Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Douglas College PE conference explores what healthy, active schools will look like in future

Tomorrow, Friday and Saturday, Douglas is hosting the 25th anniversary Quality Daily Physical Education (QDPE) Conference. More than 300 physical education teachers and researchers from across B.C. will gather to discuss how schools can do a better job of ensuring students stay active and healthy – which ultimately helps them learn better, too. Presentations range from a comparative study of elementary school PE in Slovenia and B.C., to the influence of social media on young people’s understanding of their bodies, physicality and physical participation, to building self-esteem and confidence through humour and laughter. Earlier today doug caught up with Brian Storey, a conference organizer and Chair of the Sport Science Department, to find out more.

doug: What’s special about the 25th anniversary conference?

Brian: The 25th anniversary conference is attempting to bring the physical and health education research and teaching communities together for a look back and forward at our physical and health education in school communities.

doug: What are some of the topics that will be discussed?
QDPE Conference organizer Brian Storey

Brian: The opening keynote panel will look at how current trends in physical education, physical activity, and school movement cultures – which includes all the activities and health-related interests of a school – may unfold as we respond to broader movement trends in society. What might the active, healthy school look like in the future? Physical education curricula and pedagogy are but one part of this overall culture. Is the role of PE curricula shifting with the times? What broader trends may impact the roles of physical education and health teachers? To discuss these and related questions this keynote panel brings together three noted scholars.

doug: What have been the major shifts in physical education over the past 25 years?

Brian: Twenty-five years ago, the school system had significantly more PE specialists at the elementary level and many school-wide activities run by teachers with training in physical education. But as technology became a primary focus of society throughout the ’80s and ’90s, the school system shifted resources away from PE and into technology and other priorities. This shift mirrored larger shifts in society representing an overall devaluing of physical health.

doug: But then in 2004, the provincial government launched a plan to make B.C. students the most healthy and active in Canada. What precipitated this?

Brian: For one thing, the rise of the “obesity crisis.” The broad cultural attention to this and documentaries like Super Size Me brought attention back to the health of our children and the school as a healthy place to learn. Public support for more movement and healthy eating policies in schools was crystallized by the B.C. government plan, which recognized two key facts – that healthy children learn better, and schools can directly influence students’ health. The government then introduced guidelines for physical activity and for food and beverage sales in B.C. schools.

doug: So where is PE now? Where’s it going from here?

Brian: We now have alignment between health professionals, education professionals, and the general public agreeing that schools need to be healthy, active communities. PE is no longer an add-on subject, and is seen as essential for providing the physical literacy and motivational dimensions of movement required to become an active person for life. Physical education is now a recognizable contributor to both academic outcomes and health related outcomes.

doug: We’ve heard mentioned the concept of “Health Promoting Schools.” Can you tell us a little about them?

Brian: Health Promoting Schools is a World Health Organization term adopted by Physical and Health Education Canada to describe schools that have a holistic approach to children’s health and learning. Health Promoting Schools start with quality physical and health education, but go far beyond to promote daily physical activity programs, school-wide movement celebrations such as Terry Fox runs and bike rodeos, and working with community partners to lead activities or introduce alternative movement options, such as creating and caring for a school garden.

doug: How important is it to get children into a healthy and active culture while they’re still in elementary school?

Brian: The hope is our children have a better quality of life than our generation! Setting them up to create their own active futures in a supportive society strikes me as one of the essential purposes of education. For teachers this effort spans pre-school, elementary and the secondary years.

The Quality Daily Physical Education Conference takes place tomorrow, Friday and Saturday (Oct. 20-22) at Douglas College’s New Westminster Campus, 700 Royal Ave. Registration is open to the public. Get the details at