It’s spring and the playground at Chatham’s Queen Elizabeth II School is alive with the steady beat of jump ropes slapping the asphalt and the sounds of kids repeating age-old chants: “One potato, two potato, three potato, four…”
Once infected with spring fever, students often struggle to maintain their focus on indoor learn- ing. That is, unless they happen to attend a school like Queen Elizabeth II, where daily activity is part of every timetable. The school won the Ophea 2005 School Community Award.
The entire school focuses on promoting health- ier lifestyles through increased physical activity and better nutrition. It is one of ﬁve schools piloting an I Can Be Healthy program sponsored by the local health unit and other community partners. As part of this focus, the school is reintroducing old-fashioned playground games. It is also replacing chips and pop sold outside the gym during nutrition breaks, with healthier choices including cheese, yogurt, ice cream, pick- les, granola bars, chocolate milk and juice.
“Hammering home the idea of living healthier lifestyles sums up the program in a nutshell,” says physical education teacher, Dave Allin. “Any- thing that can get kids more active is beneﬁcial. I’d deﬁnitely recommend the program to other schools.”
Each class has two 40-minutes physical education classes in its timetable. That and the comprehensive intramural program mean the gym is seldom quiet. Allin, one of the driving forces behind the Queen Elizabeth II program, co- ordinates an extensive list of intramural activities such as dodge ball, crab soccer, ﬂag football, soccer, basketball, volleyball and ﬂoor hockey. He also oversees numerous school teams.
Classroom teachers wondered how they would squeeze the 20 minutes of daily activity mandated by the province into timetables already jammed with core subjects, EQAO test preparation, anti-bullying programs, and a variety of health and safety lessons. But, notes Allin,“everything went pretty smoothly. Staff was receptive to time slots allotted to their classes for activity periods and worked their schedules around it.”
Twice a week, on days when there are no regular phys. ed. classes, all three intermediate classes go outside together for 40 minutes just before the ﬁrst nutrition break. (Queen Elizabeth II operates on balanced day).
Teachers join in, modelling sportsmanship while helping build school spirit. They try to vary activities, keeping at least three choices such as basket- ball, touch football and dodge ball available at once. Some days, they walk the perimeter of the yard, or follow a route through the neighbourhood.