|SPOTLIGHT ON WESTMOUNT HIGH SCHOOL’S PHYSICAL EDUCATION AND HEALTH PROGRAM|
MONTREAL, JANUARY 6, 2016 – For those who enjoy seeing a vision in action, getting to know the Westmount High School Physical Education and Health (PEH) program will serve you well.
The program, in fact, takes it missions directly from the pages of the Quebec Education Program’s Introductory to the Secondary Cycle II Physical Education Program which states: “Therefore, upon completion of the program, students will have developed the tools they will need throughout their lives to feel well, to be physically and mentally healthy, to feel good about themselves and to live in harmony with others.
Program innovation began several years ago, as Westmount brainstormed some solutions to the challenge faced by the PEH teachers to cover all course content within the subject-time allocated to the course at the Secondary level. A proposal was put forward and ultimately adopted to increase PEH from two periods on a nine-day cycle to three at the Cycle I (Grade 7 and 8) level. A health classroom was created, as well as an additional period. This allowed for Competency 3 (Adopts an Active Healthy Lifestyle) to be covered in a more thorough and meaningful way for students. The PEH department observed a difference with this increase in subject time in that students leave Cycle I with a more solid foundation of important health-related knowledge that serves them in their daily management of their health and well-being.
Another major initiative that Westmount pursued was the creation of a fitness centre. Years ago, the initial space that now houses the fitness centre was nothing more than a storage area. A few pieces of personal fitness equipment eventually ended up in the room due to a staff member moving residences, resulting in the space being used for the occasional workout by staff. In seeing an opportunity to enable students to acquire fitness skills to support life-long physical activity, the idea of transforming the space into a fitness center took hold.
The PEH department proceeded to undertake a major initiative with the Secondary V Leadership class at the time. The vision was that the room would be used by staff and students during lunch hours or before and after-school, as the space was not big enough to accommodate physical education classes. With a major investment of time from the Leadership students and the PEH department, as well as involvement from some members of the wider school community, the storage area was cleared out, cleaned, and painted. The department put a major focus on applying for grants and seeking donations to fill the room with as much equipment as possible. With true appreciation for the change that a team effort can bring, a fitness center was opened.
Seeing how much the students enjoyed using the fitness centre during lunch hours made it hard to ignore the possibility for further development. Not only would being able to use the fitness center within the Physical Education program strongly support the development of Competency 3, but the additional space would help ease what had become a major PEH scheduling challenge as the student population continued to grow. Opportunity presented itself when a room adjacent to the fitness center became vacant. With the continued support of an administration who saw the value a fitness center would bring to students and the PEH program, a wall was knocked down that tripled the size of the room. With this major renovation came continued efforts to acquire equipment. Additionally, the vice-principal at the time drove the installation of a Smart Board. The 2015-2016 academic year has been the first that the new and improved fitness centre has become a part of PEH programming and scheduling.
Learning and Evaluation Situation
This fitness centre is supported in the PEH curriculum through a major Fitness Learning and Evaluation Situation (LES) developed by the PEH department. This year, the PEH department is also the first within the EMSB to use the Polar Go Fit App that was recently acquired by the board. Polar Go Fit is a system for recording and communicating information on heart rates. With the use of the Smart Board, heart rates can be projected onto the screen so students can visually see in live time how different activity levels affect their heart rate and learn what it feels like to be working in certain training zones and intensity levels (e.g. what type of activity is appropriate for a warm-up versus a work-out). Karen Kleihauer, a long-time member of the Physical Education department at Westmount, credits the long-term vision and dedication of both the Physical Education Department as well as the administration at Westmount High in making the PEH program and fitness center what it is today.
The PEH program is complemented by two additional elective courses at Westmount High. The Secondary V Leadership and Community Action course allows students to develop a higher degree of leadership competency within physical activity settings. Students are given the opportunity to try a wider variety of activities connected to the community around them and take on leadership roles in school initiatives.
Additionally, unique to Westmount High is the ECHO course, which stands for Ecological Choices Health and the Outdoors. ECHO is essentially a life-skills course with an ecological focus. Students are guided to reflect on their environmental impact, and are introduced to activities that are connected to nature, such as compass and orienteering skills, a challenge on Mount Royal, and a nature observation activity throughout four seasons. The course also has a food focus that invites students to explore culinary activities and the environmental implications of the choices we make around food.
As students progress through their education at Westmount High, they are provided with an important foundation of knowledge and skills to manage their health, a varied Physical Education curriculum, skills needed to become comfortable in a strength and conditioning setting and develop personal plans of action, and the opportunity acquire life-skills through exploring interests in the area of leadership and the environment. In the words of the Quebec Education Program, students will have developed the tools they will need throughout their lives to feel well, to be physically and mentally healthy, to feel good about themselves and to live in harmony with others.
Michael J. Cohen