Access to chilled water stations, along with learning about the benefits of drinking water both inside and outside the classroom, has helped change student habits at Kariong Mountains High School.
Last year, the school was one of two to win an Elkay EZH2O VandalResistant chilled water station for its commitment to involving students in promoting water across its school community. The competition was run by Thirsty? Choose Water! an initiative by the NSW Health Central Coast Local Health District. It is the second chilled water station installed at the school after it received its first through its involvement in the Thirsty? Choose Water! research program.
The school’s Deputy Principal, Scott White, says – even with two stations – there are still queues of students looking to fill up their water bottles.
“Our initial involvement in the Thirsty? Choose Water! research program stemmed from our commitment to promote a healthy lifestyle to our students,” Mr White says. “Choosing water over fizzy drinks forms a big part of that health message, but we need to be able to give students access to chilled water for them to do that.
“There were long lines at our first station from the moment we had it installed. That’s why we really wanted another.
“Having two stations became even more important during the pandemic because water bubblers were not permitted. The bubblers are rarely used now – they’re a thing of the past.
“Now we have two water stations that are both well utilized, which is great because it shows students are really hearing the message about choosing water.
“We don’t have to rely just on looking at the queues either; another
benefit of having the stations is the data we can pull from them telling us just how much water is being consumed.”
Its school captains worked with teachers to decide on the best location for the second cooler; a high traffic area outside its library. Students even designed a sign to go up next to it, and in other areas of the school, encouraging their peers to fill up.
Teachers also show the way by having their own reusable drink bottles and filling up at the stations. Mr. White says this “role modeling” has been really helpful in promoting the choose water message.
“You’ll often see teachers, including myself, waiting in line with the students,” Mr. White says. “We’ve found having teachers visibly filling up at the water stations, rather than from staffroom taps, really encourages discussion about how important it is to have the water stations and the benefits of drinking water regularly.”
Healthy habits are encouraged outside of the curriculum too. New students are given ‘welcome kits’ containing a water bottle with the Thirsty logo on, while the school has also started a ‘daily check-in’ where students are often reminded to fill them up.
“The daily check-ins are a recent introduction and they’re delivered by the same teacher to the same student, every day,” Mr White says. “This gives a continuity that enables teachers to really get to know the student, their hobbies and interests, outside of the classroom.”
“The choose water message is something we’ve really adopted across the whole school environment,” Mr. White says.
“We really want to install healthy habits from an early age. This is about preparing school kids for their future.”