Forming a lifelong habit of physical activity starts early, explains Camosun College Exercise and Wellness Instructor Thalia Moore.
“Studies show that by the age of seven, children decide then whether they’re into it or not and that sets the stage for the rest of their lives.”
While completing her undergrad at Acadia University in Nova Scotia, Moore volunteered for a pioneering active living program called “Kinderskills” that paired student volunteers with preschool aged children to promote physical literacy.
“I worked with a ‘little buddy,’ as we called it, and was with him for a full semester, logging reports and working on physical activities as we developed a relationship,” Moore said. “It was great because as a student I got hands-on experience.”
Moore later moved back home to the Island and completed a graduate degree at the University of Victoria that focused on resistance training for adolescents comparing traditional and non-traditional forms of training. She and her husband Dustin both work at Camosun’s Centre for Sport and Exercise Education where they are strong advocates of physical literacy for all ages.
Inspired by her volunteer work at Acadia, Moore approached Camosun’s Child Care Services two years ago with the idea of bringing a Kinderskills-type program to the college.
“Our philosophy is learning through play,” says Camosun’s Manager of Child Care Services Lisa Stekelenburg. “That is our curriculum because play is the work of childhood. From my end of things it was a perfect fit because we are constantly engaging students in learning and we see ourselves as being able to engage learning on campus for the benefit of children, families and students. It’s all about the reciprocity.”
Since 2015, Child Care Services has partnered with CSEE and engaged over 200 students from Moore’s “Life Cycle Fitness” class with a hands-on opportunity to learn from young children during a series of physical literacy workshops.
“This year, we’ve had six sessions alternating between the Interurban Child Care centre and the gym at the Pacific Institute for Sport Excellence,” explains Moore. “Each session saw our students paired up with a ‘little buddy’ to work on physical literacy development through unstructured play and concluded with a group activating involving all the children and students. For the unstructured play, we brought out a ton of equipment and the children would guide the play based on their interests. The purpose of our sessions was to get the children moving, work on their fundamental movement skills, and to gain a better understanding of what it would be like to work with this population.”
Beyond the physical literacy sessions, Camosun’s Child Care Services offers a range of opportunities for children that are unique to the college environment. “Parents always ask me: what do you do for field trips,” says Stekelenburg. “Our field trips are mainly on campus because we are part of this great environment and the children love it because there are so many things to do right here.”
Over the years, on-campus field trips have included opportunities such as visiting the horticulture program to learn about composting, dental students providing oral health workshops, fine arts students demonstrating pottery-making and carpentry students showing children how to put together a shed.
Physical literacy has inspired both the children and their parents, says Stekelenburg.
“The Chief Medical Officer for B.C. has stated that screen time needs to be reduced and active play needs to be expanded for children,” Stekelenburg said. “A number of parents have been asking questions and are excited to hear about the different learnings from their children during the sessions.”
She notes that the goal is to get away from using technology as a babysitter and to encourage active play in all aspects of a child’s life—something that parents and children can do together.
Students in Moore’s Life Cycle Fitness class have found the experience inspiring.
“We study physical activity and exercise in the classroom and speak about trends such as childhood obesity,” she says.
“For us, this has been invaluable to have real little people to work with and it’s just made everything we’ve learned in class just that much more meaningful. Early morning lectures can be tough sometimes for students, but to have them out playing with the children is infectious. It’s definitely one of the highlights of their semester.”
Stekelenburg notes that plans are already underway for next year’s sessions. “They’ll run from January to April along with the Life Cycles Fitness class,” says Moore, who works with a variety of population groups the rest of the year. “Physical literacy is not just about developing athletes, it’s about developing those fundamental movement skills that can help you be active for life, and that applies at any age.”
The physical literacy activities have been particularly successful, notes Stekelenburg. “At the end of each session, the children give their buddy a high five,” she says. “You should see the smiles on their faces.”
– Ivan Watson is the Marketing & Communications Strategist at Camosun College’s Interurban campus. email@example.com