Innovative Noojmowin Teg program tests elementary fitness

Brayden Waindubence kicks a soccer ball at a target in the Four Directions Multiuse Complex gymnasium. Brayden was taking part in a Noojmowin Teg children’s physical literacy program aimed at assessing students’ knowledge of the ABCs of physical activity: running, hopping, walking backwards, kicking a ball and throwing a ball. photo by Michael Erskine

AUNDECK OMNI KANING—The sound of bouncing balls and laughter filled the gymnasium at the Four Directions Complex recently as Noojmowin Teg Health Centre staff could be seen carefully recording data on their clipboards.

“We were doing a series of physical literacy assessments,” explained Nelson Wood, Healthy Living coordinator for Noojmowin Teg. “We invited all of the Manitoulin schools with Grades 4 and 8 First Nations students.”

The goal of the new testing program is to first discover a baseline for physical literacy of the students. Mr. Nelson went on to explain that physical literacy, a basic understanding of how to go about physical activity sets a basis for lifelong physical fitness. “It’s the ABCs of physical movement,” he said, “formulated around a series of movement skills. Just like you need to know your ABCs before you learn to read, these basic movement skills set the groundwork for lifelong fundamental movement skills.”

By helping students to master the ABCs of movement, it is hoped that physical activity will be instilled as a lifelong habit. “By building that knowledge, children can develop the confidence to take part in sports and other physical activities,” said Mr. Nelson. “Having that confidence is a big thing.”

The testing is divided into five key indicators: run, hop, walking backwards, kicking a ball and throwing a ball. “These form the very basis of physical activity,” said Mr. Nelson. “The parts get more advanced as they get older, but the ABCs of getting active are all transferable to other sports. Kicking relates to swimming, throwing is a key part of many sports such as baseball or basketball; sports all have bits of these five.”

The Noojmowin Teg researchers are working on arranging to make school visits in order to fill out the gaps in their data and bring a complete snapshot in time to the question of physical literacy of students in the digital age.