Schoolyards Count: How Ontario’s schoolyards measure up for health, physical activity, and environmental learning
Decades of research demonstrate that the outdoors are an important part of students’ learning, social development, physical and mental health, sense of connection to the school community, and build an appreciation and respect of the environment. Schoolyard quality makes a difference to well-being, physical activity levels and learning opportunities for children in school communities.
Schoolyards Count! is a partnership between Ophea and Dr. Kelly Gallagher-Mackay of Wilfred Laurier University, in which a study was undertaken to examine how Ontario’s schoolyards measure up for health, physical activity, and environmental learning. This report provides insight into the importance of local schoolyards and constitutes a first step towards supporting Ontario school communities to ensure that every schoolyard is well-maintained, suitable for play and sport, conducive to active transportation, and an environmental asset in the community.
Schoolyards represent a genuine opportunity to connect and foster spaces that bring us all together. A great deal of learning can happen in our schoolyards and in places that are safe, inclusive, and connect us to each other and the environment. This report also supports Ontario school communities in re-thinking their schoolyards:
- Is it well-maintained and suitable for play for children of all abilities?
- Is the school community thinking about active transportation?
- How is the environment being incorporated?
The Importance of Physical Activity Across the School Day
Daily physical activity is a fundamental right for all students. Physical activity opportunities can support student physical health, mental health and well-being, especially during the current pandemic. During this time of uncertainty, students can benefit from quality, safe, and inclusive physical activity opportunities through in-person and virtual physical education opportunities, as well as through play, recess, and intramurals. Over the pandemic, CanadaGo4Sport, CIRA-Ontario, Ophea, Ontario Association for the Support of Physical and Health Educators (OASPHE), Playocracy, Raise the Bar (an Intramural Program school-wide initiative managed by Ophea), and Recess Guardians have been engaged in discussions around the importance of quality, safe, and inclusive physical activity opportunities for all students. Learn more about this collective goal and how you can take action too.
Fall 2020 Budget Submission
The Importance of Experiential Learning
Ontario schools will face challenges re-opening in the fall. As provincial subject associations for dance, drama, visual/media arts, Indigenous education, music,health and physical education, we feel that it is imperative that our subjects have a place in the timetable and that they are delivered safely and equitably. This letter emphasizes the importance of promoting and supporting student well-being through critically important forms of experiential learning.
2019 Pre-Budget Submission
Ophea and OASPHE’s Position on Education Reform
In the fall of 2018, the Government of Ontario hosted public consultations on a number of key educational components, including the content of the Health and Physical Education curriculum, approaches to health-related topics in the classroom, parent engagement, and physical activity policy. As part of the provincial consultation process educators, parents, students, and stakeholders were invited to provide feedback . Ophea strongly encouraged everyone to participate in the single largest consultation on the single largest health promotion intervention this province has ever seen. Ophea and OASPHE responded through the Government of Ontario’s consultation process and felt that releasing our position could support others in their participation of the consultation process.
Ophea and OASPHE Reaction Statement to Repealed “sex-ed” Curriculum
On July 11, 2018 Ontario’s Premier and Minister of Education announced that the sexual health education “sex-ed” component of the Health and Physical Education (H&PE) curriculum would revert back to the 1998 version until additional parent consultations have been conducted.
Ophea and OASPHE (Ontario Association for the Support of Physical and Health Educators) are disappointed with the announcement by the government of Ontario and believe that Ontario students have a right to learn from an up-to-date, research-based Health and Physical Education curriculum that includes human development and sexual health (“sex-ed”) education.
Ophea and OASPHE believe that the 20 year old “sex-ed” expectations from 1998 will not meet the needs of students in 2018.
In response, Ophea will ensure our existing Human Development and Sexual Health teaching supports (part of the H&PE Elementary Curriculum Resources and H&PE Secondary Resources as well as other topic specific resources available on Teaching Tools), will remain available to all schools, school boards and public health units in Ontario. In addition, Ophea will provide specific documentation that maps our teaching supports to the 1998 Human Growth and Development expectations to ensure educators are supported when they return to classrooms in September.
Indigenous Education: Truth and Reconciliation Curriculum Writing Sessions
Ophea and OASPHE Position Statement: Human Development and Sexual Health
As part of its Plan for Ontario, the Ontario PC party has made a broad commitment to review the Human Development and Sexual Health (“sex-ed”) component of the Health and Physical Education (H&PE) curriculum after additional consultations with parents. Ophea and OASPHE anticipate that this government will take steps to address this commitment.
As such Ophea and OASPHE, as joint provincial subject associations for H&PE, have developed a Position Statement which outlines recommendations for government to consider moving forward.
Ophea and OASPHE continue to believe that students have a right to learn from an up-to-date, research-based Health and Physical Education curriculum that includes human development and sexual health education.
Student’s Right to Physical Activity
Ophea, along with national and provincial partners including PHE Canada, Ever Active Schools, and Dash BC, has developed an evidence-informed statement that all students have a right to physical activity. This statement aims to further the key messages contained in the 2018 ParticipACTION Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth.
Understanding Parental Attitudes Towards Health in Ontario Schools
In Fall 2017, Ophea surveyed parents of Ontario school-aged children to better understand their perspectives on pressing health issues, Health and Physical Education (H&PE), healthy schools, physical activity, and safety.
The survey results found that parents believe that Ontario schools have an important role to play in supporting the health and well-being of their children, but have concerns about how equipped kids are to meet 21st century health challenges.
Ophea encourages all stakeholders to freely use this information to support their future planning efforts as it relates to their work.
Ophea’s Advocacy Goal
To advocate for policies and strategies that foster healthy, active living.
Ophea is committed to working in partnership with government, non-government, and community partners to advocate for healthy public policy related to Health and Physical Education (H&PE) in schools and healthy, active living in communities. We are also committed to playing a strong leadership role on related committees and at stakeholder events.