COLWOOD – Physical literacy is the joy of movement. It’s about teaching, promoting and learning the building blocks of movement, all in the context of playful and fun activities. Unfortunately, many children (and adults) are not physically literate; however, a $50,000 Island Health Community Wellness Grant received by Sooke School District 62 (SD 62) is helping to improve those outcomes.
“Through grants like this, we’re happy to be able to work together with children, families and the school system to develop a joy of movement and healthy living that hopefully stays with children as they grow,” said Ravi Kahlon, Parliamentary Secretary for Sport and Multiculturalism.
The grant is being used to foster physical literacy training for teachers, boost physical activity levels for elementary school students, and build key relationships among a host of community partners including the Pacific Institute for Sport Excellence (PISE), Westshore Parks and Recreation, SEAPARC, University of Victoria and the CRD.
“The wellness grant has acted as a catalyst for collaboration, allowing us to work with six partners to better support the promotion of physical literacy and physical activity within our school communities,” explains Cindy Andrew, SD 62 Healthy Schools Lead. “This investment has really helped us to initiate new partnerships and strengthen existing relationships – all with the goal of ensuring that kids are developing the skills, confidence and love of movement to be physically active for life.”
The Community Wellness Grant was used to create an innovative program anchored by physical literacy training for teachers from knowledgeable PISE staff who, during a 10-week period, meet with teachers and students at three SD 62 elementary schools to provide physical literacy mentorship during half hour blocks.
“We develop physical literacy through games and activities that build confidence and movement skills. Things like kicking and throwing and catching or movements as simple as running and jumping, all through fun and engaging activities,” explains Ben Orr, Pacific Institute for Sport Excellence Physical Literacy Programmer. “Our goal is to empower the teachers and ensure they are better equipped to teach physical literacy concepts on their own. Because of the Community Wellness Grant, we are able to do that more effectively.”
The program also includes before and after school physical literacy clubs offered by Westshore Parks and Recreation and SEAPARC, physical literacy workshops for parents, and innovative resources to help teachers integrate physical activity across the school day.
“Physical activity is a key determinant of physical and mental health in children, yet according to the 2018 ParticipACTION Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth, only 35% of kids between the ages of 5 and 17 are getting the recommended 60 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous exercise,” says Dr. Murray Fyfe, Island Health Medical Health Officer. “We are delighted that SD 62 and its partners are working together to apply this Community Wellness Grant toward enhancing physical literacy and physical activity rates while also increasing overall health, well being and learning for SD 62 students.”
One of the participating schools is David Cameron Elementary in Colwood. The school has made the health and wellness of its students a priority for the last number of years, with this newest project allowing staff to further build upon that work.
“The ‘training the trainer’ mentorship approach is fabulous because it gives teachers new ideas, activities, and strategies that serve to strengthen our existing physical education programs,” says Martina Craig, David Cameron Elementary Vice-Principal. “The training isn’t sport specific, which is important – rather, it’s about teaching kids to love movement and building their skills and confidence inside and outside of the classroom.”
With over 600 children participating in the project, teachers are being trained to ‘think outside of the box’ during their 10-week physical literacy mentorships. They learn a wide variety of fun and exciting games and activities aimed at allowing children to explore movement and skills development. So far, the program has been embraced by teachers and students, including those in Jessie Janzen’s grade 4 class at David Cameron Elementary.
“They love the program because everything is a game – fun games with rules and structure. It’s very playful,” says Janzen. “And I find the PISE mentoring sessions to be very effective. They provide teachers with a common language and common perspective, both for those with years of experience and teachers at the beginning of their careers. You learn by doing and watching and these sessions have definitely enhanced my physical education skills.”
The program has also created a focus for collaboration across community partners and laid the foundation for sustained investment and further expansion.
“A critical component of the project is research to inform our decisions. In essence, this project provides a living laboratory for us to learn what works, what doesn’t, and the difference it makes for teachers and students,” says Cindy Andrew. “Once that information is available, each partner can go back to their leadership team and say ‘here’s what the data is showing us and here’s where we want to go with it’. Our hope is that this is phase one of an ongoing, sustained commitment from all of our partners.”
In the meantime, SD 62 elementary teachers will continue learning how to create quality physical education experiences that help their students to develop skills, have fun and burn energy before, during and after school.
“Teachers are influenced by the way they themselves were taught as children. I have students in my class who are already expressing an interest in teaching when they grow up,” says Jessie Janzen. “These sessions will create lasting effects on those students. If they are taught physical literacy in this way, then that is the way they will teach their own students someday.”
For more information about the SD 62 “Fostering Resiliency through Physical Activity” project, contact Cindy Andrew, SD 62 Healthy Schools Lead at firstname.lastname@example.org
Island Health’s Community Wellness Granting Program is available to local governments, not-for-profit community organizations and Indigenous communities doing work related to population health and health and wellness. To learn more about Island Health’s Community Wellness Grant Program please visit: http://communitygrants.islandhealth.ca
About Island Health:
Island Health provides health care and support services to more than 793,000 people on Vancouver Island, the islands in the Salish Sea and the Johnstone Strait, and mainland communities north of Powell River. With more than 21,000 staff and over 2,000 physician partners, 6,000 volunteers, and the dedicated support of foundations and auxiliaries, Island Health delivers a broad range of health services, including: Public health services, primary health care, home and community care, mental health and addictions services, acute care in hospitals, and much more across a huge, geographically diverse region.