Back to School – COVID style…

Not sure if you’ve noticed, but ‘back to school’ this year is a little different… We’ve had a long journey to this point, now it’s time to take a deep breath and dive in (don’t forget your mask!)! Our team here at the Healthy Schools Lab are also back at it – so we thought we’d share the same collection of resources with you that we are sharing with our students (and teacher-friends). Of course, be sure to always follow your local school authority policies and guidelines for the COVID era of Health and Physical Education (HPE) as these resources are from all over the place. As well, if you need to advocate for HPE with your administrators, check out our popular pandemic post.

A couple general points to begin. First off, go outside as much as possible!! Now is a great time to get those ‘play outside’ habits going, connect with the great outdoors and the community resources around your school. Second, keep advocating for quality HPE – kids need to extend their health and physical literacy journeys now more than ever (again, check out why…). Third, why not share resources virtually with your colleagues through a shared folder – you could even share this post! Finally, don’t re-invent the wheel. Use what’s out there and modify (REPS: rules, equipment, people, space). Ask your students for their ideas on how to be safe and follow guidelines – they are often the most creative!

Physical and Health Education Canada is your national go-to source for HPE resources! Check out these: Return to School Guidelines provides broad ideas and processes for teaching quality HPE in a pandemic. Physical Education Instruction and Health Education Instruction speak specifically to ideas for quality HPE instruction online and in school. The PHE Learning Centre offers a wealth of activities as well as links to the Cross Canada Check In conversations (the next one is September 30th!). Finally, check out At My Best – a free resource for K-6 that focuses on developing lifelong healthy habits!

Many other organizations have COVID-specific or adapted resources. Here’s a few!

What about stepping up your virtual game to get connected with people and resources?

For the Physical and Health Teacher Educators (PHETE) in the crowd, here’s a short article in the Brock Education Journal by some colleagues of ours that examined specific challenges and solutions for online PETE including future research directions.

Finally, two more connections. One of Lauren’s MEd students, Seanne Stillar, was in charge of developing a “COVID” PE year plan and HE year plan. She generously allowed us to share these here: PE YEAR PLAN & HE YEAR PLAN As well, our friend George Kourtis with TDSB (@HPE_TDSB) developed guidelines with his Board that he will be sharing here. Incidentally, this is a fab website with home workouts for staff – nice work George!

We wish you all the best for the return of health and physical education to the lives of your students. Get outside, wash your hands, wear a mask when necessary and stay healthy friends!


Surviving to Thriving: Practicum Tips from a Couple of Old Pros

In the complex and winding journey that is teaching, one of the key milestones prior to certification is ‘THE PRACTICUM’. Although governments and teacher education programs in each province/ state and country have varying requirements for the practicum (amount of time, responsibility, frequency, etc.) it remains one of the most important parts of the teacher education process. I (Doug) clearly remember the speech that the Dean of Education gave to the 130 or so Year 1 after-degree students in my class (a couple years back…). He stood up and said (my remembrance, not verbatim):

Welcome to Professional Semester 1! This is your first practicum term and for many of you, it will be a wonderful experience and confirm everything you’ve ever thought about being a teacher. Some of you will have a more difficult, adverse time and although you will question your desire to be a teacher, the experience will ultimately confirm your decision. For a few of you, this term will involve monumental struggle. You will doubt your abilities, career choice and professional efficacy. And that’s OK. Not everyone is cut out to be a teacher and it is OK to realize that in this term.

Although I appreciated the rather visceral nature of what he had to say and actually took it on as a bit of challenge it was certainly not a talk that was meant to reduce stress or ease us into the practicum experience!

At the University of Alberta, where the Healthy Schools Lab is located, some of our students have already started their 9 week practicum (Advanced Field Experience) and others will be heading out in November for their 5 week practicum (Introductory Field Experience). We thought it might be timely and helpful to invite two recent graduates from our program to share their tips for a successful practicum experience. Karly Janssen and Taylor Del Bianco, both new BEd graduates recently delivered a workshop session for us on that very topic so we thought, “Who better to write a blog post about thriving during student teaching?” As such, please welcome Karly and Taylor in their first guest post for the HSL blog!

Hi, Taylor and Karly here! 

We are recent graduates from the University of Alberta, Faculty of Education (After Degree Program) and we are here to share with any ‘soon to be student teachers’ about how we survived our school placement experiences. We both spiraled through a lot of emotions before and during our student teaching experiences, but we hope through this post we can ease your mind about the practicum process and help set you up for the beginning of a great career! 

You are finally on the last stages of your degree! It is now the time you are all eagerly awaiting – your practicum! You may feel a multitude of emotions as you prepare to enter your student teaching experiences such as confidence, excitement, or ultimate preparedness. However, you may also be experiencing anxiety, nerves, self-doubt, and maybe even dread as you think of saying goodbye to your social life for the next number of weeks… If any of these emotions resonate with you: take a deep breath and know these emotions are normal and you are not alone. We are here to hopefully provide support and ease your concerns before you enter these incredibly exciting and rewarding learning experiences. Following are our answers to a few common questions we wish we had the answers to before our placements: 

How much planning should I do before the first day? 

As soon as you know the school you will be teaching at, it’s a great idea to browse their website and learn more about the school and neighbourhood demographics. Once you find out what grade you will be teaching you should familiarize yourself with the Program of Study (POS) and the various units you might be teaching. This does not mean memorize and read the entire POS front to back, we just suggest you form a general understanding. Who knows, some fun and creative ideas might start popping up in your head! Doing these two things are the foundation which you will continue to build on throughout your placement. 

One big mistake the both of us made entering our practicums was thinking that we needed to have everything done for the entire practicum experience before the first day even started. We both spent the majority of our spring break gathering materials for units, lessons etc. and well, there was a lot of unnecessary stressing out. This is not what is expected from you! When we got to our practicum schools we soon realized that planning this far ahead in this amount of detail created more work than it should have. We frequently changed our lessons as we adapted to the needs of our students and received feedback from our mentor teachers. Make sure you talk to your mentor teacher on one of your observation days and get a clear answer of what is expected – we sure wish we did this!

Follow up question: What if I don’t know the grade I am teaching right away? 

No need to panic! Yes, it would be nice to know your grade as soon as you’re given the school but that may not be the case. Not knowing the grade you will be teaching right away will not put you at a disadvantage to those who do know. You can still browse through the POS to better understand general outcomes that are applicable to all grades. As we mentioned earlier, planning too far ahead can cause unnecessary stress and remember, as a teacher, you are constantly adapting to the unknown and lessons will always be changing!

Goodbye social life? 

Heading into your practicum you may hear whispers of “kiss your social life goodbye” or “you’ll see your friends and family when it’s over”. However, this is not the case! Yes, you will have a busy schedule but you will have time to see friends and family and continue regular activities. In fact, we highly suggest scheduling time to see your friends and family and do things that brings you joy. Creating time for yourself and separating work from home life is incredibly important for your mental health and overall wellness. It also begins to set positive work and life habits for when you enter your career. We promise, your students will appreciate you much more when you feel rested and connected to those you love.

When should I do my planning?

When you plan is (mostly) up to you. Some teachers like to stay later after school whereas others like to come early and plan. We suggest you talk about this with your mentor teacher as they may have a schedule for when they’d like to see your lessons. However, your mentor teacher is an asset, so planning around them may be the best for any questions you may have – we both took advantage of planning alongside our mentor teachers. 

Don’t be afraid to ask your mentor teacher questions

Communication with your mentor teacher is huge to experiencing a successful practicum! Here are a few important questions to ask your mentor teacher: 

  1. Do you have any resources I could refer to? 
  2. How did you establish your classroom culture?
  3. What is your signal for attention?
  4. How do you approach behavior management?
  5. What do I do when I am overwhelmed when teaching?
  6. What works well for your students?

What if my mentor and I don’t mesh? 

This is a very tricky situation to navigate and something we have experienced in our practicums. If this happens to you, we suggest trying to build up your relationship with your mentor teacher by having frequent check ins and asking for advice. If this doesn’t work, reach out to your practicum supervisor and they will support you in navigating your individual situation. At the end of the day, it is of the utmost importance to remain professional. In our province,  we are held to the Alberta Teachers Association Code of Conduct. Please refer to the relevant provincial/ state document in your location to ensure you are maintaining the expected level of professionalism, even in tricky situations.

When should I arrive/ leave school?  

There is no exact answer for this question. We suggest that you have this conversation right away with your mentor teacher to see what their expectations for you are. For your first day, be in touch with your mentor teacher to ask when they would like you to arrive. 

Should I ask the Principal to come observe me? 

This is completely up to you and your comfort level! However, we highly suggest asking for an observation because not only will you get valuable feedback, you will gain further experience with being observed while teaching. Both of us asked for our principals to watch us in our practicums and although incredibly nerve wracking, it was an excellent opportunity that we might not have received if we didn’t seek it out! That being said, principals are very busy people and sometimes just can’t find the time to observe you. It happens. It’s OK!   

Now that our practicums are behind us, we took the time to reflect upon things we wish we would have done differently and any advice we would give to future preservice teachers. 

Things we wish we did: 

  • Taken more risks 
    • Student teaching is the perfect opportunity to take risks and learn from your mistakes. You are supposed to make mistakes during your practicums. You are learning how to teach and the most valuable lessons often come from the “bombed” lessons. 
  • Included our personal passions into more lessons
    • We think this helps build a stronger relationship with your students as they get to know you through things you are passionate about. Your passions can often align with the POS curricular outcomes! 
  • Less overthinking 
    • Just jump right in! You do not need to be perfect and you are going to make mistakes. You’ve got this. 
  • Honored our physical and mental health
    • When you are sick, stay home. It is not worth it to get your students or mentor teacher sick as you try to fight through a sinus infection. Please don’t forget you are human and are allowed to do what is best for your overall wellness. 

Final Messages to our fellow future teachers: 

  1. This is a learning experience – don’t expect perfection! 
  2. Take things one step at a time
  3. Missteps are critical to development 
  4. Ask for feedback 
  5. Negative feedback is an opportunity for growth
  6. Have fun! 

We are incredibly excited for the journey you are about to embark on. Your practicum experiences are going to challenge you daily and keep you on your toes at all times but they are truly the most rewarding experiences of your degree (in our humble opinions). There are going to be moments of stress and fatigue but please remember that you are not alone and your physical and mental health matters immensely. Whenever you think you don’t have time to do something to benefit your own wellness, remind yourself of the impact taking the time to sleep, seeing a friend, or going for a walk will do for you – and your students. There is a common narrative that if you are not stressed and tired while teaching, you are not doing a good job. This is simply not true and does NOT need to be YOUR narrative. Take each day one day at a time and most importantly have fun! What is better than getting to spend your days with a group of awesome students?

Good luck, take care of yourself and have a happy practicum! 

Karly & Taylor  

Karly (on the right) graduated from the Kinesiology / Education Combined Degree program in 2019. After graduating she began her journey as a certified teacher subbing and is now experiencing her very own classroom as a Kindergarten teacher. 

Taylor (on the left) graduated from the Elementary After Degree program in 2019. Previously, she completed a degree in Speech Sciences from UBC before taking off to live in Europe for a few years. She loves the outdoors, cats and the movie Hot Rod. She is eagerly awaiting a classroom of her own! 

Bleep the Beep: A short rant about fitness tests in #physed and the aim of being healthy and active

Guest post by Chelsi Ryan.

I was in the 4th grade the first time I remember being acutely aware of the fact that I just didn’t measure up to my peers. I was 9 and had just “failed” the Beep Test (more formally, the 20m Multi-stage Fitness Test) for the first time. There I stood, on the sidelines of the gymnasium, wheezing for breath, while my more cardiovascularly fit counterparts continued to run from line to line.

“Beep…run 20m to the black line…beep, run 20m to the black line…beep”

And so on, and so forth, faster and faster, until you miss the line twice. Then you’re out.

We were told that you needed to be able to get at least half your age to be considered “fit”. I fell into the “poor” range. While I can look back in retrospect and assume, had I more cognitive understanding of what it meant to pace myself, I may have done better. However at the time it was just my 9 year old self painfully aware that I was both physically larger than many of my peers and also “out” of the test.

From the first time I ran the beep test, until the last time I ran it as a high school athlete, I lived in fear of the test, of the inadequacy it would surely bring, of the concept of failure in relation to my body – a body I already felt so uncomfortable about. But do you know what else I felt when I ran the beep test?

Relief.  Relief that I was never the first one out, that at least I wasn’t the “worst”.

This stops me in my tracks now. Armed with the perspective of pedagogy in education and my personal experiences, I am unable to ignore that although I had the relief of never being first out, someone shouldered that immense weight each and every time the beep test was brought into a physical education class.

Which leads me to these questions: Who did the “Beep Test” alienate from participation and inclusion in physical education experiences? What lessons does this offer us for developing physical education programming that respects and includes students in their many forms? Why was the beep test, or any public, vulnerable displays of levels of fitness, the weight that any student had to bear? 

In Alberta, the Education Act affirms each student’s right to a welcome, caring, respectful and safe learning environment, where “safe” is not only indicative of their physical safety, but also their sense of belonging and positive sense of self. Moreover, the best interest of the child is the paramount consideration in making decisions about their education.

The Alberta Physical Education Program of Study has absolutely zero requirement to play any specific sports, it makes no specific mention of the need to have students experience the beep test, even at the highest, and arguably most refined level in Physical Education 30. Our entire Physical Education system in Alberta is meant to be rooted in the philosophy that we are to be teaching students the knowledge, skills and attitudes to be healthy and active for life. That’s it. The entire program of study, 12 years of educational physical activity experiences that are meant to culminate into one thing:

Healthy. Active. For life.

If that’s the guiding principle of all the cumulative work physical education teachers do, then our programming needs to reflect that aim.

While the “Beep Test” may be an appropriate measure of VO2 max if employed appropriately and with considerations for the context that it is employed in, it hardly seems the vehicle in which we might encourage students to choose lifelong physical activity within the general population of students who are in your average physical education classrooms. In a PE class, it can push students, who may already feel alienated and discomforted by the notion of physical activity in front of peers, to become even more disconnected from their own physical education. There are better programming options for our physical education students, ones that don’t create vulnerability, negative self-image, and otherwise perpetuate an “othering” experience for students. There are better options that ensure that students’ sense of self is not impacted negatively by physical education experiences.

Physical education is about facilitating students to be healthy and active for life. It’s about opportunities for students to experience joy in movement through activities, games and sports that might become the foundations of their physical literacy journey into adulthood. We invest years of time and energy to ideally develop an attitude of appreciation and value in physical movement so that students might find methods of moving their bodies that continue to bring them the accompanying emotional, mental, physical and social benefits into adulthood. These attitudes, knowledge and skills don’t ‘just happen’.  Much like other learning opportunities (learning to read, or multiply) it needs to be crafted, fostered, and scaffolded. I would propose that the beep test is hardly the vehicle in which this happens.

Our physical education programming should be encouraging students to explore different ways to move their bodies so that they might find an activity that feeds their well-being, to actualize the reality of becoming healthy and active for life. It’s important to consider whether or not the choices you are employing are alienating participation and inclusion in the class, how specific practices might be creating experiences for students that cause them to question their own safety (socially, emotionally, physically), and to consider if the core tenet of this activity is to encourage them to move towards a lifestyle of joyful movement. If the practice elicits responses similar to the many that have been recounted to me about the beep test, it’s safe to say that it doesn’t have a place within PE practice.

In physical education we often deal with students’ most vulnerable sense of self – their body image. They are faced daily with messaging through media, technology, and peers about what their bodies should look like and do. So I believe that we have an extremely challenging responsibility in the physical education class to maintain students’ sense of safety and respect.

Moving forward, I wonder what practices could replace the beep test? If the beep test is employed as a means of having students measure and track fitness improvements (perhaps slightly justifiable), might it be more valuable to have them select their own fitness goals and determine personal plans for achievement and measurement? Moreover, if the beep test elicits this type of negative response in some students, what other practices in physical education are not serving our core mandate?

If our goals are to see improvements in the health and wellbeing of students and to see more actively engaged students who become actively engaged adults, then we need to examine which practices may be undermining those very goals.  We have a moral imperative to create physical education experiences where students are more likely to buy into the process because they feel safe, respected and comfortable, and in doing so, take supported risks that allow them to find purposeful movement to carry them into an active adulthood.

Let’s bleep the beep test.

Chelsi Ryan is a graduate of the UAlberta BEd Collaborative program at Keyano College in Fort McMurray and a current MEd student in the Werklund School of Education at UCalgary. She is both a recent recipient of a Zone 2/3 Edwin Parr nomination for excellence in first-year teaching and a YMM Magazine Top 50 Under 50 Award. Chelsi is currently the Program Manager of Volunteer, Education and IT Services for the Wood Buffalo 2022 Arctic Winter Games, a youth-focused bi-annual event focused on celebrating sport, culture and community in the circumpolar north.

Hope, Failure and Success

In my role as PHE Canada President-Elect, over the past 6 days I have had the distinct pleasure of co-hosting two Cross-Country Check In chats (Zoom meetings) to connect health and physical educators across Canada (and some global members). The first chat was on April 3rd and focused on physical and health education teacher educators. We peaked at about 190 participants and settled to a level of +/- 120 teacher educators and teachers – mostly Canadian with a scattering of US and International friends. It was a great chat and I’d like to thank PHE Canada for connecting us all and my co-host, Dr. Lauren Sulz (@Lauren_Sulz) for her role in planning and facilitating. You can find the summary and recording here. We had no issues other than figuring out how to have a good conversation with that many people.

As for the second chat… I’d like to share a Haiku (apologies to traditionalists) that I composed shortly after the event and immediately following a reflective walk in the river valley.

High hopes for a chat
Flatulence, pornography
Oh shit - now reset

If you were not fortunate enough to be on the hastily aborted first attempt… Here’s how it went down. My co-host, current PHE Canada President Lori Munro-Sigfridson (@loriamunro) and I had sent out an invite that asked, “Join us and fellow physical and health education champions as we look at the PHE landscape across Canada, challenges and opportunities, and approaches to supporting physical and health education under the current educational landscape.” As the Zoom chat began to populate, we were on a roll with participation moving steadily through 400 people and rising fast. Lori had a bit of trouble logging in at first so I un-muted, welcomed those already on the chat, let them know that we were going to start very shortly, asked them to please mute mics and said thanks for joining us. Just as I muted my mic, someone farted.

I honestly thought that someone just let one slip while they thought they were muted. I could see a few smiles and chuckles on the screen – a few people asked in the chat section: “Did someone just fart?” I actually wondered for a moment if anyone thought it was me… (Ummmm, it wasn’t! At least not this time).

Then a blurry video popped up briefly as a screen share, then disappeared. Lori joined the call and as we were about to start, someone farted again – and again. Then, the pornography started…

We were being Zoom bombed with great efficacy and scrambled to deal with it. Lori and I were also on a group text with 4 others including PHE Canada staff members who were hosting the Zoom. Rapidly trying to text, talk to participants, type in the chat section and make a decision made 60-90 seconds seem like an eternity. As fast as we could, the Zoom was shut down.

At that point, I thought we were done. Big public fail with 450+ wonderful HPE teachers who just wanted to connect and support each other during a time of crisis – not listen to fart noises and see porn videos (at least we maybe met a sex ed outcome or 2… too soon?). We had some frantic calls, texts and the decision was made by Melanie, PHE Canada’s CEO (@MDPHECanada), to send a new link to those who RSVP’d, shut down screen sharing, admit people one by one for screening purposes and try again.

I am not sure I would have made that decision, but I am glad Melanie did (#highfive!). To get right back up and try again, even with the extra measures, took guts and resiliency. Even though we were prepared to shut the second attempt down immediately (I pictured someone at PHE Canada sitting in front of a large, red button – “Shut it down, shut it down!”), there was a risk involved. Would anyone come back? What about our reputations? Even though the hacking was not our fault, it didn’t feel good to have that happen on our watch.

What happened next was amazing. We peaked at about 350 participants and settled in at around 320. An hour later we still had 300 engaged HPE teachers sharing their experiences, making new connections and sharing resources. Our set topics included 1) What are you doing to maintain your own health and well-being during this time? 2) What roles are physical and health education playing in provincial learning continuity plans? 3) How are you using your expertise during this time to support ongoing learning for ALL students? Although we certainly covered those three topics, the conversation and sharing covered a wide range of topics and issues as teachers from across the country chimed in.

No farting.

No porn.


I’ll sum up with a few key statements but also want to mention that since April 8th, many school boards have banned the use of Zoom (some prior to that), some federal agencies have also stated that employees are not allowed to use Zoom with their work email accounts. Obviously, this problem was much bigger than us. PHE Canada will continue to host Cross-Country Check Ins on a range of topics but will be exploring new modes of connection. That being said:

  • Sorry for the fart noises and porn – we have learned a lot from the Zoom bomb experience!
  • Thanks to all who took a chance, came back and engaged.
  • Sorry to those who tried to come back but didn’t get in for whatever reason.
  • Thanks to Melanie and the staff at PHE Canada for quick thinking and getting right back up to try again.
  • Sorry to those who left the first chat in frustration and never came back. I completely understand and also hope you can join us again at the next Check In.
  • Thanks to the amazing and adaptable Health and Physical Education community – I don’t know of any other group that has the resiliency and flexibility to do what you did on the chat(s), in your ‘normal’ teaching days and especially what you are doing now, in a pandemic.

Stay well.

Wash your hands.

Practice physical distancing and socializing from a distance.

Teach health and physical education.

Hope you can join us again for a Cross Country Check-In!

Health and Physical Education in the Midst of a Pandemic

Note: although this post is from an Alberta-based perspective, we are confident it can be applied to other jurisdictions…

On Sunday, March 15th, the Minister of Alberta Education closed schools indefinitely. March 20th, the government released: Student learning during COVID-19: Guidelines for continuing K to 12 student learning while in-school classes are cancelled due to COVID-19. Essentially, the guidelines state:

  1. All Alberta K-12 schools will focus on ‘at-home’ student learning opportunities for the indeterminable future. 
  2. Education content will focus on:
    1. language/literacy & mathematics/numeracy (Grades K-3).
    2. language/literacy, mathematics/numeracy with an opportunity to incorporate science and social studies cross-curricularly (Grades 4-6).
    3. mathematics, language/literacy, science and social studies curriculum outcomes (Grades 7-9).
    4. language (English, French and French language arts), social studies, mathematics, biology, chemistry and physics (Grades 10-12).

As you are an insightful reader, you have no doubt noticed the glaring omission of health and physical education in these guidelines… (and also art, music, etc.) We are also hearing from teachers across the province that they are NOT being allowed to provide at home learning experiences in health and physical education and are limited to supporting other teachers to deliver other subject areas or being assigned classes in literacy and numeracy.

At the same time, public officials and others (who are doing a great job under tough conditions!) are making statements like this (which we like!):

  • “During the COVID -19 outbreak in Alberta, it’s important to take time off to care for your mental health”Dr. Deena Hinshaw 
  • Dr. Peter Silverstone, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Alberta, recommended personal exercise as a strategy to support children’s mental health during the coronavirus pandemic – “People underestimate how important (exercise) can be to manage anxiety.”
  • The CDC  has made the following recommendation (among others): “Take care of your body. Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate. Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep, and avoid alcohol and drugs. Make time to unwind. Try to do some other activities you enjoy.” 

Obviously, there is a large disconnection between what we believe about education in a pandemic and what we are actually doing about it. Given the value of health and physical education at ANY time (and particularly THIS time), we wanted to share some things we know.

WE KNOW that Alberta health and physical education teachers WANT to provide ‘at-home’ student learning opportunities.

  • They have the knowledge, skills and attitudes to contribute and make a difference in the health and wellbeing of students (parents, families, etc.) during this time of crisis. 
  • Allowing them to do so indicates value and respect for their commitment, expertise and subject area.
  • As well, allowing these teachers to deliver health and physical education is an important step to meet the guidelines for staying healthy, as shared by the leaders quoted above and others.
  • We encourage school leadership to find a way for our excellent health and physical education teachers to continue to support the development of healthy, active lifestyles with their students in health and physical education delivered at home.

WE KNOW that school is an important place to learn about WHY and HOW to be healthy and active.

  • Many school authorities, in their mission and/ or goal statements, include a focus on student health.
    • For example, Edmonton Public Schools states:
      • A Focus on Well-being and Student Citizenship: Our learning and working environments are welcoming, inclusive, safe and healthy.
      • Supports for the Whole Child: Community partnerships are established to provide supports and services to foster growth, well-being and success of students and families.
  • Therefore, a time of crisis is EXACTLY when we need to prioritize these types of goals (whole child, wellbeing, citizenship, etc.).
  • We encourage school administrators to demonstrate leadership and model whole child education (i.e. supporting more than academics) during the pandemic.

WE KNOW that school is about more than ‘reading, writing and arithmetic’ – now more than ever. 

  • “Health Literacy refers, broadly, to the ability of individuals to gain access to, understand and use information in ways which promote and maintain good health for themselves, their families, and their communities.” (World Health Organization, 2016
    • Providing students with health literacy related skills, such as the ability to read and understand health information, access valid sources and implement information in health enhancing ways allows COVID-19 to become a valuable learning experience. 
  • “Physical literacy can be described as the motivation, confidence, physical competence, knowledge and understanding to value and take responsibility for engagement in physical activities for life.” (IPLA, 2017)
    • Life, unfortunately, includes things like COVID-19. Kids who are supported on a journey of physical literacy learn to value, take responsibility for and take care of their need to move. 
  • We encourage schools and districts to recognize and support physical and health literacy for Alberta students.

WE KNOW  that the content in our health and physical education programs is CRITICAL to helping students (parents, Albertans, etc.) deal with the stress of COVID-19.

  • In Canada, an estimated 14%-25% of children and youth suffer from significant mental health issues (School-Based Mental Health in Canada: A Final Report). 
    • Health education is the only subject that includes outcomes targeted at positive mental health; teaching students about stigma, strategies to support positive mental health and resources and supports to cope with mental health issues. 
    • Physical education is the only subject that provides students with opportunities to be physically active which is a critical component of holistic health – physical activity is a valuable approach to supporting the mental health of young people (Halliday, Kern & Turnbull, 2019). 
  • Health and Physical Education differ from other subjects as the curriculum encourages opportunities to develop social and emotional skills such as communication, leadership, cooperation, self-awareness, and self-management – “Arguably, physical education class is one of the best contexts to develop social and emotional competencies” (Ciotto & Magnon, 2018).                                
  • Education can not be considered “whole-child” unless it includes education of the physical. “…physical education is important because movement is joyful, pleasurable, provides intrinsic satisfaction, and can be personally meaningful and central to the human experience” (Blankenship & Ayers, 2010)
  • We encourage school administrators to recognize and access the valuable support that health and physical education curricular content can provide to a province struggling to cope with a pandemic.
Thanks for reading.
Wash your hands
Practice physical distancing and social connecting from a distance.
Teach Health and Physical Education.
Stay well.


Doug Gleddie and Lauren Sulz
The Healthy Schools Lab
Faculty of Education, University of Alberta

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R2P: Engaging Girls in #physed

NEW Feature! Research to Practice (R2P).

As you may or may not know, there is currently all sorts of research going on in the #physed world. All. The. Time. However, much of it seems to be published in academic journals that are hard to access –  although that IS beginning to change with ‘open access’ and the power of the interweb! Many of my colleagues in the University world, although still publishing in academic journals, also share their work through professional conferences/ publications (e.g. PHE Canada, SHAPE America), excellent blogs (e.g. Ash Casey’s PEPRN) or podcasts (e.g. Risto Marttinen’s Playing with Research in Health and Physical Education) that seek to make research more accessible. As I also feel very strongly that research should be available for practitioners, I regularly feature research in this blog and am always looking for ways to do it better. As a result (and an experiment…), the R2P Research Brief was born!

Although the concept is still a work in progress, this first topic came about via a Twitter question from and follow-up conversations with @rfsprojects. In response, Jodi Harding-Kuriger (current PhD student and longtime #physed teacher) and Lauren Sulz (previous guest blogger and Assistant Prof here at the UofA) worked on what we hope will develop into a series. Let us know your feedback as well as other topics you’d like to see in future R2P Research Briefs!

To introduce our first R2P Topic, here is Jodi (@JodiKuriger):

Mini-Jodi #1

Engaging girls in Physical Activity (PA) through quality and meaningful Physical Education (PE). This was never as issue for me as a student. I loved going to PE and loved being physically active outside of school.  Throughout elementary and junior high I ran cross country, track & field, played volleyball, basketball, and soccer (Not always well but that didn’t matter much. I was a medium fish in a small pond so I got to stay in the game). My teachers and coaches encouraged me to continue to participate. They set realistic goals during our practices – they made improving our skills a fun challenge. I loved getting sweaty and working hard – all the while knowing that I was growing as a person and athlete.

Entering high school I was a tiny fish in a HUGE pond. I no longer played volleyball, nor basketball. I ran long distance for fun with the run club but I was not particularly competitive in my 5’1” frame. I did play soccer for the high school team. It was one of the only teams that I made all three years. Regardless of my sport experience at the school, I still took PE all through grades 10, 11, and 12. There were many, many educative experiences and several miseducative experiences, but that did not deter me because I simply enjoyed moving.

It was not until I was a PE student teacher that I had to really THINK about and reflect upon engaging girls in PE. I did not understand WHY they wouldn’t want to be in PE, why they wouldn’t want to play, why they wouldn’t want to move.  I can look back now and see that many of my lessons were promoting a culture of hierarchies: skilled vs. unskilled; fit vs. unfit; privileged vs. othered – all promoted through competition and individualism.

It is thanks to my mentor teacher that I took a step back and put myself into the flip flops, boots, and sometimes running shoes of my students. Just because I loved to move and play, did not mean that all my students did.

At the time I was student teaching in a junior high and teaching PE in segregated classes. I had all girls and almost missed the opportunity to create meaningful and engaging lessons WITH and FOR them. Diane (pseudonym – maybe) asked me and the girls in my class to reflect on my first week of teaching. The feedback from Diane and the girls was the impetus for change. If I wanted these girls to love moving as much as I did, I had to make some changes, I needed to co-compose our educative PE experiences.

We ended up co-planning several units that the girls wanted to try. For their fitness unit they asked to try yoga, belly dancing, Pilates, and aerobics (don’t judge or date us!). For their net/wall games we lowered the nets, modified the rules and used volleyballs, balloons, and soccer balls. We worked through strategies and skills that challenged each student in small sided games. As part of our gymnastics unit, we co-created the rubric for their presentation. They wanted to show off their skills and explained what they thought success would look like and how it would be fair for everyone.

Those girls changed my view of PE. They changed my identity from a coach-teacher to a

Mini-Jodi #2

teacher-ally and role model. They challenged me to consider all students and walk in their (comfortable and uncomfortable) shoes. I am so blessed to have had that educative experience with those girls early in my career. They set me on a path of empathy and reflecting teaching and I am forever grateful to them. It is now, as a graduate student, that I have the terminology, research, and the framework to share and continue to engage in meaningful PE programs.

Jodi Harding Kuriger

Check out the FIRST R2P and let us know what you think!

Teaching Joy

I was recently provided with an opportunity (thanks Centre for Teaching and Learning!) to share my teaching philosophy and some specific teaching strategies through a short video as part of a initiative called Inspiring Teaching.

The best part was being able to feature the amazing students from the Collaborative Elementary Education Program at Keyano College in Fort McMurray, AB – class of 2019! They were an amazing group of students to work with and I am looking forward to attending their convocation in the Spring!

So, if you want a short glimpse (3:06 minutes) into my teaching practice and philosophy – you can check out the video here.

Happy end of November!




IMG_5907 2Being blessed is a good thing. It can mean to be endowed with a particular attribute (“Edmonton is blessed with a fantastic river valley.”) OR to express/ give gratitude (“I bless the day Amy joined my class.”). In this post, I use both versions of ‘blessed’ – intentionally and purposefully – to refer to the way I feel after spending the better part of two weeks with this crew in the picture to the right: the inaugural 2018 #hpeMEd cohort in the Faculty of Education at the University of Alberta. Let me explain further.

A graduate level cohort for Health & Physical Education (HPE) has been a dream of mine for 8+ years. Over that time, I have talked with numerous educators across the world about their wants and needs for such a cohort, reviewed countless other programs and degrees, made several failed attempts and finally, with some key support, made it happen.  I feel blessed to work at an institution that provides room for dreams to take flight.

As mentioned, I have had critical conversations with many people over the years that helped to create the structure, content and philosophy of the cohort. However, there are two key people that I need to call out specifically. Dr. Maryanne Doherty – Maryanne has been a mentor to me for over 10 years. She supported my PhD as chair of the defence committee, was the best Interim Department Chair I have ever had (the only one really, but still the best!), convinced me to dip my toe into academic leadership (still not sure if that was a good thing…) and, has been a stalwart supporter of the HPE cohort concept. Dr. Lauren Sulz – Lauren has become a stellar colleague over the past 3.5 years and an even better friend. She has been a much needed sounding board for lots of crazy ideas, can always be depended on to question those ideas critically – then add her own and, has been a hugely valuable addition to her Department, the Faculty and the University. I am blessed to work with friends and colleagues who can critique a dream, make it better and then are willing to come along for the ride!

Once the cohort application was approved (June 2016) we had to do the most important IMG_5898 2thing – recruit students! This process involved a mailing list of over 120 people, several webinars, numerous phone conversations and countless emails – all leading to an application deadline of December 1, 2017 that resulted in 24 brand new MEd students and the launch of our first ever HPE MEd Cohort in the Summer term of 2018. We are blessed to have a supportive department and the structure to deliver a blended MEd program.

We (officially) began this journey together on July 3, 2018 with two intensive, on campus  classes over the course of eleven days. Our student group comes from across Canada (and 1 beyond!) and includes teachers of all sorts (specialists, generalists, public schools, private schools, etc.), an administrator, department heads and several consultants.  For an overview of the cohort and profiles of students and instructors, check out our website. We are hopeful that the next cohort can begin in the Summer of 2020 – details will be on the website. Lauren taught the first class, Physical  and Health Literacy and I taught the second on Knowing and Being: Foundations of HPE. After the first week, which included debate, discussion, tears, reflection, peer coaching, lots of laughter and even more learning (I know I wasn’t teaching but I had a hard time staying away…), Lauren asked all the students to describe their experience with one word. Although I can’t recall exactly what everyone said, there were certainly words like challenge, relationships, questioning, learning, etc. That moment was actually the inspiration for this post because the word that leapt to my tongue was, you guessed it, BLESSED. In addition to the blessings already mentioned we are also:

  • blessed to spend 2 weeks alongside 24 professionals who took a risk and joined us on this journey
  • blessed to work with instructors who share a vision of excellence, challenge, critique and growth
  • blessed to learn FROM 24 stellar people in all sorts of ways
  • blessed to watch professional relationships grow and prosper in peer-coaching pairs, small groups and as a whole cohort
  • blessed to laugh, move and cry together
  • blessed to disagree, debate and discuss
  • blessed to reflect and then reflect on those reflections – alone and with others
  • blessed to have these very special 24 people involved in the education of children and youth in a myriad of ways

Looking forward to next eight tenths of the MEd (that was for you Lindsay!) that we have left together, the blessings to come and the relationships that will continue to grow long after!


Natural Consequences – Part 2

Thanks again to Jo Bailey for her fabulous ‘Part 1’ guest post. ‘Part 2’ of Natural badchildConsequences (a response to Unnatural Consequences) comes to you from Andy Vasily (who has guest posted for me before!).

Andy is a long time #physed Twittererer (@andyvasily), a blogger and the co-founder of Nexus Education.

In reading Doug’s blog post, it brings several thoughts to my mind related to the archaic, punitive, lead as I have been led, type thinking that many leaders and teachers still unfortunately hold on to at the very core of who they are and the work that they do in education. You can understand that leaders and teachers do need to think carefully about the interventions that they use (and endorse) in order to more effectively manage students who misbehave and/or have difficulty following classroom and school rules. 

However, there is definitely an element of ‘we better protect our asses in case something goes wrong’ that is happening here in regards to the reasons why leaders like Brenda Koch have reservations about supporting policy proposals such as this. Leaders, like Brenda, still operate from a ‘protect me and us’ mentality on a daily basis, instead of positively moving toward more pro-active and empowering solutions when dealing with potentially troublesome students. 

So, in knowing what we now know about the power of movement, disciplining with dignity, and ensuring that building relationships with students is at the heart and core of what we do in education, those who still think that punishing students by taking away recess, physical education time, and other critically important social-emotional type activities (field trips, excursions etc.), are operating from such a traditionalistic, out of date and broken model of thinking that just doesn’t work anymore.

As my role in education has shifted to more of a coaching/consulting role when working with teachers, we often talk our way through creating more efficient structures and routines that support student learning rather than fall into the trap of blaming students for not being able to sit still, follow instructions, interact with others positively, or stay engaged with their learning. 

So, when teachers need to see more examples of options available to them in regards to how to better manage students who misbehave, perhaps the more pressing question that should come to mind is:

“How do I manage the routines and structures that I have in place to ensure my students are less likely to get off track?”. In particular, how do I need to structure the transition times in my classes? 

Evidence shows that kids are more likely to misbehave and cause problems during lengthy and unorganized transitions between tasks/activities and lessons. Rather than continually reacting to bad behavior and stressing out about how to deal with it, teachers can instead look at refining their structures and routines to ensure more of a smooth flow to their teaching. 

And lastly, the importance of INVESTING in building strong relationships with students should never be underestimated. Invest your time and your energy even more than you feel is necessary because human connection can go a hell of a long way when working to bring out the very best in young people.

My friend, Andy Dutton (@PEAndyD), told a story during his opening keynote address at a recent workshop we were running together in Poland. He talked about working with a student much earlier in his career who was belligerent, disrespectful and arrogant. He admits to giving up on the relationship early on in the school year and coming down on him with an iron fist, often sending him out of the gym. One day, as Andy describes, the student started misbehaving again and being very disrespectful. Andy admits to losing it on him…. then the unthinkable happens. The boy pulls out what appears to be a hand gun. Andy and all the students hit the floor in a panic. The kid laughs as the gun actually turns out to be a toy bb gun. Andy then sets in immediate motion the boy being expelled from school. The next day the boy was expelled and Andy never saw him again. 

Why Andy told this story was that, even though this happened nearly 15 years ago, he has never once stopped thinking about the fact that he never attempted to get to know the boy or invest in building a relationship with him. He still thinks about how much of a difference he might have made in this student’s life had he actually attempted to build that relationship and get to know him and what he was going through. To give a bit more back story, the boy was held in a refugee camp for several years in Africa before immigrating to Australia. He was then given a new life and sent to Andy’s school. Imagine what that student had gone through? Imagine the horrors he had witnessed? 

Although this story might seem way off topic as it relates to Doug’s post, it’s not! When our default setting is to react with anger at our students and discipline them in traditionally punitive ways by taking away things that they so badly need (recess, physical activity etc.), we also take away the lenses of compassion, empathy, and support that these young people so badly need to experience life and school through.

It is our responsibility, as educators, to model to students how to work through issues in a proactive way in order to ultimately empower them to be more responsible for their own actions.

Instead of asking “How do I deal with troublesome kids?” or “What options are available to me when dealing with these kids?”, we might need to reflect on how deeply we try to connect with these kids and reach them in a way that lets them know they are cared for and supported. We might need to think about the structure of our teaching and what we might need to change, rather than the punishment we’ll deliver when kids misbehave. When we work to refine these fundamentally important areas in our teaching practice, it can have a positive impact on the behavior of our students. As well, it can make a huge difference to their social and emotional well-being as we are genuinely supporting them in ways that will benefit them now and in the long run. 

Thanks Andy!

Please feel free to add your thoughts on ‘natural consequences’ in the comments below, or contact me to contribute a post to this series!


Natural Consequences – Part 1

Back in March, I wrote a piece entitled Unnatural Consequences dealing with the wayPlaygorund schools and teachers take away things like recess and physical education as punishments or consequences for some form of misbehaviour. I did provide a few options in the post about what I deemed to be more appropriate and meaningful consequences, however, a number of kind readers asked for more – talking to you Alison from Hamilton!

So, what I did was ask a number of #physed folks to write about the consequences that they use – as well as their approach to ‘discipline’ or ‘management’ in their classes (lots of different words we could use here). My plan is to post one of these a week for a bit (I think I have 4-6 in total lined up). This first post in the Natural Consequences series is from Jo Bailey (@LovePhyEd). Please check out Jo’s blog as well!

The case of the student who punched 3 boys in the face and took another boy’s boot in order to get a pylon (not sure what that is!).

Editors note: Jo, a pylon is the little (usually) orange cone-like thingys we use to mark goals, boundaries etc. – what do you call them?)

We know he was in the wrong. He admitted, as the report said, he was in the wrong but nothing in the consequences given to this student tackled the WHY behind what happened. In this situation, a simple A,B,C protocol would probably have been much more effective.

A,B,C in this context refers to Antecedent, Behaviour, and Consequence. We know what the behaviour was, we know what the consequence was but we don’t know what happened before the behaviour: What led to this? Why did the student lash out? Had something happened in the preceding classroom time or at a previous recess? Was this student simply needing to let off a lot of steam and did so in a completely inappropriate way? Doe this student need to be taught coping strategies for dealing with frustration or communication skills to use with his peers?

Step 1 for me would be to identify the antecedent. This is not necessarily easy and the student, particularly being quite young, might not be able to articulate exactly why he felt the need to punch other students or steal their belongings.

Step 2 we already know about.

Step 3 – the consequence – is the part that needs to change. The punishment given does nothing towards teaching the student why his behaviour was not acceptable. The student has not, as far as we are aware, considered what he needs to do in order to fix this situation nor has he been given the opportunity to do so. Student ownership of how their actions affected others needs to be addressed. The consequence given does not address the victims in this scenario either: How the incident impacted them, what has been hard for them about dealing with the incident, and what they think needs to happen to make things right.

The approach described above is Restorative Practices – the student who did wrong needs to make it right again and learn how to make better decisions in the future. Restricting physical activity and denying him an academic class by removing him from Physical Education may well increase the odds of the student lashing out again.

To give an example, last year my students were learning about geocaching and we visited aIMG_5727 park across the road from school where I had hidden geocaches. On this day a new bench was being put into the park, with fresh concrete to hold it in place. This fresh concrete was just too tempting for a few of my students who made the poor decision to write their names and add some inappropriate artwork to the concrete. I addressed it immediately and asked the students 1) who had been affected by their actions and 2)what they thought they should do to make it right. They agreed they should try to repair the damage done. Luckily, the parks department employees were still in the park and the students worked with them to repair the damage they had caused. Having to apologize to the park department staff and then realize, by doing it themselves, the hard work that the parks department staff had done was very eye opening for them. They also learnt about the whole procedure required to lay concrete for such a project. It was so much more effective than any detention or removal from class would have been and provided a complete new perspective for them.

Identify and fix the problem – don’t put a band-aid on it. It won’t stick.

Thanks Jo!

Please feel free to add your thought on ‘natural consequences’ in the comments below, or contact me to contribute a post!

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