December 1997


Activ8 Hits
the Mark

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Activ8 Hits the Mark

"I feel like Michael Jordan, and I’m a girl."
"Finally, I’m not competing against everybody else and ending up last."

Students in Activ8 are getting more physically active – and loving it.

By Kate Sharpe

Today’s children are at risk. According to the Canadian Medical Association, in the past 15 years obesity has grown by more than 50 per cent in children aged six to 11 and by 40 per cent in those aged 12 to 17. Research also indicates that 40 per cent of children aged five to eight are obese.

Sedentary living is a major cause of this problem.

Reversing the Trend

Learning time in the classroom is a valuable commodity. However, the students’ health carries an even greater value and is a critical link to the learning curve.

An effective program for physical activity must have four critical qualities. It must be easy to do, be cross-referenced with provincial standards in physical and health education, have the ability to challenge all students - from the least to most active, and it cannot be expensive.

Last year I tested Activ8, a program developed by The Foundation for Active Healthy Kids in association with the Ontario Physical and Health Education Association (OPHEA).

Activ8 fits on all counts. I had found what I was looking for, and the students loved it.

The Activ8 program rewards students for completing eight physical activity challenges specifically designed for their grade and activity level. The challenges are fun as well as developmentally appropriate. It’s available for JK to Grade 12.

The emphasis is on everybody winning and on personal development – not on performance testing. The challenges are designed so that all students have an equal opportunity to experience success. For example, students will be able to achieve the highest recognition level in jumping by performing an age-specific jumping action with the proper technique. They will not be judged on how high or how far they can jump.

As one student says, "I’m not competing against everybody else."

When the students complete the challenges for their grade, they receive a special recognition badge.

Challenging, Flexible Program

Each challenge activates a particular component of physical development.

In the earlier grades, emphasis is on developing basic motor skills such as jumping, throwing and catching. As students get older, greater emphasis is placed on fitness attributes such as cardiovascular endurance, strength and agility.

Adaptations to each challenge are provided to meet the abilities of less active through to more active students. Students are encouraged to adapt the challenges to meet their developmental needs.

Steven Danish, a psychologist at Virginia Commonwealth University, defines fun as a quest for the balance between skill and challenge. If the Activ8 challenges in the earlier grades focus largely on skill development and enhancing perceived competency, children will be more likely to become physically active and continue participating in physical activities in the higher grades.

Activ8 is very user friendly. It is flexible enough to match individual teaching needs and can accommodate restrictions in space and time.

Every participating school receives a teacher-friendly resource curriculum for each grade level. This easy-to-use resource provides activities to help students prepare for their eight challenges. For instance, diagrams of the proper form required for certain skills show clearly how each challenge should be performed. This enables any teacher to teach the program with confidence and provides them with standards to refer to when assessing the students.

Activ8 incorporates a solid educational dimension. The eight physical activity challenges at each grade level are closely cross-referenced to Healthy Active Living Standards for Physical and Health Education in Ontario, Grades 1–9. This document, developed by OPHEA, was distributed to every school in the province in February 1997.

The Activ8 challenges will make it much easier for teachers to realize these standards with their students.

It’s a solid program that has helped motivate my students, and it reverses a dangerous trend towards physical inactivity.

Involving the Community

Activ8 culminates at participating schools in a fun-filled event that celebrates everbody’s achievement. The event provides teachers with imaginative opportunities to involve parents, guardians, business leaders and other community members. The event is a great place to give students their recognition badges for completing their challenges.

Schools can capitalize on Activ8 by turning it into a fundraising opportunity. Students can secure modest pledges for each of the challenges they complete.

A local sponsorship drive could be an excellent way to heighten awareness of Activ8 and its purposes among students, parents, guardians and the wider community. In fact, such a drive could even generate imaginative ways for parents and other adults to join the kids in physical activity.

Unlike most other school-based fundraisers, half of the funds raised will remain with the local school. In addition, students receive cool incentives for raising money, at no cost to the school.

It's Free

The most surprising feature of Activ8 is that everything is free. There is no cost for the curriculum-based modules, recognition badges, or even the fundraising incentives for students.

The Royal Bank Financial Group is the title sponsor for Activ8. They understand the importance of developing positive lifestyles for long-term benefits and are committed to promoting the importance of physical as well as fiscal health.

Other sponsors include YTV, Raptors Foundation, Nike PLAY Canada, Trillium Foundation, Gatorade and the Government of Ontario.

Activ8 is now a critical component in my physical education curriculum.

From a pedagogical perspective, I’m reassured that the organization that created Activ8 also developed provincial standards for physical and health education in Ontario.

From a personal perspective, I want us to remember the physical condition of our students amidst our efforts to improve the educational process. Activ8 does just that.

Call the Foundation for Active Healthy Kids/OPHEA at (416) 426-7120 to register for the Activ8 program, or visit the Royal Bank Activ8 web site at

The Ontario Physical and Health Education Association (OPHEA) is a not-for-profit organization that exists to positively influence the lifestyles of Ontario’s children and youth through the provision of quality leadership, advocacy and resources in the area of physical and health education.

More than 90 per cent of OPHEA members are elementary and secondary teachers. For an annual fee of $45, members get the OPHEA Journal and newsletter, access to resources and member rates for OPHEA conferences.

Kate Sharpe has been a teacher with the East York Board of Education for seven years. She has taught a variety of grades in the elementary panel. She is currently teaching physical education in French and English to students in senior kindergarten through to Grade 5 at R.H. McGregor Elementary School.