Why Concepts in Health and Physical Education Require Sensitivity to Teach
The Ontario curriculum reflects that today’s students require the information, knowledge, and skills necessary not only to become critical thinkers, but also to make sound decisions about matters affecting their health and well-being before they have to make decisions in real life. Students also need to see themselves in the curriculum; it must be relevant to their lives and presented in ways that allow them to practise living skills, while applying their learning to situations in their personal lives, their communities, and the world around them.
The Ontario curriculum’s focus on building skills, rather than mastering of content in isolation, is a reflection of this changing pedagogy. When we, as educators, use skill-based and creative strategies in our teaching, we help students learn how to synthesize complex information, communicate effectively, and make informed, healthy decisions for themselves. We can encourage students to develop a sense of personal responsibility for their lifelong health and the health of others.
This approach is also useful in addressing the diverse needs of students. The student-centred strategies presented in this guide can assist learners in becoming informed, thoughtful citizens and respectful, caring people. While student well-being plays a role in every course within the Ontario curriculum, it plays a particularly central one in Health and Physical Education. These courses help students build the health literacy skills they need to live healthy, active lives while allowing students to practise the living skills required to make decisions, communicate effectively, and build healthy relationships. Health and Physical Education (H&PE) classes also teach students how to limit risk and build protective factors in order to increase their resilience as they confront challenges throughout their lives.
By teaching health in a holistic manner, rather than as a series of individual topics, educators can inspire students to make connections between their physical, cognitive, emotional, spiritual, and social health and well-being and to make connections to their peers, their community, and the wider world.
Since much of the learning addressed in the Health and Physical Education curriculum is personal in nature, particularly in the Healthy Living strand, this learning is intrinsically connected to students’ families and relationships as well as their cultural and/or religious values. As such, educators should take extra care and consideration when approaching health concepts, and demonstrate sensitivity and respect for individual perspectives. To promote understanding, students should be encouraged to explore many perspectives of health-related issues, identify valid sources of information, and find the information they need.
Theory into Practice - During the minds on activity, consider using a “think aloud” strategy to model how to select valid sources of information that reflect a diversity of perspectives about an issue or concept.
At early stages in their lives, children generally form their values based on the ideas and experiences of a relatively small group of family members and caregivers. As they grow older and are exposed to many different ideas and experiences in a school environment, children and youth learn about perspectives that vary from their own. When addressing concepts that require sensitivity to teach, it is important to responsibly and inclusively provide opportunities for students to learn about diverse views and understand how these may differ from their own.
Theory into Practice - As a consolidation activity, consider using Inside and Outside Circles to provide students with opportunities to share their views and understand the differing perspectives that may exist amongst their peers.