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Schools & Child Care

Physical Activity


Children and youth spend more time within schools than any other setting. Educators are important role models for students and schools are an ideal place to promote health by creating daily opportunities to increase physical activity and reduce sedentary behaviour. 

Educators understand that student success depends on more than traditional classroom work. It is maximized when students reach their academic, emotional, and physical potential. Research shows that daily physical activity improves concentration and academic achievement and can enhance math, reading, and writing test scores.  A teacher’s guidance is essential to students’ success. Making activity a regular part of the student’s day will place importance on being healthy and active – a lesson that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. (The Ontario Ministry of Education)

Physical activity patterns established in childhood can last into adulthood and improve health and developmental outcomes throughout life. School-based physical activity initiatives can reach almost every child regardless of age, ability, gender, culture and socio-economic background.  Both structured and unstructured activity is important and daily activity can be obtained through classes, sports, intramurals, dance, but also through play time and walking or biking for transportation. 

Lesson Plans

  • Eat Well and Be Active Educational Toolkit – Designed by Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada to help teach healthy eating and physical activity and encourage students to take action to maintain and improve their health. The toolkit contains an Eat Well and Be Active Every Day poster, activity plans and images.
  • Ophea:  H&PE Curriculum Resources – For Grades 1 to 8. These curriculum resources are available to subscribing School Boards across Ontario through a password protected website.

Curriculum Supports

  • Into Nature: A Guide to Teaching in Nearby Nature (PDF) – A unique teacher’s guide that enables the teaching of all Ontario school curriculum subjects outdoors in nature. Includes logistics, resources and learning experiences for teaching in nature. All learning experiences are linked to Ontario curriculum documents. 
  • Passport For Life - Physical Literacy Resource (PHE Canada) – This free online resource supports the awareness, assessment, development and advancement of physical literacy among students, teachers and parents. The four components of physical literacy assessed are Active Participation, Living Skills, Fitness Skills and Movement Skills.  Included are tools, guidelines, and instructions for completing assessments and interpreting results as well as resources to help students set goals and work towards continued improvement of physical literacy. 
  • 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for Children and Youth (PDF) – An Integration of Physical Activity, Sedentary Behaviour and Sleep and the first evidence-based guidelines to address the whole day. School Educators can download the guidelines and view related resources.
  • 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for Children and Youth Poster - This poster was created to help raise awareness of the Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for Children and Youth (aged 5–17).
  • Canadian Intramural Recreation Association (CIRA) – CIRA Ontario has downloadable resources including games, videos and books that provide activities, field day games, and active playground ideas
  • Physical Health & Education Canada - Educational Resources – Includes resources to support teaching fundamental movement and sport skills through handbooks, online videos, programs and activities. Resources are available at a cost.
  • PlaySport (Ophea) – This activity-based resource helps children and youth develop an understanding of and competency with skills and strategies associated with physical activities and a wide range of sports. The activities can provide experiences for participants to help them build physical literacy, health literacy and the skills for healthy active living.
  • Daily Physical Activity/DPA Policy – For Grades 1 to 8. Daily physical activity is critical to supporting Healthy Schools and improving academic achievement. The Ministry of Education, in partnership with the Physical and Health Education Association has developed a variety of grade specific resources to support teachers in implementing PPM 138: Daily Physical Activity in Elementary Schools.

SMDHU Programs

The health unit also offers a variety of programs and services for elementary schools (PDF), covering a wide range of health-related topics.

  • School Travel Planning – School Travel Planning is a comprehensive process designed to increase local ownership of Active & Safe Routes to School by engaging stakeholders that include school boards, municipal transportation planners and engineers, public health, community groups, police, parents, students and school staff.   Stakeholders undertake an assessment of barriers and enablers to active school travel and use this knowledge to develop and implement action plans. See Green Communities Canada video to learn more. Public health staff are available to work with school communities to support each step in the STP process. Take a look at our STP flyer and contact us.
  • Outdoor Naturalized Play Areas: Public health nurses can provide information and support for implementation of play and learning environments that include a variety of natural and built elements. For more information on a rapid evidence review completed by the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit on Naturalized Outdoor Play Areas at Schools to Support Physical Activity and Health, see here.

Additional Resources

  • Bam! Body and Mind - Teacher’s Corner – Developed by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Activity cards provide quick access to information on how to play, what gear is needed and what parts of the body are worked for a number of physical activities. 
  • Raise the Bar – For educators involved in intramural/house league programs in Ontario, Raise the Bar provides easy to use resources with a focus on inclusion and effective student leadership models.

Visit the physical activity section of the health unit’s website for more information about physical activity across the lifespan.

Are you concerned about a student and/or would like additional information related to counselling or community supports? Find out where to get help.



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