The desire to create a focus course will not guarantee that it will run. In many cases, the focus course may compete against other courses currently running in a department or another optional course students may need to take as a prerequisite or graduation requirement. Some students may not be aware of a focus course’s Specialist High-Skills Major (SHSM) or post-secondary connections. As such, to create the necessary awareness of a focus course, consider the following:
- Classroom Visits: Arrange opportunities for members of the department and student leaders to visit various classes prior to course selection to answer questions about the focus courses and ensure that students and parents have all of the necessary information to meet registration deadlines and support pathway selections. This may be an opportunity to share with the students the information from Sample Checklist - Have You Considered This? (found in Section 4), as it will provide the necessary speaking points to increase their awareness. It may also be important to collaborate with the administration about how to best advocate for a focus course and ensure that the necessary information is part of the presentation being made by guidance counsellors.
- Academic Planning: myBlueprint is used by students to identify courses, explore career opportunities and self-assess their interests and needs. It would be beneficial for the physical education department to support both teachers and students to incorporate the use of the program into their various curricula and to have a designated computer area in the department so students can access the program. Refer to pages 82-83 in the H&PE Curriculum for information related to “Education and Career/Life Planning through the Health and Physical Education Curriculum.”
- Course Selection: Having online course selection, which can be done at school, will help to support the busy lives of the students. In the weeks leading up to the designated time/week for certain grade levels or classes to complete the selection, a number of reminders can be placed on social media (Twitter, Facebook) to elicit the support and awareness of the parents. Students who are currently enrolled in an H&PE course might be looking for possible ways to continue to participate in H&PE courses that would help them support their goals, interests and needs. Through the living skills, students would have had the opportunity to develop their self-awareness related to the “Who Am I?” focus in myBlueprint. Social media posts before and during course selection time in schools will provide both parents and students with a clear understanding of how a focus course may continue to support their decision-making, goal setting and transition planning beyond high school.
- Link to Community Resources: Having a clearly identified and constantly updated bulletin board, Twitter account or weekly announcements will make the students who are interested aware of all things happening in the community (e.g., volunteer opportunities, jobs, university fair, new programs) that will support the focus course. Ophea’s All About H&PE Fundamental Principles Posters and video links can be posted to support the need for a focus course to ensure that the students can see authentic and personal options to help them support a healthy lifestyle and their overall well-being.
- Student Voice/Student Survey Sessions: It is important to have clearly identified the interests and needs of the student body in putting together the course options for any school. This may be done by using student surveys in current HALE courses or across the school. As part of the various parents’ nights, open houses and school websites there are many ways to keep and raise awareness of current or new focus courses. Ophea’s All About H&PE Student Voice Videos can support the conversations between students, teachers and parents. There might be an opportunity for a presentation, led by current H&PE students, to the student body to share the changes to the programming options that the department will be offering based on the input they have received. Providing the information to the students well in advance so that they can coordinate their busy schedules as students, athletes and members of the workforce is crucial.
- Student Leadership Initiatives: There is great value in having senior students mentor or provide advice for junior students, especially when it comes to course selection and special course opportunities available to them. Some courses in the H&PE Curriculum can be utilized to support this type of student leadership initiative because of the direct link to their curriculum. For example:
- C3.2 demonstrate an understanding of the concept of health promotion, and describe strategies and skills that can be used to promote healthy living in their school community
- C1.3 demonstrate the ability to use mentorship skills in a variety of contexts related to healthy, active living (e.g., be a role model; share knowledge and expertise during physical activities; encourage others to try new activities by joining clubs, teams or committees; encourage others to set goals or improve skills to enhance their personal well-being; provide meaningful feedback in a non-judgemental manner when coaching others toward their goals)
- Collaboration: It would be beneficial to meet with the members of the school’s guidance department to increase their awareness of the types of H&PE programs in their school and how these courses support student learning and achievement in specialized programs such as the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP) or a Specialized High Skills Major (SHSM). It is also beneficial for members of the guidance department to be aware of the prerequisite for an H&PE course and/or the requirements for successful completion of an H&PE course in order to support students in their course selections. When a guidance department is aware of what is happening in the school, they are able to support both the students’ participation in the program and the efforts of their colleagues to support student learning and achievement.
- Promoting H&PE as a Safe, Inclusive Environment: Physical education departments aspire to create an accepting and inclusive environment where students can see a friendly face, grab a healthy snack or sit and study. Having an open door policy within the department is important as schools strive to support the mental health needs of students. As in all high-traffic areas, it will help to increase awareness of the courses offered if they are posted in a central location, along with important dates so that the necessary conversations about student learning opportunities can be better supported. This would be another great location to utilize the Fundamental Principles Resources found within the All About H&PE resource.