Boost your kids' school

Is your child's school missing something? From the arts to anti-bullying to fitness and nutrition, these ready-made programs offer free and low-cost solutions across Canada

Every public school could use a boost, whether in the form of new library books, spruced-up grounds or an injection of healthy eating and physical activity. Some schools suffer from bigger problems, like violence, that cry out for intervention beyond what staff can handle. The good news is there are many programs and grants available across Canada (except where noted), at low- or no cost, that can provide schools with the help they need to thrive. Implementing these programs, in many cases, takes little more than a phone call. Here are 21:

Fitness and nutrition

Active & Safe Routes to School
This program encourages kids to walk to school for exercise, as well as to reduce gas consumption and exhaust from driving to school and idling during drop-off and pickup times. Resources, tools, information and links are provided for schools to create their own customized program, with an emphasis on school zone safety.

Target: all grades
Cost: free
Info: saferoutestoschool.ca or 1-877-533-4098

At My Best
A free, comprehensive tool kit for teachers to promote physical activity, healthy eating and emotional well-being among their students.

Target: kindergarten to grade 3
Cost: free
Info: cahperd.ca/atmybest or 1-800-663-8708, ext. 222
Breakfast Clubs of Canada
Schools in underserved communities are encouraged to apply for services and funding from this national not-for-profit organization dedicated to school breakfast programs.

Target: kindergarten to grade 12
Cost: free
Info: breakfastclubscanada.org or 1-866-794-4900

Breakfast for Learning
This organization provides educational resources and tools regarding proper nutrition, and allows schools to apply for grants for their breakfast programs.

Target: kindergarten to grade 8
Cost: free
Info: breakfastforlearning.ca or 1-800-627-7922

Freggie Friday
Kids are encouraged to bring fruits and veggies in their lunches and snacks every Friday, in exchange for ballots to enter a draw for prizes each month. Curriculum materials help teachers inform students about choosing the recommended “five to 10 a day.”

Target: kindergarten to grade 6
Cost: nominal cost for material varies
Info: freggietales.com

Run for Life
Resources, training guidelines and curriculum-based learning tools give teachers and school-based volunteers the resources to host a simple running program for kids. The six-week Run Like Lightning program is designed for elementary schools and includes prizes, T-shirts and other incentives.

Target: grades 1 to 6
Cost: free
Info: runforlife.ca

WeMüv
This online challenge lets individual students or entire classrooms earn points each time they participate in physical activity and make healthy lifestyle choices. Points can be exchanged for access codes allowing classmates to play age-appropriate online video games, and are accumulated for a chance to win a grand prize worth $500.

Target: grades 3 to 6
Cost: $12.95 per class (plus shipping and handling)
Info: wemuv.com

Life skills

Kids.now
Launched more than a decade ago, kids.now is a 12-week in-school leadership program that includes activities, group discussions and games that teach goal-setting, communications, conflict resolution, stress management and other life skills.

Target: grades 7 and 8
Cost: free
Info: kidsnowcanada.org or 1-877-407-4848

Schools and Scouting
Run by Scouts Canada, this program is designed to provide outdoor education in the classroom and through a short residential camp stay. Kids learn outdoor safety, map reading, fire building and more.

Target: grades 4 to 7
Cost: varies; please inquire
Info: scouts.ca

Take Our Kids to Work
Each year, parents, relatives or other volunteers host grade nine students at their workplaces on a specified day. The program builds mentorship and encourages students to think about their futures.

Target: grade 9
Cost: free
Info: thelearningpartnership.ca

Arts and literacy

ArtsSmarts
This program strives to inject the arts into the everyday curriculum by pairing local artists with teachers. The result is usually a project undertaken by students and the artist for a more enriched educational experience. Each classroom will do something different, depending on what the teacher and artist come up with.

Target: grades 1 to 8
Cost: free
Info: artssmarts.ca

Love of Reading
Elementary schools that demonstrate a need can apply for this grant to improve resources in their libraries and classrooms. The grant is carried out over three years in the form of 10 percent cash toward literacy projects and 90 percent off the cost of books at Indigo, Chapters and Coles bookstores (the program sponsor).

Target: kindergarten to grade 8
Cost: free
Info: loveofreading.org

Music Alive
The National Arts Centre in Ottawa runs this program, bringing classical music education to schools in Alberta and Saskatchewan through performances, teacher resource kits and special activities.

Target: grades 4 to 6
Cost: please inquire
Info: artsalive.ca

Environment

Toyota Evergreen Learning Grounds
This venerable program (formerly Evergreen) provides education, funding and grants for the “greening” of school grounds. Schools apply with their individual proposals for a grant to complete their specific project. There is plenty of helpful planning and educational info on the website to help map out a project.

Target: all ages
Cost: free
Info: evergreen.ca or 1-888-426-3138

Tree Canada
Fill out an online grant proposal and your school may receive funding to plant trees on school grounds. Fifteen schools from across Canada are selected each year.

Target: all grades
Cost: free
Info: treecanada.ca or 1-877-666-1444

Health and self-esteem

Always Changing
This plan (sponsored by personal-care manufacturer Procter & Gamble) provides resources, sponsor-branded products and teaching strategies to help students of both genders understand their changing bodies, the stages of puberty and the role of personal appearance in a positive self-image.

Target: grades 5 and 6
Cost: free
Info: cahperd.ca

Vibrant Faces
This program (also sponsored by Procter & Gamble) aims to promote physically active and healthy lifestyles for adolescent girls through teaching resources already in place at the school. Sponsor-branded products are used in the curriculum.

Target: grades 7 and 8
Cost: free
Info: cahperd.ca

Anti-bullying

Roots of Empathy
Available in English or French, this program centres around classroom visits by a local mother and infant, and teaches the concepts of empathy, anti-bullying and anti-violence.

Target: kindergarten to grade 8
Cost: often funded; please inquire
Info: rootsofempathy.org

Stop a Bully
This non-profit program allows victims and witnesses of bullying and schoolyard violence to report incidents anonymously and prevent future bullying, without becoming targets. Parents and students are provided with printable bully reports that are then sent directly to the school.

Target: all grades
Cost: free
Info: stopabully.ca

SNAP (Stop Now And Plan) for Schools
Classrooms eligible for this program, created by Child Development Institute, an organization for family support and education, will have identified at least two children with behavioural problems. Twelve weeks of SNAP activities aim to decrease aggression, as well as antisocial and bullying behaviour in the classroom as a whole.

Target: grades 3 and 4
Cost: free
Info: stopnowandplan.com

TV & me
Concerned Children’s Advertisers runs this program of bilingual lesson plans that address media literacy, substance abuse prevention, anti-bullying and self-esteem. The curriculum is divided into three separate, age-appropriate packages.

Target: kindergarten to grade 9
Cost: free
Info: cca-kids.ca/tvandme