Health and wellness teaching is rapidly becoming a vital part of the school day. More and more children and youth are coming to school with conditions that are negatively impacting their lives. No longer can health and wellness be considered an “if we have time we’ll get to it” part of a school day. As evidenced by the data, children and youth are increasingly entering our classrooms anxious, lacking self-confidence, and suffering from a litany of social, emotional and physical health concerns. Therefore, it’s more important than ever for schools to continue to find ways to effectively provide students with opportunities to develop essential health and wellness skills.
One Way…Sharing the Responsibility
One of the most effective ways to impact health and wellness behaviors in students is through comprehensive programming (Joint Consortium for School Health, 2010). For example, Canadian authorities have attempted to approach this challenge through Comprehensive School Health (CSH) programming. It is widely accepted that CSH supports student learning, while simultaneously addressing school health and wellness in a planned, integrated and holistic manner (Berg et al., 2017).
To support a student’s physical literacy journey, health and physical education teachers need to consider and use all the skills and resources at their disposal. By effectively doing this, teachers can create learning environments that enhance their students’ development of physically active and healthy lifestyles. Additionally however, we believe that to provide students with the wide range of experiences vital to creating the necessary levels of confidence, self-efficacy and motivation for students to choose physically active and healthy lifestyles, teachers also need the critical support of many others.
A wide range of teaching issues including planning, lesson delivery, and assessment impact the success of health and physical education teaching. Less often considered is the importance of role modeling. According to Cardinal and Cardinal (2001) role modeling is a powerful teaching tool. However, getting students to choose to be physically active and healthy depends on more than just good role modeling by health and physical educators. This critical lifestyle choice needs to be supported schoolwide, in students’ homes, and across the community. Within these different environments students face choices that will impact their physical activity and health habits. Consequently, in order to develop physical literacy through physically active and healthy lifestyles, it’s critical students are exposed to positive role models throughout their entire “community”.
When trying to understand the composition of a student’s “community”, it’s important to consider who students are in regular contact with daily. In addition to health and physical educators, students spend a considerable amount of time each day with other teachers and school employees, family, and their extended community of peers and adults. Below, we examine the possible role and impact of each of these “players” within a student’s “community.”
Most likely, few people would argue against the goal and necessity of 50 Million Strong by 2029. Indeed, many would view its importance as being critical to our future. However, as suggested by Steve Jefferies in his recent editorial, as a profession we have yet to make the extensive impact we’d like on the physical activity and health lifestyle choices of our students.
The Importance of Physical Literacy
We believe that the notion of developing physical literacy in students is vital to developing active, healthy lifestyles and, ultimately, the attainment of the 50 Million Strong by 2029 goal. Although definitions of physical literacy vary, it is commonly accepted that physical literacy is a holistic view of a person’s knowledge of how to move and the ability to do so with competence, their understanding of why activity is important, and the willingness and desire to be involved in physical activity on a consistent basis. If we want to be 50 Million Strong by 2029, surely this holistic view is a necessity. The 50 Million Strong by 2029 goal requires physical literacy and, similarly, physical literacy can achieve 50 Million Strong by 2029!
As we all enjoy the warmth and sun of summer days, we also know that before too long our thoughts will need to turn to September and our plans for the new school year. So, now is probably a good time to begin thinking about the upcoming months and what we might do a little differently this year!
Unfortunately, we are living in a time when research indicates that children and youth are not as physically active as they should be. As physical education teachers, it’s vital that we continue to seek out and try new strategies that not only encourage our students to live physically active lifestyles but actually achieve this aim. This is a big responsibility and, to succeed, we need to enlist the support of the whole school staff.
Recently, one of the authors had a discussion with a Grade 4 family member about the past school year. The child was asked, “What were your favorite subjects in Grade 4 this past year?” The response was one that resulted in a bit of a surprise as the young child stated, “Umm, my favorite subjects were Math and PE. No wait. PE is not a subject, so Math. Uhhh, I don’t know why I said PE, it’s not a subject!”
As we sat down to write about this month’s topic of drugs and alcohol awareness, we decided to examine it through a different lens than the typical approach. Rather than examine drug and alcohol issues and their potential harmful effects, we decided to look at a potential harmful substance that is readily available in our society. The substance we chose to focus on was caffeine, and more specifically to examine the effects of caffeine that is found in energy drinks that are readily available to our students.
In this day and age, we are probably all familiar with the vast array of brand name energy drinks in stores and vending machines. They are advertised widely through television, the Internet and a variety of other advertising outlets. Energy drinks with names that evoke thoughts of high risk adventures and dangerous excitement, are often marketed as products that will increase one’s overall awareness, sharpen focus, and of course, provide much needed energy to succeed at what one is doing. These energy drinks are sometimes also referred to as sports drinks; obviously intended to lure athletes to purchase them.
The promise of added energy and alertness to a fatigued athlete or a tired student aspiring to get the edge is appealing. However, a closer examination of the ingredients in these products, specifically the caffeine, reveals that energy drinks also have potential negative effects on one’s body. Therefore, in this article we aim to: