“Not your dad’s gym class.”
Ryan Gordy, District Wellness Coordinator for Canton Public Schools in Massachusetts, knows that wellness and physical education classes often come with stereotypes. But Canton is far from just ‘rolling out the ball.’ Instead, the wellness department is something Ryan and his colleagues are proud to see as a staple of the district,
“When we do wellness and physical education right, the entire community benefits. We have healthier and happier students who will also perform better in and out of the classroom. And we have a town and community that supports that idea.”
The Canton wellness department sets clear goals and expectations to champion wellness and physical education K-12.
To guide them year over year, they have a clear mission that they are proud of.
The Canton Wellness Mission
“We will encourage, educate, and motivate our students to make positive daily decisions and to develop healthy lifestyle habits.”
This mission is used to measure the success of any class, unit, or curriculum. Ryan says it also fits into the larger district picture,
“Our wellness mission fits our overall school district’s mission and goals. And it is not just for elementary school or high school. It unifies and unites everyone from our kindergarten classes to our graduating seniors.”
The mission statement comes paired with guiding questions that can also fit into any class or curriculum area.
- How does (Wellness) impact my quality of life?
- How do I achieve overall wellness for myself and my community?
The word wellness can be swapped out to fit the unit within any grade level or class topic.
- How does yoga impact my quality of life?
- How does fitness impact my quality of life?
- How does nutrition impact my quality of life?
- How do sports impact my quality of life?
Throughout the entire K-12 wellness experience, students are met with a consistent theme that supports them as learners.
High School Physical Education Classes
While the mission shines throughout K-12, Canton’s high school class offerings help to illuminate the progressive approach they are taking in wellness and physical education.
Coming from middle to high school can be challenging for students. So Canton sets out to make the first-year experience welcoming and inclusive so that students positively connect to their wellness class, peers, and school.
Experience Education Class
Rather than putting a teacher up at the front of the classroom, the experience education class puts freshmen students in the driver’s seat for their learning. The goal is to build transferable life skills collaboratively. Ryan describes it as a game-changer for new students,
“It allows the freshman to come and connect with classmates. We had really good feedback on this approach and its impact and influence on the culture of our school.”
To facilitate the class, Canton uses Playmeo, an online resource that introduces different activity-based lessons.
Different types of units include:
- Problem Solving Unit
- Collaboration Unit
- Leader & Follower Unit
- Create Your Own Game Unit
In addition to the experience education class, freshmen are required to take a health class. In this class, PE teacher Adam Hughes has taken a similar approach to adapt and change the class,
“When I first got to the school, the health class was primarily the teacher up at the front of the class lecturing.”
After taking an end-of-semester survey, Adam discovered that students were not learning as much as he had hoped. To turn health class into an impactful experience for students, he switched to a similar model as the experience-based learning class,
“It is a real-world focus model where students are tasked with addressing problems that teenagers face in our society and our community. In groups, they spend most of the semester researching and putting together resources to give to the greater school community.”
In doing so, students have the opportunity to feel connected to the different topics and teach one another. It has changed the way students interact with health education.
As students progress to their second year in high school, the transition focuses on personal wellness and fitness. Past just physical activity, Canton looks at the complete picture and pairs fitness with nutrition.
Personal Wellness – Fitness
For the fitness component, PE teacher Adam Hughes who also leads the sophomore class offering, wants everyone to start on the same page,
“We start everyone with the basics. We want to start everyone with foundational movements like squat, lunge, hinge, press, and pull. Regardless of the fitness background students come to class with, we make sure everyone is introduced to or reviews the fundamentals.”
To cover the fundamentals, Canton uses PLT4M’s introductory program offerings like the intro to fitness program. In doing so, Adam combines his own demonstrations with PLT4M instructional videos to help students understand proper form and technique.
“After we go over the basics together in class, some students will continue within the beginner level programming, while others can move on to more advanced options.”
Inside look! Check out tweets spotlighting the personal wellness class.
Sophomore personal wellness starting our @PLT4M Personal Fitness program today. We worked back squat, pistols, hammy bucks, and a finisher. This group brought tremendous focus and energy and challenged themselves with adding appropriate resistance! #ChampionsOfWellness pic.twitter.com/BAqH2vpM6d— Canton Strength & Conditioning, CSCS (@CantonSC1) October 20, 2021
Because nutrition is so intertwined with overall wellness, Adam makes nutrition a focus of the class. Within a 5-day teaching block, the sophomore group will cover three fitness days and two nutrition days.
Within the nutrition days, students have the opportunity to read, watch, and explore PLT4M’s nutrition Ebooks and content. Adam then will open up the class to group discussion, much like the freshman year health class.
Junior & Senior Year: Choice
After sophomore year, students have had two full years of wellness and PE. At this point, wellness director Ryan sees the hooks starting to sink in,
“The students at this point know our mission and embrace what we are about. They have had such a good experience those first two years. They are much more open to start trying new things.”
With that, Canton opens up their curriculum and offers more choices. Choices and units include:
- Fitness & Conditioning
- Team Sports
- Walking For Life
- Life After Canton
- Leadership (Honors)
- Family & Child Studies (Honors)
- Project Teammate (Adaptive)
This diverse class offering gives students opportunities to explore their interests and try new things. The goal is to have every student find something they like and can continue pursuing past high school.
For Ryan, the different options available stay consistent with the mission of supporting all students and their wellness journey,
“We look at PLT4M as a go-to for high-quality content across lots of the different disciplines. Whether it is dance, yoga, mindfulness, strength, and conditioning, we know that PLT4M is going to have an expert providing top-notch resources we can use.”
When To Make Changes To PE & Wellness Classes & Curriculum
Canton has developed a well-rounded curriculum that the district is proud of. So if things are going well, why make changes?
For the department to stick to its mission statement, they know that change and adaptations are necessary. It doesn’t mean that things are going wrong; it just means they can be improved. For Ryan, the sophomore personal wellness class is a great example,
“We are very proud of the sophomore personal wellness class because it equips students with fantastic fitness skills. But we realized, why does that have to wait until a sophomore year? Let’s think about transitioning that to middle school so that the sophomore personal wellness class can pick up where they left off.”
In thinking about this change, Ryan has worked to bring Adam, the current teacher of the class, together with the middle school teachers to explore what the class would like for middle school. This is just one of the many examples where the department collaborates to continue creating the best K-12 PE program possible.
Spotlighting Your PE and Wellness Classes
Teachers often dread the class walk-through. What does the principal or administrator think of my class? Canton wellness and PE embrace it.
Ryan sees this as an opportunity to educate and excite more people about wellness and PE,
“We all have to be advocates for our subject and department. When someone walks through one of our classes, they will see engaged students with an awesome curriculum and a teacher on top of their game. We want to show that off.”
Throughout Canton, PE is something to be proud of. Students are excited about PE. Teachers are unified around a common mission. Administrators are impressed by what they see. An entire community benefits.
Want to see more from Canton? Check out their awesome webinar that gives even more detail into their mission.