H&PE is here. It’s happening. And it’s about time.
For five years, Ontario’s students have been using a curriculum that’s older than many students themselves. Released in the late ‘90s, the 16 year-old curriculum is the most out of date in all of Canada – and it has had a very real impact on our kids. But on February 23, with the release of the 2015 Health and Physical Education (H&PE) elementary and secondary curriculum, the province is to implement the single largest health promotion intervention that Ontario has ever seen.
Ophea, as one of the subject associations for Health and Physical Education, is supportive of the release of the 2015 H&PE curriculum. It’s time to celebrate the fact that educators and educational partners now have one of the critical tools they need to ensure that students are receiving quality H&PE instruction, a cornerstone for healthy schools and other school health policies.
Here are some thoughts from educators, public health leaders, parents and students on this milestone achievement:
“The change that I am most excited about is simply to be up-to-date with current society issues. The last curriculum was updated when I was in grade 7! All the mental health, bullying, and sexuality updates were definitely needed. The government has finally realized that these are issues that our students are facing more and more and that we can no longer just pretend that they don’t exist. For years now, schools have been dealing with these issues on their own, and most physical education teachers have had no choice but to adapt and create their own lesson plans. It’s exciting to know that now all teachers will have access to the same resources and to teach the same learning outcomes.
This curriculum gives broader chances for us to create a dialogue with experts from the community and parents. The learning outcomes are set up to create a communal teaching approach. In doing this, the eventual impact would be to limit the stigmas and the taboos concerning discussions in health and well-being and to create an openness of sharing that will only help students feel more comfortable with themselves and with the things that have an impact on their lives.”
—Matthew Stewart, secondary H&PE teacher
“I am excited about the revised ‘growth and development’ health topic, which is now called ‘human development and sexual health’. However I am most excited about the final release of the curriculum in its entirety. Now with the full release of the H&PE curriculum, teachers can deliver the content with structure, continuity and most importantly approaching the content so that it supports the whole child: physically, emotionally, socially and cognitively.
The curriculum will help me address topics that are happening today! There are sensitive topics that parents approach me with because they do not understand the scope of the topic and/or know how to address it in an age appropriate manner. Some examples include: online bullying, making informed choices when posting pictures or commenting on social networking websites, giving appropriate resources and knowledge about their health. With the release of the curriculum, it gives teachers the tools to support our students today by giving them the personal skills, interpersonal skills, and critical/creative thinking skills they need to live a healthy active lifestyle.”
—Andrea Haefele, elementary teacher
“I think the revised H&PE curriculum will have a huge impact on students because it will create an environment of knowledge and sex positivity, which is something our classrooms really need. The updated sex ed curriculum will provide students with better tools to help them have healthy relationships, as well as helping create an environment where sex can be talked about in a safe place. The update to the curriculum has been needed for so long, and we're so happy it changed. The addition of the topic of consent, something we have been focused on, will definitely impact students’ education as well as their lives. Consent is a topic that so few young people know about, even though it is a basic part of having and maintaining any healthy relationship. The addition of consent to the curriculum will change that.”
—Tessa, elementary student @wegiveconsent
“This curriculum affects adults just as much as students. It'll give students the information about healthy sexuality and safe ways to use technology (e.g information about sexting) they need and they'll hopefully carry it with them into their homes and lives outside of school. It will give parents and teachers the opportunity to talk to young people about relationships and have conversations about consent and safety.”
—Lia, elementary student @wegiveconsent
“It is exciting to have a curriculum that is so responsive to the needs of our students and reflects the reality of the world in which they live today. It is a far different world than 1999 when the last curriculum was published when the focus was knowledge acquisition. Despite an archaic curriculum, HPE teachers have worked hard to provide students with relevant and authentic learning experiences that connect to their lives. It is exciting that now we have the tools we need to support our students in critically thinking about the wealth of information they are exposed to via the internet and social media and to support them in learning the skills they need to make healthy decisions, advocate for their own health and the health of others. The inclusion of Mental Health across the curriculum is pivotal helping our students respond the to the challenges they face and be resilient to these challenges.
The depth and breadth of the learning and the diversity within the curriculum is reflective of the diversity of our society today. All students will now see themselves reflected in the curriculum which is pivotal to their engagement and ultimate success. This curriculum is now relevant to their lives. It addresses many of the issues that students face on a daily basis in this complex world. It will support students in developing key skills that are needed to respond to the challenges of their world and make informed decisions about their lives.”
—Joanne Walsh, Ophea Curriculum Consultant, retired secondary H&PE educator
“I’m very glad the updated curriculum will teach children to name their body parts in the early grades. These early lessons give them language they can use to establish personal boundaries with friends, family and strangers. It can also help them describe illness or injury to parents or caregivers with more accuracy. As children get older and move into adolescence, this language will stand them in good stead when they need to communicate with relationship partners, peers and health care practitioners.
My hope is that the emphasis on respecting differences - in ability, in expression or in lifestyle, will foster a greater sense of compassion and empathy amongst all students. Students who feel accepted by their peers perform better in school and experience fewer mental health issues than those who are marginalized. The emphasis on inclusion has the potential to create a more positive school experience for all Ontario students.
As a sexuality educator and a parent, I look forward to connecting with my child’s teachers about the sex education being taught in class. This will give me an opportunity to prepare for related conversations at home and it could be great chance to learn about new and different approaches that I can use in my own practice.”
—Nadine Thornhill, sexuality educator & parent
“I am most excited about the addition of “consent” to the new curriculum, along with education about the LGBTQ population. These changes reflect significant advancements society has made towards these topics since 1998, and are well deserved.
The curriculum will act as a platform for collaboration between parents, teachers, and the community. Teachers provide the base knowledge for students, while parents and community organizations can complement that knowledge through their own teachings. I believe this is the first time this dynamic has existed, and I am excited to see what the result will be.”
—Trevor Sookraj, President, Ontario Student Trustees’ Association
“I’m really excited about the potential impact on teachers’ approach to the movement competence strand and physical activity. This strand will challenge teachers to go beyond “tradition” on what physical education use to be. Instead, this strand will give us tools to instruct in a way that students understand that movement is connected to learning about self and others.
I firmly believe that this curriculum can influence students’ behaviour and attitudes in a way that will stick with them into adulthood. They will take responsibility for their own health and will help guide others to do the same. And because they are well connected they will have the tools to make appropriate choices in every transition in their life.”
—Ron Lopez, Director, Ophea Board of Directors
“I'm delighted to see that the expectations include more on mental wellness and relationships starting in primary grades. These are the building blocks that are needed to have conversations about consent, intimacy and pleasure in the senior grades. I also think it's so important that this curriculum is more inclusive in terms of cultures, genders and orientations.”
—Kim Martyn, Sexual Health Promotion, Toronto Public Health
So what’s next? With implementation expected in September 2015, Ophea has begun developing tools and resources to ensure that educators and educational partners have the tools they need to appropriately and effectively teach students from the 2015 curriculum.
We’ll keep you updated on our progress through Ophea.net and our eConnection newsletter (to sign up click here).
For more information on the role Ophea has played in the efforts to release the revised curriculum and useful links to further details about the curriculum go visit our Advocacy Page.