"Sport brings us together, it doesn't keep us apart."

Martin Parnell
Shaping the Future - One Active Child at a Time

Shaping the Future - One Active Child at a Time

Posted by martin.parnell |

On January 28th 2016, I was fortunate enough to attend the “Shaping the Future” Conference at the Delta Lodge in Kananaskis, Alberta hosted by Ever Active Schools. The objective was to bring together individuals from schools and organizations, across Alberta and beyond, to work to achieve optimal health, wellness and ideal learning environments for all students.

On the second day, a morning run was scheduled and at 6.30am a group of sleepy runners headed out into dark. We were led by Ryan Fahey, School Health Coordinator with Ever Active Schools, who handed out head lights to ensure no one got lost. Ryan explained that the run was sponsored by the Alberta Medical Association (AMA) as part of their province wide “Youth Run Club” initiative in Schools.

The footing was pretty tricky, as there had been a thaw freeze during the night. Watching the beams from our head lights bobbing along the road, it reminded me of my night run during the 100 mile Lost Souls Ultra. All I could see was a tunnel of light and several times wondered about the shadows in the bushes. We ran out 2.5 km and on the way back I chatted with Carmichael Day Chief. Carmichael is a Physical Education teacher at Aahsaopi Elementary School in southern Alberta. The school is located 30kms south of Fort MacLeod, on the western part of the Blood Reserve, nestled among the foothills, in the Belly River valley. The school is part of the Kainai Board of Education, whose motto is “Our children are our Future”.

Later, at the AMA sponsored breakfast buffet for the runners and other delegates, Dr. Carl Nohr, President of the AMA, told the audience that the “AMA Youth Run Club” had had its launch at Belgravia school in Edmonton in 2013 and there are now over 200 schools participating province wide. I had been asked to say a few words to the group and I spoke about the importance of being active in developing a child’s physical and mental wellbeing.

After the breakfast Dr. Nohr asked me if I would join founder of the Running Room, John Stanton, and Canadian triathlete, Paula Findlay, to become an Ambassador for the AMA Youth Run Club. I didn’t hesitate in saying yes. Later, I again met up with Carmichael. He mentioned that his school was a member of the AMA Youth Run Club and invited me to come and run with his students. That is a date I plan to keep.

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Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that say's "I'll try again tomorrow".

Mary Anne Radmacher
The Circle of Courage-On the Right Track

The Circle of Courage-On the Right Track

Posted by martin.parnell | Courage First Nation

One of the keynote presentations at the recent “Shaping the Future” conference was by Dr. John MacGavock. He talked about “Resilience as a path to wellness” and related it to the challenges children and youth face in First Nation communities. He introduced the “Circle of Courage” and it got me thinking about the possibilities.

The Circle of Courage model portrays four growth needs of all children: Belonging, Mastery, Independence, and Generosity. This philosophy emerged from collaboration of Martin Brokenleg, a professor of Native American Studies and Larry Brendtro, a professor in children’s behavior disorders. They studied how traditional indigenous cultures were able to rear respectful, responsible children without resorting to coercive discipline. The Circle of Courage is illustrated as a medicine wheel with four directions.

The model was adopted to youth services in South Africa during the administration of Nelson Mandela under leadership of Minister Geraldine Moloketi and Lesley du Toit. This led in 2005 to the Response Ability Pathways (RAP) curriculum which provides training on applying the Circle of Courage to all who work with youth.

The Circle of Courage provides the philosophical foundation for the work of Reclaiming Youth International, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping adult’s better serve children and youth who are in emotional pain from conflict in the family, school, community, or with self.

In the book “Reclaiming Youth at Risk”, Brendtro, Brokenleg and Van Bockern summarized the four universal growth needs of all children as:


In Native American and First Nations cultures, significance was nurtured in communities of belonging. Lakota anthropologist Ella Deloria described the core value of belonging in these simple words: “Be related, somehow, to everyone you know.” Treating others as kin forges powerful social bonds that draw all into relationships of respect. Theologian Marty observed that throughout history the tribe, not the nuclear family, always ensured the survival of the culture. Even if parents died or were not responsible, the tribe was always there to nourish the next generation.


Competence in traditional cultures is ensured by guaranteed opportunity for mastery. Children were taught to carefully observe and listen to those with more experience. A person with greater ability was seen as a model for learning, not as a rival. Each person strives for mastery for personal growth, but not to be superior to someone else. Humans have an innate drive to become competent and solve problems. With success in surmounting challenges, the desire to achieve is strengthened.


Power in Western culture was based on dominance, but in tribal traditions it meant respecting the right for independence. In contrast to obedience models of discipline, Native teaching was designed to build respect and teach inner discipline. From earliest childhood, children were encouraged to make decisions, solve problems, and show personal responsibility. Adults modelled, nurtured, taught values, and gave feedback, but children were given abundant opportunities to make choices without coercion.


Finally, virtue was reflected in the pre-eminent value of generosity. The central goal in Native American child-rearing is to teach the importance of being generous and unselfish. In the words of a Lakota Elder, “You should be able to give away your most cherished possession without your heart beating faster.” In helping others, youth create their own proof of worthiness: they make a positive contribution to another human life.

It seems to me that this is a pretty good model for all of us.

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