Section 3: Considerations for Offering a Focus Course

The Healthy Active Living Education (HALE) courses outlined in the Health and Physical Education (H&PE) Curriculum are designed to allow secondary schools the opportunity to develop focus courses for Grades 9 through 12. These courses will focus on a particular group of physical activities through which students can achieve the curriculum expectations. The type of focus chosen for a course should be seen strictly as the medium through which students will achieve the course expectations, including the Living Skills expectations (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2015a, p. 20). The curriculum expectations for the grade that the course is offered at provide the focus for learning, not the activities themselves. The activities that are offered within the focus course may pique a student’s interest in learning, thus providing the motivation to acquire the knowledge and skills as defined by the curriculum expectations.

Students need to be connected to the curriculum and should see themselves reflected in what is taught, how it is taught and how it applies to the world at large. The curriculum recognizes that the needs of learners are diverse, and helps all learners develop the knowledge, skills and perspectives to help them become informed, productive, caring, responsible, healthy and active citizens in their own communities and in the world. A focus course allows students the opportunity to experience a wide variety of physical activities that are directly related to their community resources, and resources within the school (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2015a, p. 21).

These are just a few examples of how a focus course might provide opportunities for students to make connections between their learning experiences and opportunities within their community:

  • Healthy Living and Outdoor Activities (PAD): access provincial parks, hiking trails, groomed trails for cross country skiing, downhill skiing venues and outdoor skating rinks.
  • Healthy Living and Personal and Fitness Activities (PAF): access community fitness facilities (e.g., a local fitness, community or youth centre) and community fitness resources (e.g., guest speakers, yoga instructors, personal trainers).

These authentic connections to the students’ real world experiences and opportunities, coupled with the knowledge and skills developed in the delivery of Healthy Living expectations, will help to ensure that focus courses allow students to make positive connections to their communities and pursue healthy, active lifestyles.

When considering implementing a focus course, remember that:

  • 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 the H&PE Curriculum for the grade at which the course is to be offered; and
  • extensive thought must be given to activity choices and the delivery of the Healthy Living curriculum expectations to meet the students’ diverse interests and needs, and to ensure that the focus course offers differentiated experiences from its “parent” HALE course.

Considerations for Supporting Student Interests and Needs

As schools choose to create and implement any type of focus course into their programming, remember that:

  • the course should be designed to support the goal of high-quality learning while giving individual students the opportunity to choose programs that suit their skills and interests;
  • the course must address all aspects of the H&PE Curriculum to enable students to better customize their high school education and improve their prospects for success in school and in life;
  • the inclusion of focus courses will increase the opportunities for students involved with Specialized High Skills Major (SHSM) programs in Sport and Health and Wellness to continue to utilize H&PE courses to fulfil their pathways;
  • the associated certifications and experiential learning opportunities that could be offered that are directly related to the type of focus course would help to support sector connections and post-secondary options;
  • the course should support the concept of lifelong physical activity participation as it relates to current opportunities that exist within a community and support students in accessing activities within the community connected to the focus of the course.

Example: Healthy Living and Personal and Fitness Activities (PAF)

  • The activities and skills developed within the school can be used by the students in any community facility. Such opportunities will enhance both the students’ comfort and confidence as they explore how to continue to develop their personal fitness throughout their lives.
  • The students will also develop the ability to enhance their ability as a consumer to determine which type of community facility (e.g., community youth facility, fitness club, yoga studio) might best suit their needs and interests.