As well as a strong emphasis on good nutrition, the staff at Pear Tree Elementary also pride themselves on the second component of the physical literacy philosophy, exercise. “At Pear Tree, we do physical education every day, for one hour, five days a week, which is two and a half times more than most other schools do. We really do believe that kids have to have physical exercise every day in order for them to de-stress their body, to get enough sleep at night, to be able to concentrate when they’re in class, and to develop a healthy self-esteem – so that they feel comfortable in their own skin, and don’t feel self-conscious about their weight or their physical shape.”
As with all the programming at Pear Tree, the kids learn not just the ‘how’ of their physical exercise program, but the ‘why’ – or put another way, they learn mindfully.
Alex Miller and Cally Bailey, the founders of Grow Your Roots – a company that offers a tested, curriculum-based mindful movement course for elementary school students and teachers across B.C., say that more than ever, kids need a consistent mindfulness program to navigate the busy world that we live in.
“In society as a whole, we are seeing more children getting depressed and anxious due to the high amount of stimulants in today’s world. We didn’t used to have the stimulants that we have now. Even TV, for example, years ago, the shows were a little bit slower; while now, the shows are so fast paced that it can cause addictive personalities. Children are becoming addicted to stimulants, instead of being able to just sit in awareness,” said Bailey.
Miller and Bailey said that physical exercise and mindfulness are the key to overall well-being – not just for kids, but for all of us.
“Physical activity is good for so many things: it gets the internal organs working, it helps us to use them properly, it keeps them healthy; but, if you’re just being stagnant, it’s not just bad for your body, it’s bad for your brain. When we’re young and we’re kids, we love movement. We don’t even think about it as physical activity; we think about it as fun, because that’s what it’s supposed to be. It stops stress hormones from being produced, and it releases endorphins, the happy hormones. Those are the ones we need to focus on bringing out in children. If we don’t have those hormones being released, that’s how we get depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders,” said Miller.
Overall, physical literacy is a great umbrella term for combining all the attributes that we need to help us raise healthy and happy children. Instead of just focusing on what our kids need, perhaps it’s time to start leading by example: eat well, move, and be mindful. How hard can that be?
Pear Tree Elementary is a progressive K-7 school located in Kitsilano. Children learn by doing. That’s why Pear Tree students learn through theme and project-based learning, two of the most advanced methods of education. These approaches put learning into context, making education enjoyable, memorable, and meaningful.
Taking a whole-child approach means Pear Tree Elementary nurtures academic, socio-emotional, and physical development. Integral to this are Pear Tree’s teachers, who all have Masters of Education degrees, and its healthy hot lunch and daily physical education programs.