I Support a Water-Only School, Do You?


As the school year began, I found myself involved in an interesting story. I was not prepared for it, nor did I expect it, but this year's back-to-school hot topic was Alexander Elementary is going to trial being a water only school. 

I was shocked that this was even a story. I mean, it’s water... it’s something that we should be encouraging our children, as well as ourselves, to drink more of.

I ended up reading some of the Facebook comments underneath articles and news clips that concerned the water only school. I was a bit mind blown that many people had issues with it. It has become a topic of choice, and people feeling that parent's rights to choose have been taken away.

This didn't even cross my mind, because I don’t feel that my choices and decisions as a parent are being compromised. I thought I would write about it and explain why I completely support this trial.

Alexander is a school that, in my opinion, doesn’t get the credit it deserves. Yes, there are many students that attend who come from low-income households, some that come from houses that are dealing with addiction and some that are in foster homes. There are also students who come from middle-class homes and some who come from single-parent homes. It is a diverse population and one that also has a strong First Nations community.

With many students who attend the school facing learning challenges, Alexander has attracted some of the most incredible, dedicated and invested staff members that I could ever hope for. Their devotion to the children is impressive and incredible to watch. They are absolutely phenomenal, and I’m not talking only about the teachers. I’m talking about the amazing support staff as well. Everyone, from our fantastic secretary to the kitchen staff to the EA’s, Aboriginal Education team, custodians and of course, the principal and vice-principal. They truly want every student there to not only complete each grade, but to succeed both in school as well as in life.

Because of the diverse population and the number of students who come from low-income houses, Alexander has a breakfast and lunch program. What this means is every student at the school has the opportunity to have breakfast and lunch free every school day of the school year.

Why do they do this? They want every student to succeed to ensure they are able to have food in their belly to fuel their brain and body.

When the water-only challenge (a school-wide activity that took place last year) came about, inspired by education around healthy eating and healthy lifestyles, the students jumped on board and were excited about it. They focused on fuelling their body with less sugar and becoming more aware of what they were putting in their body. They learned about how much sugar was in other drinks (milk, juice, energy drinks and sports drinks to name a few). It sparked some great discussion in the classrooms, as well as in our home.

In my opinion, it's never too early to learn about what you are putting in your body and how to fuel your body in a healthy way. Part of this trial has provided education to the students, which in turn has started discussions and learning for families as well.

Water is so important for our body. When we are dehydrated it effects how our body performs. Learning the importance of hydration is such an important life lesson and one that will hopefully impact the students in a positive way for the rest of their lives. It’s not about taking away choice, it's about celebrating healthy decisions.

It allows for an equality among the students. No matter what their background or walk of life, they are all hydrating the same way while they are at school. There is no underlying competition around who is bringing what to drink to school.

It decreases the amount of sugar and calories children are consuming on a daily basis. This can help prevent tooth decay as well as obesity. So many illnesses and diseases are being linked to diets high in sugar. Not only is water great for illness and disease prevention, less sugar in the diet also means less sugar crashes.

I can only imagine having 20 plus children in a classroom who are struggling with having high amounts of sugar and then dealing with the eventual sugar crash. I am looking forward to seeing if the water only trial will impact or make a difference in the student’s behaviour in the classroom.

I know my children are affected by sugar and it exacerbates their challenging behaviour. I can imagine that I am not the only parent to notice this, and I am sure teachers see it in the classroom as well.  

A water-only school isn’t about telling others they can never have anything other than water to drink. In our family, we try and consume mostly water, but we definitely have milk, juice and sometimes even pop or iced tea. But that is at home, outside of school, where I am the one who can deal with the behaviour that may or may not come with that choice. 

Sarah Byrne