Wednesday, June 20, 2012

School Children and Exercise - Then and Now

Poor Children at Camp Chapleau in the Laurentians of Quebec in 1910 era.

A University of Toronto study just published in the Canadian Journal of Public Health (and reported in the Toronto Star) says that Ontario school children are not getting that 20 minutes a day of exercise they need. Not at school. And probably not at home.
Toronto Schools Fall Short on Physical Activity: Report

In my book School Marms and Suffragettes I write about three teachers in 1910 Quebec. One of the teachers is Marion Nicholson, who rose to be President of the Teachers Union PAPT in the 40's.

Her story is told in Biology and Ambition,the third part of School Marms and Suffragettes.

In 1906, on her first job in the Eastern Townships of Quebec, Marion writes home saying she is going to Coaticoat to see a famous teacher there and learn some pointers.

I think she might have been going to learn about the 'new' calisthenics style of physical education this teacher was employing with her students.

Yes, there was a Phys Ed program in Quebec schools back in 1900, but many rural teachers thought it was ridiculous as their children were country kids who walked miles every day, back and forth from school.

It was the city child who was out of shape (not overweight of course, poor children were skinny in 1900, hungry most of the time) but sickly.

The Coaticoak teacher was a Miss Wadleigh who led her children in 10 minutes of calisthenics at their desks each day, despite the fact they were country kids. Coaticook is in the Eastern Townships. She had adopted the Emerson System. It wasn't only about health, it was about discipline.