St Aidan’s School in Shannon launched its pioneering new school active programme “Project Young Eagles – Soaring to the Sky” and also unveiled plans for its new all-weather pitch on Friday.
Minister for State at the Department of Health with responsibility for Health Promotion, Marcella Corcoran Kennedy, and Junior Minister for Employment and Small Business Pat Breen were in attendance to hear first-hand how this project has the potential not only to benefit the health of children now but into their adult lives.
School Principal Patrice Hayes said St Aidan’s National School has a proven record when it comes to the children’s wellbeing but the staff are determined to take this further. “With first-hand experience of the impact of a sedentary lifestyle on our young population the staff of St. Aidan’s N.S have committed to taking action”.
“None of us would be here today speaking about this event if it wasn’t for Paddy Purcell, founder of Mincon. ‘Project Young Eagles’ is essentially the brainchild of Paddy, a successful businessman who is astutely aware of the benefits of physical activity and its direct link to brain function/ cognitive development. Having read ‘Spark’ by John. J. Ratey he approached the school with a view to gauging interest and enthusiasm in piloting a Physical Activity Project similar to that in John Ratey’s book ‘Spark’
Ms Hayes continued “Paddy did not just leave his commitment to this programme there, he is also very generously funding a running track and all weather pitch for the school. This selfless commitment and generosity will benefit the future of all of the children going to the school and those yet to start. Pat O’Connell has also generously volunteered his services as Project Manager for this huge undertaking”.
“Project Young Eagles’ represents a will and desire to maximize brain functionality through daily physical activity whilst also seeking to empower and educate children to lead healthy and active lives now and into the future. Whilst there are many initiates already which support and encourage participation in physical activity, this new programme is committed to invoking a change of lifestyle with the concept of Fitness not sport to the fore,” the principal concluded.
Clare TD Breen said, “I met with members of St Aidan’s National School just three weeks ago and I was impressed with not only the dedication they have shown for the health and wellbeing of their students, but the hours of research and work they have put into this pioneering programme.
“We know only too well the negative impact of a sedentary lifestyle on our health and indeed health services. This programme not only ensures children are active while in school, but it gives them the foundations to continue with an active lifestyle into adulthood, benefiting their health both mentally and physically through all stages of life,” the Fine Gael TD added.
“Behaviour change is complex and takes time but as educators and indeed role-models we have a role to play in facilitating and environment that encourages children to be active,” explained John Conlon, Clare senior hurler and class teacher in St. Aidan’s N.S. who formulated the project.
Mr. Conlon, was not alone in developing the programme. Former Clare camogie player Jane Scanlon (Sports Instructor), Fintan McEvoy (Sports Co-Ordinator) and Catriona Collins (Post of Responsibility for Well-being) are all part of the enthusiastic and passionate team committed to piloting the fitness programme in the school.
Conlon added “We believe that by incorporating this fitness program into the school day we are much more likely to make strides in invoking a change of lifestyle rather than leaving it up to individuals themselves, particularly given that children are at school or in a child care setting for most of their day. That said, staff at St. Aidan’s believe a cross-sectoral partnership involving Government, national and local state agencies, business community, wider community in general, parents and Board of Management is key to achieving long-term success in this area. All are part of the solution”.