InnerFit Kids builds character and confidence

Issue: Volume 99, Number 12

Posted: 31 July 2020
Reference #: 1HA9No

Born out of a desire to help tamariki develop good character and strong values in a digital world, the InnerFit Kids programme has a growing presence in the North Island.

InnerFit Kids, formerly known as Crackerjack Kids, started as a two-year pilot programme in the Tairāwhiti area in 2016. Since then, it has gone from strength to strength helping to empower both teachers and tamariki in a growing number of schools nationwide.  

InnerFit Kids is an integrated curriculum-linked initiative which focuses on building good character with students. Initially known as Crackerjack Kids, it consisted of seven modules, each focusing on four specific character themes. The modules, which are now readily available online, use physical activity through games to promote critical thinking, problem solving and reflection. 

Origins of InnerFit Kids

While working on a character-building programme with the New Zealand Breakers, InnerFit’s chief executive Ken Youngson identified a need that was visible not only in elite athletes but also in school-aged children. He realised that some athletes were lacking simple character traits like respect, perseverance, resilience and self-control and identified that a similar model could be applied to help build these characteristics in children.

“The world has changed, but to be human has not changed,” Ken says. “It doesn’t matter what colour you are or where you’re from in the world, you need these good foundations to be successful in life. We’re not doing well when you look at our suicide statistics and our statistics about wellbeing in adults. We have to ask the question – what’s happening there?”

The idea that children live in a world of greater opportunities than ever before, yet they have never been so challenged, is the driving force behind the InnerFit Kids programme.  InnerFit’s motto is ‘Success starts within’. 

Kindness module now available

Moving away from just being seen as a Health and Physical Education resource, InnerFit Kids has recently released a new module on kindness. The Kindness module, now available online, represents an integrated approach to character development and citizenship across different curriculum areas, and will help schools address issues such as bullying.

The next module, Managing Emotions, will be available by the end of term 3. 

Enabling teacher confidence 

The InnerFit team works closely with teachers to deliver professional development to enable these modules to be used effectively within their teaching practice.

Ken says asking critical questions is key to engaging teachers in the programme, ensuring the success of tamariki is at the forefront.

“When they’re walking out that gate, what do you want to impart to them? What do you want them to walk away with?” he asks

Aware that many teachers did not feel confident teaching in the Health and Physical Education area, and not wanting to add “another thing” to a teacher’s ever-growing to-do list, InnerFit has worked hard to ensure teachers are provided with clear resources and planning to scaffold the learning. 

While learning through games still remains a major focus, the new integrated approach also spans across three curriculum levels and are tailored specifically for primary and intermediate-aged children. 

“We give the teacher everything they need to know to deal with a learning pathway – it’s done for them,” says Ken.

Following the initial pilot, a survey administered in July of 2017 found that 80 per cent of the teachers who took part in the trial believed they had more confidence and competence to teach character values and physical education.

Visible outcomes

Teacher Emma-Jane Morris of Auckland’s Glenavon School says the programme provides easily accessible resources that can be incorporated into any teacher’s day.

“I use the online tool to give me PE games to play. Even though I am quite a sporty person myself, my range of games is limited – it’s good to use the games to teach both particular skills and the character values,” she says.

While the programme originally focused specifically on the curriculum areas of Physical Education and Health, she says that the benefits of the programme run far beyond the games. Many children who struggle to manage their own behaviour or have anxiety issues can learn new skills such as resilience and how to rebound from a mistake. 

“It’s an epic programme – if you genuinely care about your children and you want the best life outcomes for them, not just educational outcomes, then this is something that you can’t look past,” says Emma-Jane. 

“If you get the character right, and the mindset right and the self-efficacy right, then the learning will just happen and you will get those educational outcomes.” 

Beyond the school gates

Emma-Jane says that seeing children make positive changes in the classroom and beyond the school gates is one of the powerful effects of the InnerFit Kids programme.

Speaking of one success story, she says one child had become “a completely different boy at home” since taking part in the programme.

“He was kinder – he learned how to play with others. His mum actually saw the change in him as well, so we knew it wasn’t just situational,” she says.

As a result of this type of feedback, InnerFit plans to expand to include materials for parents to use at home. 

“We would love to start adding complementary material for parents and whānau to use at home that is simple and easy to use,” says Ken.

The first of four Kindness learning pathways is currently available free of charge at link).

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BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 9:08 am, 31 July 2020

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