Academic Insights: TCS Health & Physical Education Department

Concept layout for new HPE classroom

These are fun times for the Health and Physical Education (HPE) department at Trinity College School. The excitement is palpable as the new Arnold Massey ’55 Athletic Centre comes closer to being a reality with every day. The new facility (comprising three new gyms, workout facility, squash courts, classroom, offices and athletic therapy clinic) will be vital to co-curricular and sports teams’ success. However, the biggest impact is sure to be felt by students in HPE classes and the dedicated teachers who teach in the spaces.  

For students taking HPE courses starting in September, the changes will be significant. No longer will there be sharing of gyms and courts, as there will be enough for each class to have its own space. Up-to-date cardio equipment in the workout facility will provide ample opportunity to train and mentor other students during fitness units.

New learning and work spaces to be a highlight of the athletic centre

However, the pièce de résistance will perhaps be the HPE classroom. Great care and planning has gone into the design of the entire athletic facility; in particular, the classroom and office spaces are expected to be modern and functional spaces. The new classroom and office layout will provide a state-of-the-art design meant to encourage movement and get away from the traditional sedentary learning environment and office environment – or the “Sitting Disease.” The term “Sitting Disease” has been coined by the scientific community and refers to the ill effects of an overly sedentary lifestyle. Recent research has shown that many health problems can arise from sitting for too long day after day. This is an issue that is relevant to adults and children alike. 

The classroom space will be quite large and is designed with the modern-day student in mind. The ability to quickly and efficiently move classroom furniture around to better suit the lesson will be a big change. Many different seating options will exist to promote movement by the students either by subtly swaying in a chair, or using a stand-up desk. The opportunity to stand up, change posture, engage different muscles and move around the room can be very beneficial. There is ample research which shows that kids who are physically active in general are not only healthier, but are also likely to perform better academically. Incorporating exercise and movement throughout the school day makes students less fidgety and more focused on learning.

Teachers in the HPE department (consisting of: Angie Collins, Erin McGee, Luke O’Connell, Jen Powles and I) will benefit greatly from the comfort of a new office. Similar to the design of the new classroom, the office is meant to model what a modern, healthy, working office can be. It will be functional, yet designed for the user to have an ergonomic workspace with movement in order to prevent a sedentary work day.

This year in HPE

As far as the current school year goes, there have been many exciting happenings in HPE courses recently. The Grade 9 students are actively engaged through the Teaching Games for Understanding (TGFU) model of teaching sport. The students learn the main skills and strategies of a sport, practice the skills over a number of classes, and conclude by having a professional day where they are assessed when putting all of the movements together. Classes just finished the net/wall unit of volleyball and badminton. In health classes, students have been learning about substance use and misuse, health dimensions and nutrition.

The Travel Outdoor Education students (PAD3O-T) recently completed their second camping trip to northern Algonquin Provincial Park. The students were able to experience the Canadian wilderness with activities such as dogsledding, ice fishing and cross-country skiing. The students in this course will embark on their final canoe trip in early May. The regular Outdoor Education sections (PAD3O) managed to get a few snowshoe and winter activity classes in with what has been a challenging winter for snow conditions. They did, however, seem to get the best ski conditions of the year for the annual Brimacombe downhill ski trip on Valentine’s Day.

The Grade 12 Leadership course (PLF4M) continues to shape students into more effective leaders and allow them to work on their personal leadership style. Most recently, students have completed the National Coaching Certification Program’s “Fundamental Movement” course, which teaches coaches working with young children how to help develop their fundamental movement skills. In the spring, students in this course will be working towards their large summative assignment of leading an event for the School.

Lastly, it is fantastic to have such tremendous young emerging teachers working with the HPE faculty this year. Jacqui Scheffel has been invaluable as the HPE intern and everyone is excited that she will be returning to TCS next year to coach Bigside girls hockey. Residential assistants Trevor Clark and Jess Enman, as well as academic support intern April Looije, continue to provide excellent care and commitment to the HPE students of TCS.

- By Tom Tansley, head of health & physical education