Physical & emotional safety is a precondition for learning in H&PE

Students learn best in an environment that is physically and emotionally
safe. In health and physical education, we often think of the need to keep our students physically safe. We have them checking to ensure their shoes are laced, hair is tied, and jewellery is removed. There is physically an inherent risk, and we want to do as much as we can to reduce it.

As educators we need to keep in mind that students learning is occurring in a public space where others can see them explore, learn, succeed, and make mistakes, and because of this, students emotionally safety should be top of mind as well. Student’s also discuss health topics that may be personal, and have implications for their personal health and well-being, so creating an inclusive and emotionally safe environment is critical.

Teachers need to provide a physically and emotionally safe environment for learning by emphasizing the importance of safety in physical activity, treating students with respect at all times, being sensitive to individual differences, following all board safety guidelines, and providing an inclusive learning environment that recognizes and respects the diversity of all students and accommodates individual strengths, needs, and interests.

A recent video from Ophea shares how some teachers in Ontario are bringing these concepts to life. Check it out!

Is your learning environment physically and emotionally safe? Ask yourself these reflection questions from the Ontario Health and Physical Education curriculum, 2015.

Self-check Questions:

  • Is instruction designed to ensure a positive experience in a safe, inclusive, and
    supportive environment for all students?
  • Are all school board safety and equity guidelines being followed?
  • Are intentional steps being taken by educators and students to build skills for
    healthy relationships and ensure that bullying and harassment are prevented, or
    addressed if and when they occur, in the change room, the gym, outdoors, and in
    all learning spaces?
  • Are activities being modified or adapted as required to ensure that all students
    are included?
  • Is exercise presented as a positive and healthy experience rather than being used
    as punishment?
  • Does the program ensure maximum participation for all by avoiding activities
    in which students may be eliminated from play, and thereby deprived of
    opportunities to participate, practise, and improve?
  • Are teams designated in ways that are inclusive and fair, avoiding potentially
    insensitive methods of selection (e.g., having teams chosen by student captains)?
  • Are students’ diverse backgrounds taken into account when health topics are
    introduced, to ensure that discussions have personal relevance and that topics
    are addressed with sensitivity?

4 Ways to Make Your Phys.Ed. Class Inclusive Today.

When planning your physical education class, all students no matter their ability or level of physical activity should be able to participate fully in all aspects of your program. Here are four strategies you can use  for adapting games and activities for participants with varying ability levels.

  1. Equipment Size: The size of the equipment can be modified to allow a student to be more independent and successful. Larger balls can be used to make catching and striking easier. Smaller bats or striking implements can be used for students who cannot hold regulation bats, and lowering nets in volleyball or making baskets lower and balls larger can be used in basketball. The weight of objects can be modified in such a way that the game can be slowed down or can be made less intimidating. For example, a beachball or balloon can replace a volleyball or a soft skin ball or deflated soccer ball can replace a regulation soccer ball.
  2. Space: The playing area can be made smaller by making alternative boundaries. The space can also be made smaller by utilizing the corner of the gym or room so that the ball does not go as far away from the students. Rather than playing one large game of any sport, multiple small game should be utilized to maximize student participation.
  3. Peer Assistance: The buddy system can help build self-confidence for students, and buddies should be volunteers vs. being assigned. If there is a range in ages of students in a school, pairing a younger and an older student together could help to make the situation less intimidating for the younger student.
  4. Rules of the Game: Adjust the rules of activities to increase students’ chances of success while maintaining an optimal level of challenge. Consider increasing the number of tries/attempts allowed, making a target bigger or moving it closer, as well as lengthening or shortening the amount of playing time.

Most importantly, educators should approach each situation on an individual basis, in consultation with the student as well as utilizing any support personal/systems and agencies that are available.

For more information on inclusive physical education, check out Ophea’s Steps to Inclusion resource, available for free here.

March Break Family Yoga Fun

March Break is here! But rather than sitting your kiddies in front of the TV why not get active and move together. Try these fun  kid friendly yoga moves you can do at home or outdoors.

Why Kids Yoga?

While the activities below have many benefits for the parent (mindfulness, breathing awareness, strength and flexibility), it’s important to remember that kids yoga has a slightly different focus, but should have equally (or more) fun!

Keep these four areas in mind when leading a family practice.

1. Mindfulness: Consider sitting or lying comfortably together and making thoughtful connections to personal and interpersonal skills such as being a friend, communication skills, coping and management skills, as well as character development.

2. Breathing awareness: Being aware of their breathing and using breath can help children to relax, such as before a quiz, sporting game, or performance. Energizing breaths can also be used to help children wake up and be alert.

3. The development of physical literacy: This includes helping our children to learn to move with competence, confidence and creativity in a variety of setting. Children who are physically literate have an awareness of the fundamental movement skills (those explored in yoga include balance and stability).

4. Most importantly the focus should be on fun! Family yoga should provide opportunities, to laugh, celebrate, and be connected as a family. Hold hands, touch feet, and giggle lots!

It’s important to model and share our love of movement, as we know through research on physical literacy, that active children grow to be active adults. So let’s move together!

Story Telling Fun

Story telling is one of my favourite ways to support kiddies doing yoga. Whether it’s acting out a favourite book while you read along or making up stories as they go, there are many connections that can be made to promote (language) literacy and physical literacy. Try some of these ideas with your kids!

Elephant Trunk Breathing.


Traditionally promotes increased energy. Stand with feet hips width apart. Inhale through your nose reaching your arms (trunk) above your head, on the exhale, release the air through your month as you stretch your trunk down towards your feet.

Parent prompts: As you inhale, how high can you reach your trunk? How close to the floor can you stretch your trunk as you breathe out? 

Tree Pose.


From Mountain Pose, stand on one foot (rooting it into the ground) and place the other foot near the ankle, below the knee on the calf, or above the knee on the thigh (avoid placing the foot on the knee) and keep your hands on your waist in palm to palm in front of the chest. Once stable, stretch both arms (branches) up to the sky, maybe even together above your head.

Parent prompts: What kind of tree are you? What happens to your tree when it gets windy? Can you move in the wind?

Downward Facing Dog.

IMG_7162From table top position (on hands and knees), curl your toes under and lift your hips up and back. Stretch your arms and legs long as you try to reach your heels towards the floor.

Parent prompts: What kind of dog are you? What’s your dog’s name? What healthy snacks does your dog like to eat? Can your dog stretch high on his/her toes? What does your bark sound like?



Sit on the floor with knees bent and feet close to your pelvis. Open your knees (opening the wings of your butterfly). Use your peace fingers to hold on to your big toes. Keep the outside of your feet pressing into the floor.

Parent prompts: Where is your butterfly going? Can you flap your wings slow? Can you flap your wings fast? Can you squeeze your wings tight to your body? Can you open your wings wide?



Sit on the floor with knees bent in front of the body and hands beside your seat. Engage the core and lift legs 45-50 degrees relative to the floor, keeping knees bent so shins are parallel to the floor, hands can hold back of knees (making the shape of a boat). If available, consider stretching the legs long and hover hands along the side of the body with core engaged while balancing on your seat.

Parent prompts: Can you row your boat? (Move arms along side of body as if paddling) Can you hold the pose while we sing “Row Row Row Your Boat”? Use this pose while reading/watching/listening to “The Own And The Pussy Cat.”


IMG_7159Face each other with a slight bend in the knee and feet touch. Legs can either by straight or open in a straddle (If partners legs are longer or shorter consider touching anywhere. E.g., feet to knees). Lean forwards to grasp hands (a larger bend in the knee might be needed). Gently pull your partners hands as you lean back. After 10-15 seconds switch and let your partner pull you forward.

Parent prompts: Where do you feel the stretch? How long can you reach your body? Can you reach your stretch right out of the top of your head? Consider chanting “See” as you lean one way and “Saw” as you lean the other.

How do you get active as a family? Let me know in the comments!

 Tune in to CH Morning Live on Thursday March 14th to see this sequence in action! Didn’t catch us live – chick here and watch it now!