Rowville Primary’s cooking challenges inspire healthy eating

Tuesday 13 October, 2020


Rowville Primary School is dedicated to giving its children a healthy start. Even in these trying times amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Rowville Primary has proven that health and wellbeing is a top priority.


Rowville Primary joined the Achievement Program in 2019 to strengthen its wide range of healthy initiatives and has been focusing on the program’s Healthy Eating and Oral Health health area. When students transitioned to remote learning due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions, the school adapted activities and introduced new ones to support healthy eating, and indeed health and wellbeing more broadly, at home.


The school’s health and wellbeing initiatives were uncovered in the Healthy Schools Competition, which called upon schools to share how they supported students’ health and wellbeing while remote learning. Rowville Primary was one of three schools to win the state-wide competition for its cooking challenges.


The students were tasked to plan and help prepare healthy meals for the family, which led to a series of cooking challenges. Students would rate their meals, take photos and share them with their peers to inspire others to try new creations.


For Xavier, a grade five student, he became the household resident chef and enjoyed experimenting in the kitchen with his very wise sous chef, also known as Mum!


“I liked cooking healthy meals at home because I get to eat it. Cooking at home means I don’t have to share it with my classmates, so there is more for me! I made a curry for the first time with my mum and dad, that was my favourite,” Xavier said.


To capitalise on the talented and wide range of delicious meals students cooked, the school is now creating its own healthy recipe book featuring the students’ dishes, images and artwork. The recipe book will be available at the school’s fundraiser later in the year.


Jodie Wood, Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden teacher, has enjoyed the personal approach online learning has provided and has a stronger understanding of the children’s different exposure to food at home.


“We’re having conversations about what families eat and cook at home and we’re sharing a broad range of healthy ideas and recipes with each other. For me, I have learnt a lot about the children’s enjoyment and knowledge of food,” Ms Wood said.


Other health and wellbeing activities of note were:

  • Surprise at sunrise – an activity each morning that involved a 5-minute interactive video such as short dance routines, yoga and surprise drawings, with the aim of energising and engaging students for the day ahead.
  • Virtual sport – students were encouraged to get active for 30 minutes or more per day and had the opportunity to choose an activity they enjoyed such as jumping on the trampoline, a family bike ride or walk, or playing soccer, cricket or basketball in the backyard.
  • Rowville Olympics – a fun challenge that had students trying a range of different activities and competing against their fellow peers.
  • Slow Down World – an art program that focused on mindfulness from the book Slow Down World by Tai Snaith. Each activity concentrated on artists’ various techniques to prompt reflection such as what makes our lives so busy, what we appreciate and being present in the moment. All the artwork will be collected and displayed at the school as a reminder to ‘slow down’.
  • Daily circle question time – an initiative that got students to send in questions with a focus on mental health and wellbeing. Each morning the teacher chose a question to answer, generating a class discussion on everyone’s thoughts and feelings.

According to the students at Rowville Primary, taking part in the Surprise at sunrise activity was a highlight of remote learning.


Marina, a grade four student, said: “They make me feel ready for school and energetic. My favourite video was Miss M doing yoga because I love doing all the stretches with her.”


For others, the morning videos lifted their spirits, with Charlie, also a grade four student, saying: “My favourite video is the one with all the teachers dressing up, it made me feel good.”


The health and wellbeing efforts by Rowville Primary have contributed to its progress in the Healthy Schools Achievement Program. The program is centred around seven key health areas including healthy eating, physical activity, mental health and wellbeing, safe environments, sexual health and wellbeing, sun protection, and smoking, alcohol and other drugs.


Each health area provides a set of targets to be achieved, leading to healthy changes to a school’s physical environment, policies and practices, and culture – and once the health area targets are achieved the school will receive Victorian Government recognition.


For Rowville Primary, its recent initiatives align to the Healthy Eating targets of:

  • incorporating healthy eating education in the formal school curriculum
  • teaching students to develop and apply their healthy eating knowledge in daily life outside of the classroom
  • including families and the wider community in healthy eating initiatives
  • providing information on the benefits and opportunities of eating well.

While students were remote learning, the school continued its maintenance of the edible vegetable garden, which will see students take part in mindfulness activities throughout term four. The school has also upgraded its canteen and can now produce healthier snack and lunch options.


As students return to face-to-face learning, Rowville Primary will continue to build upon its great work and is well on its way to achieving Victorian Government recognition for Healthy Eating and Oral Health health area.