Section 2: Focus Courses and the Fundamental Principles of H&PE

The Health and Physical Education (H&PE) Curriculum mandates that courses, including any one of the focus courses, should be designed to meet important educational values and goals that support the development of character. The content and the setting of learning in a focus course make it unique in a student’s school experience and will allow students to learn through creative work, collaboration and hands-on experiences in support of the Fundamental Principles in Health and Physical Education as outlined below (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2015a, p. 8).

Example: Healthy Living and Large Group Activities Course (PAL)

  • Students can focus on a variety of on-ice sports such as hockey, ringette, curling and broomball in addition to off-ice sports and activities to develop transferable skills.
  • Students have the opportunity to enrol in the focus course in order to build skills rather than needing prior skills as a prerequisite for participation.
  • Through ongoing, progressive instruction students will emerge as capable and confident participants for the future. This way, the overall outcome of the focus course will allow students to learn how to transfer these skills into other lifelong pursuits.

Fundamental Principles in Health and Physical Education

  1. Health and physical education programs are most effective when they are delivered in healthy schools and when students’ learning is supported by school staff, families and communities.
    • Knowledge and concepts students learn should be transferable when engaging with their family and community.
    • Focus courses should support students in adopting healthy active living practices and maintaining them throughout their lives, enabling them to connect to opportunities in the community.
    • The creation of a focus course should fulfil the needs of students and complement access to facilities in the community.
  2. Physical activity is the key vehicle for student learning.
    • Focus courses are designed to provide a wide variety of physical activities that support lifelong participation in both the community and beyond.
    • The choice of activities should offer students a unique opportunity for kinesthetic learning and support an inclusive and engaging opportunity for learning for all students and not a select few based on prior knowledge or skills.
  3. Physical and emotional safety is a precondition for effective learning in health and physical education.
    • Students have a desire to learn and may need the support of a focus course to meet them where they are (e.g., low skill set, low self-confidence) as they develop a new set of skills in a physically and emotionally safe environment.
    • Focus courses must provide a physically and emotionally safe environment for learning and must accommodate individual strengths, needs and interests.
  4. Learning in health and physical education is student-centred and skill-based.
    • Learning in a focus course should be directly connected to the needs and abilities of individual students.
    • Focus courses must provide individual skill development for healthy, active living supported by knowledge of content and conceptual understanding in all strands (i.e., Active Living, Movement Competence, Healthy Living).
    • Focus courses should 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 with their peers, their community and the wider world (Ophea, 2016a, p. 2).
  5. Learning in health and physical education is balanced, integrated and connected to real life.
    • As in all H&PE courses, a focus course should utilize a skill-based approach to build the physical literacy skills and health literacy skills students need to live healthy, active lives while allowing them to practise the living skills required to make decisions, communicate effectively and build healthy relationships (Ophea, 2016a, p. 2).
    • Learning in a focus course provides a balanced approach to a wide variety of activities within that particular focus.
    • Learning in a focus course provides opportunities for students to make connections to their lives and participate in activities related to the focus course beyond school time.