by Laura Bickle
At the beginning of every morning students and staff at Highgate Public School in Markham, Ont., gather at various indoor and outdoor locations for 20 minutes of physical activity including dancing, co-operative games, walking and running around the school community. The mandated Healthy Schools: Daily Physical Activity policy was initiated 15 years ago by health and physical education teacher Andrea Haefele. And even though she's been seconded to the Ontario Physical and Health Education Association (Ophea), the school community continues to make physical activity a priority.
Helping schools incorporate healthy active living into their culture is a passion that Haefele pursues at Ophea as a health and physical education curriculum consultant. She shares the positive impact of physical activity on learners and how teachers and schools can incorporate it into their programs.
Schools are great places to encourage healthy, active living while inspiring students, families and staff to prioritize being physically active every day. Providing physical education programming and promoting extracurricular activities such as intramurals for all grades during recess creates diverse opportunities for students of all ages and abilities.
So many of our students haven't been provided meaningful opportunities to be physically active for almost two years. As educators, it's our responsibility to help students make connections between activity and other parts of their lives. This will help them value physical activity and see the importance of it in their overall well-being.
Take the time to know your learners and create an emotionally safe environment so that they are excited to explore, learn, succeed and try new activities.
Ophea has created the DPA Every Day! poster that explores the idea of physical activity "any which way." Physical activity looks different for every learner in our diverse classrooms. Movement any which way results in happy, active and healthy students who are ready to learn.
Schools should look at well-being as a priority and physical activity as one component of it. It's the role of administrators, families, physical activity providers, students themselves and educators across the whole building, including support staff.
Give multiple opportunities for students to be active across the school day. You can start small. It might be something simple like going outside for a nature walk for 20 minutes every morning. There are a multitude of resources for promoting activity for in-person and online classes at ophea.net.