Ophea is building towards an education system that fosters healthy school communities and gives every student a foundation to thrive.
Ophea’s approach aims to align partners in the sector under a common goal, bringing research, policy, and practice together to impact the health and well-being of children and youth.
Working in partnership with government, non-government, and partners Ophea advocates for healthy public policy and supports related to Health and Physical Education and healthy, active living in Ontario school communities.
2024 Provincial Budget Submission – Investing in Health and Well-Being Initiatives to Foster Belonging for Ontario’s Children and Youth
Beginning in Fall 2023, the provincial government invited input into its 2024 budget. We’re calling on the provincial government to pledge their support for Ontario’s children and youth by making an investment to revitalize school health programming. This investment will support quality implementation of curriculum content focused on health and physical literacy, delivered within a Healthy School environment, centering and prioritizing student belonging.
Response to Public Discourse on Gender Identity in Schools, September 2023
In consideration of ongoing public discourse threatening the rights of transgender, non-binary, and gender-diverse students in Ontario schools, Ophea reaffirms that every single student has a right to experience a sense of belonging, and emotional safety, free from violence and other forms of hate at school. It is our shared responsibility to uplift students, affirm their identities, and generate meaningful entry points for connection at every opportunity.
Parents/guardians hold a significant role in this context, yet it is essential to recognize that this influence should not override a young person's right to explore or assert aspects of their own identity. Students who identify as transgender, non-binary, and gender-diverse often experience heightened marginalization in schools, and their unique challenges extend beyond the classroom, where it’s important to recognize that knowing a young person’s gender identity is a privilege, not an inherent right. Disrupting their rights to self-expression risks further heightening the mental, physical, and social challenges associated with this marginalization. Our collective responsibility is in shifting practices that are harmful and exclusionary to create the conditions for safe, supportive, and identity-affirming conversations at home, in schools, and throughout school communities.
Re-Imagining Disability in H&PE
Ophea recognizes that the historical structures and systems still used within our sector have the potential to cause harm to many students. This is true for students with visible and invisible disabilities; and especially true for those who also experience marginalization based on the other intersecting identities they hold. Ophea reaffirms that every student, regardless of ability, deserves quality Health and Physical Education where they feel they belong.
As we work to create inclusive spaces that expand student access to feelings of belonging and participation in Health and Physical Education, we must move towards practices that affirm and support every student, through purposeful and intentional planning, that maximize the opportunities and experiences for every student.
Re-Imagining Gender in H&PE
Ophea reaffirms that every student, regardless of gender identity and/or gender expression, deserves quality Health and Physical Education where they feel they belong.
Students outside the gender binary experience significant barriers to participation in Health and Physical Education, often as a result of traditional, rigid, practices such as programming that divides students along a binary of sex, creating "boys" against "girls" teams, and the improper use of pronouns, to name a few. As we work to create inclusive spaces that expand student access to feelings of belonging in Health and Physical Education, we must move towards practices that affirm and support every student, regardless of identity.
Re-defining Quality Health and Physical Education
Evidence tells us that quality Health and Physical Education, is good for students, and boasts a whole host of social, emotional, and physiological benefits that set the tone for a lifetime of health and well-being. Every student has a right to quality Health and Physical Education, where they feel they belong. The trouble is, not every student experiences a sense of belonging in our Health and Physical Education classes. In fact, some of our organizational structures and pedagogical practices (past and present) have caused harm to young people, disproportionately negatively impacting students who experience marginalization.
We must embrace the opportunity before us to shift the narrative, to redefine what quality Health and Physical Education really looks like, with every single student; not despite their differences, but precisely because of them. Belonging is at the foundation of quality Health and Physical Education, and has to start with how students feel in the classroom, every single day; whether they see themselves in pedagogy, and whether they feel emotionally safe enough to connect with us, and with each other. What does it actually look like, and how might we get there? Here are some thoughts from our students.
Schoolyards Count: How Ontario’s schoolyards measure up for health, physical activity, and environmental learning
Decades of research demonstrate that the outdoors are an important part of students’ learning, social development, physical and mental health, sense of connection to the school community, and build an appreciation and respect of the environment. Schoolyard quality makes a difference to well-being, physical activity levels and learning opportunities for children in school communities. Sustainable, accessible opportunities that support social inclusion and physical activity within our schoolyards need to enhanced.
The Importance of Physical Activity Across the School Day
Physical activity opportunities can support student physical health, mental health and well-being through in-person and virtual physical education opportunities, as well as through play, recess, and intramurals. Quality, safe, and inclusive, daily physical activity is a fundamental right for all students, benefitting their well-being and advancing the goals of education. Learn more about this collective goal.
The Importance of Experiential Learning
As a result of the pandemic, student mental health and well-being have been negatively impacted, especially marginalized populations. Experiential learning through Dance, Drama, Visual/Media Arts, Indigenous Education, Music, Health and Physical Education provides a unique opportunity to improve relationships, respect, critical thinking, and collaboration, and these subject areas must have a meaningful place in the timetable to be delivered safely and equitably. This letter to Ontario’s education community emphasizes the importance of promoting and supporting student well-being through critically important forms of experiential learning.
Indigenous Education: Truth and Reconciliation Curriculum Writing Sessions
As a provincial subject association for Health and Physical Education, Ophea recognizes that Health and Physical Education are implicated in Canada’s colonialism. Ophea refers to provincial curricula for guidance and inspiration to support teachers across Ontario with the implementation of quality Health and Physical Education, and supports greater integration of Indigenous perspectives into all curricula.
Understanding Parental Attitudes Towards Health in Ontario Schools
Ophea surveyed parents/caregivers of Ontario school-aged children to better understand their perspectives on pressing health issues, Health and Physical Education (H&PE), healthy schools, physical activity, and safety. The survey results found that parents/caregivers believe that Ontario schools have an important role to play in supporting the health and well-being of their children, but have concerns about how equipped kids are to meet 21st century health challenges.
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Physical Activity in the Elementary School Setting: Evidence Energizer
This Evidence Energizer presents Ophea’s key messages related to physical activity in the elementary school setting, and provides an evidence-based rationale for each message along with a complete bibliography of sources. These key messages are relevant to anyone promoting physical activity and the implementation of quality H&PE in elementary schools in Ontario.