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FOULDS: Should the ‘physical’ in education be re-introduced?
Kids who are fighting weight problems are the focus of a program that encourages healthy eating and active lifestyles.
The 10-week program, which begins in January, is called Kamloops Healthy Weights for Children: Shapedown BC.
It is a partnership between the Interior Health Authority and the Kamloops Y and will see families meet at the Y twice a week to learn how to exercise and eat their way to better health — with a dietitian and a mental-health worker helping out.
(Call 250-851-7300 for more information on the initiative).
Such a program is fantastic as it targets kids when health problems begin, the goal being to get unhealthy kids to become health adults, thereby helping them and, by association, acting as a preventive measure that just may save health-care dollars down the road.
Any such measures are welcome, with the announcement being accompanied by quotes attributed to Kamloops’ two MLAs.
The press release quoted Kamloops-North Thompson Liberal MLA and Health Minister Terry Lake: “We are proud to invest in strategies, which are working to improve health outcomes for young people and their families right across B.C.”
The press release also quoted Kamloops-South Thompson Liberal MLA and Transportation Minister Todd Stone: “The impact of obesity on a young person’s quality of life is significant and we know this program’s approach has proven benefits.”
There was also a quote from Dr. Tom Warshawski, chairman of the Childhood Obesity Foundation: “It’s up to us to reduce the risk of chronic diseases associated with obesity for children and help improve the lives of British Columbians and their families.”
From reading about this worthwhile program, it dawned on me that we can hardly go a day without hearing something about the crisis that is childhood obesity.
Why, then, is physical education mandatory only through Grade 9?
Would it not mesh with the provincial government’s goal of getting our kids fitter to perhaps mandate that our kids continue taking gym class through to graduation?
It struck me as odd that we have this pervasive problem among some of our youth, yet the “physical” portion of their education essentially ends somewhere in their Grade 9 year.
Back in my day, we did not have a semester system, but took our courses throughout the year.
Kamloops high schools employ the semester system, which means kids in Grade 9 who start with P.E. in September will be finished shortly after Christmas.
Yes, the Ministry of Education does have its graduation-transitions program, in which students in grades 10 to 12 must document and report a minimum of 150 minutes per week of physical activity at a moderate to vigorous intensity.
This self-reporting course is better than nothing, one supposes, but cannot possibly be as effective as having kids attend a regular gym class and being pushed to do their best while learning new athletic skills.
A Ministry of Education spokesman told me P.E. has not been mandatory in grades 10 to 12 for at least two decades.
The class was likely dropped from the mandatory list as students in grades 11 and 12 were faced with tackling more difficult academic subjects as university-entrance requirements continued to become more daunting.
It is an understandable situation.
However, when the Ministry of Education notes that “three out of five school-aged children in Canada (ages five to 17) are not active enough for optimal growth and development” and that “one in every four children in B.C. between the ages of two and 17 is overweight or obese,” surely there must be room to insert the gym class back into the mandatory schedules of students as they enter their senior high-school years.