidence has increased and he feels so much more a part of things. He had a group of kids that he identified with. It was really good for him.’”
The program is delivered by specially trained school board employees. “These staff that were selected come from a variety of different backgrounds” Roffe explains. These include teachers – some who have physical education backgrounds some who have backgrounds in special education and resource educational assistants and itinerant educational assistants. A mental health employee is also present for the lessons. Training for instructors is underway now and this year’s Young Warriors program will begin in 2018.
Along with the five schools that offered the program last year an additional 11 schools in the board will offer it this year including J. Douglas Hodgson Elementary School in Haliburton Village. The program will continue to be offered at ASES.
The program lasts 20 weeks and the way it is delivered will vary from school to school depending on who is instructing.
“How it looks in each school is going to be very very unique” Roffe said.
Teachers may approach students who they think might benefit for the program or students can also volunteer themselves.
“The selection of the students is really really important” Roffe says. “There’s a number of criteria that must be met and first and foremost the student needs to want to do it. There has to be consent as well from parents.”
While it involves martial arts the program does not teach fighting techniques. It uses a self-defence approach and focuses on respect and care for others.
“This is considered to be a therapeutic program in an educational setting but it it’s very unique way of working with students who may not necessarily adhere to the traditional counselling style” Roffe says.