The Health and Physical Education (H&PE) Curriculum "is based on the vision that the knowledge and skills students acquire in the program will benefit them throughout their lives and enable them to thrive in an ever-changing world by helping them develop physical and health literacy as well as the comprehension, capacity and commitment they will need to lead healthy, active lives and promote healthy, active living" (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2015a, p. 6).
Focus courses provide the unique ability to address this vision through a specialized lens. Healthy Active Living Education (HALE) courses are designed such that schools may develop courses from Grades 9-12 that focus on a particular group of physical activities. These activities are the vehicle through which students will achieve the curriculum expectations for that grade. The activity area chosen as the focus for a course should be seen strictly as the medium through which students will achieve the course expectations, including living skills expectations. Regardless of the particular area on which a course is focused, students must be given the opportunity to achieve all the expectations for the course that are set out in this document (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2015a, p. 20).
When planning, teachers must keep the goals of the H&PE Curriculum at the forefront of their decision making as they choose to offer a focus course. Within the context of a focus course, and throughout all strands, students will develop:
- the living skills needed to develop resilience and a secure identity and sense of self through opportunities to learn adaptive, management and coping skills; to practise communication skills; to learn how to build relationships and interact positively with others; and to learn how to use critical and creative thinking processes;
- the skills and knowledge that will enable them to develop and improve their own fitness through opportunities to participate regularly and safely in physical activity, enabling them to enjoy being active and healthy throughout their lives;
- the movement competence needed to participate in a range of physical activities, through opportunities to develop movement skills and to apply movement concepts and strategies in games, sports, dance and other physical activities; and
- an understanding of the factors that contribute to healthy development, a sense of personal responsibility for lifelong health and an understanding of how living healthy and how active lives are connected with the world around them and the health of others (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2015a, p. 6).
Purpose of Focus Courses:
A focus course is any HALE course offered from Grades 9-12 that utilizes a particular group of physical activities and a particular lens applicable to the health living expectations to provide all students with the necessary opportunities to meet the curriculum expectations. This can be achieved through a contextualized delivery of the curriculum, coupled with unique instructional strategies and experiential learning opportunities to further emphasize the chosen focus for the students (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2015a, p. 20-21).
“The intent behind focus courses is not to focus on a single sport – in other words, not to offer a ‘hockey course’ or a ‘basketball course’ or a ‘tennis course’ – but rather to give students the opportunity to experience a variety of physical activities as they acquire knowledge and skills related to healthy living” (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2015a, p. 21).
Focus courses are offered to:
- meet the interests and needs of students by providing a variety of health and physical education courses that offer a wide assortment of physical activities to transfer skills into lifelong participation. (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2015a, p. 21) For example:
- Healthy Living and Aquatic Activities (PAQ) provides students with experiences unique to a water environment and might include learning to swim/stroke development, competitive swimming techniques and training, lifesaving skills, synchronized swimming and use of guest speakers to supplement learning (e.g., local firefighters, paramedics).
- Healthy Living and Large Group Activities (PAL) provides students with experiences unique to an ice environment. Using the Teaching Games for Understanding (TGfU) approach, teachers provide opportunities for large group/team-based activities that support students in further developing transferable skills, strategies and tactics common to territory games played on ice. Activities might include learning to skate, hockey skills, broomball and off-ice strength training to improve performance and develop fitness.
- increase the rate of student participation in physical activity and engage a wider number of students by responding to their interest in particular types of activities;
- improve programming flexibility and broaden the range of options available to students as they select courses to meet graduation requirements, allowing them to customize their individual pathways to better suit their interests and needs;
- provide opportunities for all levels of competitiveness and skills rather than be used as an opportunity to enhance existing interschool athletics; and
- be inclusive for all students and not selective on the basis of age, gender or prior experience.
All focus courses must include the healthy living expectations and must integrate the development of living skills throughout the course.
Types of Focus Courses:
The possible areas of focus for a HALE course are as follows (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2015a, p. 20):
- Healthy Living and Outdoor Activities (PAD);
- Healthy Living and Personal and Fitness Activities (PAF);
- Healthy Living and Individual and Small-Group Activities (PAI);
- Healthy Living and Large-Group Activities (PAL);
- Healthy Living and Aquatic Activities (PAQ); and
- Healthy Living and Rhythm and Movement Activities (PAR).
All Course Names have been changed to include “Healthy Living” in an effort to support the Vision and Goals of the H&PE curriculum and to emphasize the mandate that all focus courses must address the healthy living expectations for the grade at which the focus course is offered. This will help to ensure both student health and physical literacy.
Course Codes for the possible focus courses that may be developed in each grade reference the Ontario Ministry of Education website.
Course Descriptions should begin with the full course description for the HALE course for the particular grade and end with a statement describing the types of activities that the course will focus on. For example, the course description for a Grade 11 Individual and Small Group Activities course (PAI3O) would use the description for the Grade 11 Healthy Active Living Education course (PPL3O), followed by a statement describing the focus activities, e.g., “The course will focus on a variety of individual, dual and small group activities, such as golf, combatives, athletics and curling” (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2015a, p. 21).
The knowledge and skills acquired in any focus course, from all of the curriculum expectations, will form an integrated whole that relates to the everyday experiences of students. Focus courses will provide students with an authentic experience in which they will integrate their learning with their community experiences. Focus courses will provide additional opportunities for students to develop the physical literacy and health literacy that they will need to lead healthy, active lives.