Liz Sandals, Minister of Education, had this to say about the updated Health and Physical Education curriculum: “We are updating the curriculum to ensure the safety and health of our students. Schools and parents both play an essential and complementary role in supporting student learning — including learning about human development and sexual health. We are listening to parents. That is why we are working with education partners to develop a number of resources for parents and educators about the curriculum and about issues impacting today’s children and youth.”
What the minister has said about the reason for updating the Health and Physical Education curriculum may sound harmless if you read past what is clearly implied in her comment and just listen to the words. The minister said a few things that are quite questionable. She said the curriculum was updated to ensure the safety and health of students. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that statement. Looking out for the safety and the health of children (students) sounds like a good thing; a noble thing to do. But, let’s take a look at the Grade 2 curriculum and unpack what those children will be “taught” in the fall of this year.
Now, Grade 2s are 7 year olds. So what will these little children be taught about health. When I taught health to Grade 2 students, we experienced wholesome, fun, and reflective experiences. There were no complex, arduous, or mysterious happenings but simple activities befitting children at this tender age of their life; just fun stuff.
The newly revised curriculum outlines, overall expectations and specific expectations. The topic divisions and sub-divisions of the curriculum that teachers of Grade 2 health must cover in the period from September 2015 to June 2016 is impossible to achieve. As we go through this discussion, keep in mind that these are 7 year old children that are expected to learn the things contained in the curriculum, which I’ve said will be impossible for even a superhuman teacher to achieve. There is so much here, that it will be impossible for the teachers to learn it much less teach it to 7 year old children who will be thinking about learning through fun activities; activities devoid of stress and other school related dysfunctional stressors that are inevitably brought on by the school system.
Also keep in mind the first thing that Liz Sandals gave as the reason for updating the curriculum around health for these 7 year old students – to ensure the safety and health of students; in other words, to make certain that students are safe in place at school and that their health is not compromised. The apparent focus of learning for this grade is Living Skills. But, here’s a mouthful for you – The Overall Expectations for these students at the end of their Grade 2 experience:
The students will: (”Will” is not a good word choice. What happens if they don’t demonstrate the expectations)?
Demonstrate personal and interpersonal skills and the use of critical and creative thinking processes as they acquired knowledge and skills in connection with the expectations in the Active Living, Movement Competence, and healthy Living strands for this grade.
Expanding on the Overall Expectations, the Specific Expectations include, Living Skills, Interpersonal Skills, and Critical and Creative Thinking, A close look at what is contained in these expectation will reveal a weakness in the expectations overall. Simply put, the expectations are somewhat grandiose and noticeably unachievable. But that seems to be the way that documents are written these days; a whole lot of words as if to make it look impressive, but at the end of the day, what is written cannot be accomplished. I continue to wonder, what is so wrong about being realistic and honest?
The personal skills that students will acquire at the end of their Grade 2 experience are as follows:
Use self-awareness and self-monitoring skills to help them understand their strengths and needs, take responsibility for their actions, recognize sources of stress, and monitor their own progress, as they participate in physical activities, develop movement competence, and acquire knowledge and skills related to healthy living.
Movement Competence: after jumping, consider what they did well as they tried to land in a stable position, and what they could do better.
Healthy Living: complete a checklist to monitor their daily care of their teeth.
Use adaptive, management, and coping skills to help them respond to the various challenges they encounter as they participate in physical activities, develop movement competence, and acquire knowledge and skills related to healthy living
Movement Competence: describe the value of experimenting when trying new activities.
Healthy Living: in response to teasing, try different solutions – walking away, telling the
person to stop, telling the person how the teasing makes him/her feel, or getting help.
Of course no learning is complete without putting learning into action. In educational terms it is called “making connections. Under the topic of making connections towards the end of the curriculum is a section on Substance Use, Addictions, and Related Behaviours. To be continued in a future posting.
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