Posts Tagged ‘sports academy’

throw ball

There has been an important recognition in schools, particularly at the junior grades, that we need to be doing more to keep kids active.  In British Columbia Action Schools BC have been leaders in this effort.  They are, in part:

a best practices whole-school model designed to assist elementary and middle schools in creating and implementing individualized action plans to promote healthy living while achieving academic outcomes and supporting comprehensive school health.

Daily physical activity is a regular part of schools and “action breaks”, among other strategies, are regularly employed. All of these physical activity initiatives are popular with educators, and they are also supported by research in: Spark – The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain by John Ratey.  The good news is — it may be just working. Last week the Globe & Mail reported on a recent US study that teen obesity rates could be leveling off and young people may be doing more exercise. This is all excellent news.

But, back to my question — can they throw a ball?

With all of our efforts focussed toward increasing physical activity, some are lamenting the”sports” part of the physical activity is taking a backseat.  From baseball to soccer, basketball to tennis, schools are now seen less as places for young people to acquire sports-specific skills and that we are turning, instead, to the community for the development of sport-specific skills.  Of course, community sports are nothing new, but “school” sports like volleyball and basketball were, only a generation ago, exclusive to schools and are now taught at younger ages primarily in the community.  As well, groups like KidSport help bridge the financial barrier for some families when kids can’t participate in community sports.  Still, some will argue that sports aren’t a necessary part of our school system, but I think most would agree that the fundamental skills of running, jumping and throwing a ball are core skills we want for all young people. Canadian Sport for Life describes this in its Long Term Athlete Development Plan.

So, looking at our elementary schools, one key challenge is the lack of teacher training for sports skills. PE specialist teachers are exceptionally rare in the province and teachers either have to teach their own PE classes or swap with another staff member (e.g. Teacher A takes Teacher B’s art class while Teacher B takes Teacher A’s PE class).  Without the training, many elementary PE classes are high on activity but not so high on skills-acquisition.

Our district is part of a program trying to change this and is investing and partnering in programs that support physical literacy.  Diane Nelson, who is the Principal-lead on our Sports Academy Programs at secondary, is working with others in Metro Vancouver on a program partnering our Grades K-3 teachers with coaches who have strong skills in teaching sports-specific skills.  The three-lesson progression helps both teacher and students.   Chartwell Elementary Principal, Aron Campbell, recently blogged about the program, Physical Literacy:  The Other 3 R’s . . . Running, Jumping and Throwing.  And, over the course of the year, our K-3 teachers will have the opportunity to work side-by-side with Jesse Symons who is a head coach / teacher in the district’s Premier Soccer Academy. To quote from Aron’s blog:

Although some of the basic skills such as walking, running, jumping, hopping, throwing and catching may seem natural or innate in children, for many kids, this is not the case. Developing basic “Physical Literacy” ​is critical for kids to acquire in order to build an ongoing sense of athletic confidence, as they are exposed to more and more opportunities to be active and involved in sport throughout their years at school and beyond.  Whether it is organized soccer, t-ball, or games in a PE class or at recess, a firm grasp in ‘physical literacy provides the motivation that can be invaluable for kids in the future development of self-esteem and the pursuit of a physically active lifestyle.

And once students have these core skills at the primary level, it is a goal for our intermediate classrooms to continue the partnership with local sports organizations. It is not a new idea, but part of a systemic plan for elementary schools to partner with the local soccer clubs or tennis organizations in offering programs to students.  It is a win-win opportunity since most community sports organizations are struggling to attract young people and are facing declining numbers; by partnering with our schools, they can offer their expertise to all students and can ignite the passion of a student who will pick the sport up in the community. To me, it is an approach that has some real opportunities and we should try to tap into it.

It is absolutely important to recognize the great work being done to help our kids to become healthier, whether it is eating better or being more active. While some (albeit mostly south of the border) were recently bemoaning the narrowing of the curriculum that saw a reduction in physical activity, there is a realization young people being active is a key part of improving student success.

That said, the time is right to invest in sports skills for all young people in schools — not only because we are taking on the training of the next Olympians, but because these skills are also life skills and they are best learned at a young age as they expose students to sports and games they might not otherwise try. And, we can’t solely rely on the community for them.

Thanks to Diane Nelson, District Principal Sports Academies and the driving force in our district behind this work, and to viasport for their financial support.

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As I write this post, school districts across BC are establishing their calendars for the 2013-14 school year. New legislation, Bill 36, described by government to: “eliminate the Standard School Calendar to enable boards of education and education authorities to offer more creative scheduling options that better meet the needs of their students” is driving these decisions.

Districts and their communities are discussing their local calendar ahead of the March 31st deadline for approving calendars for the upcoming school year. Langley has received a lot of attention, including a year-round option in the list of possibilities for next year. In West Vancouver, we have also completed a consultation process with the calendar steering committee receiving over 2,000 completed surveys from students, parents and staff on three possible calendar options.

There has been much discussion around the setting of the local calendar, particularly around whether we should continue with what is described as an agrarian calendar of September to June, with two months off in the summer, or seek a more balanced calendar with a shorter summer break and longer breaks at other points in the year. I don’t want to take up the issue in this post, but a related issue that has come up during the consultations –the request for standardization — particularly when it comes to the scheduling of calendars including the placement of professional days and school breaks, and the organization of  time / blocks within the day.

I have written a number of times about our move to a post-standardized world in education — different assessments for different students; greater choice and personalization in what students learn and when and where they learn it, and how students demonstrate this learning.

The learning format I envision incorporates students starting their learning early and some starting class late (we know there is research that encourages a late start-time). Some students might take evening courses, others in the summer, and still others taking part of their program online. This is currently the case in some places and may come to pass as the norm, but what our surveys show, and is supported by the conversations I have had with students, staff and parents is a request for more standardization when it comes to the school calendar. All groups recognize that it is easier to customize an education model when calendars are standardized.

So why do staff want calendars standardized?

Professional learning: if professional development days are aligned across and between districts it allows for greater collaboration across schools, and particularly in speciality areas where this can be very important as it allows teachers from different schools to collaborate more easily.  It also allows for the sharing of expert resources – one district may bring in an expert of early learning, and the session would be available to teachers from several districts without teachers being released from their teaching duties, since all had aligned professional days. 

Teaching in multiple schools: if a teacher has a specialty (Japanese for example), a standardized calendar can allow for them to teach their specialty in multiple sites; as an example, teaching mornings in school A and afternoons in school B or alternating days between schools.

Staff are also parents: staff often live outside of a district, with surrounding districts on similar calendars organizing family commitments would be easier

And why do students and parents like standardized calendars?

Convenience: in the era of choice with more students attending multiple schools (I know one family in West Vancouver with students at four different schools), a standard calendar that includes common professional development days, and school breaks, makes life a lot easier

Choice: running a common calendar in schools, in the same or neighbouring districts, allows students to take the majority of courses at their home school and pursue their passion at another site. In West Vancouver, this means students from multiple schools can attend afternoon sports academy programs because schools have the same block rotation. It also allows students from all three high schools to take their “core” courses on one day, and participate in the ACE-IT Carpentry Program at West Vancouver Secondary on the other day. In turn, aligning with surrounding districts, it allows our students to attend Carson Graham in North Vancouver, to participate in their ACE-IT Culinary Program.

Next year, our district schools will have aligned their  professional development days and common breaks. Efforts are also being made to align our breaks with other schools in Metro Vancouver. We will actually have more standardization in our calendars than every before — a funny result of legislation intended to create flexibility.

Eventually, we may have balanced or more alternate calendars. But for now, largely in the name of creating increased choice for students, standardization allows for greater customization and hopefully greater personalization of learning.

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