Introduction to Physical Health and Education

The Physical and Health Education (PHE) curriculum aims to empower students to develop a personalized understanding of what healthy living means to them as individuals and members of society in the 21st century. The PHE curriculum focuses on well-being — the connections between physical, intellectual, mental, and social health. This approach aligns with those of jurisdictions across Canada and throughout the world to promote a deeper and more holistic understanding of overall health and well-being in students.

PHE is designed to develop the knowledge, skills, and understandings that students need for lifelong physical health and mental well-being. The PHE curriculum highlights the interconnections between an individual’s health and his or her well-being, the connections between physical and mental health, the importance of positive interpersonal relations, and how interactions with the community affect overall well-being. As well, the PHE curriculum aims to develop students who have the knowledge and confidence to promote their own health and well-being by maintaining healthy habits. The goal is for students to recognize and change unhealthy behaviours and, at the same time, advocate for the safety, health, and well-being of others.

The rationale and goals of PHE justify combining physical and health education as a means to promote and develop all aspects of well-being. The importance of personal well-being, where students develop healthy habits, is clearly identified as one of the principles of British Columbia’s educational transformation. This establishes PHE as essential to a complete education for BC students.

Features of the Physical and Health Education curriculum

Application to personal lifestyle

Students can apply the knowledge, processes, and skills learned to their daily lives while engaging in an exploration of what healthy living means and looks like for them. With the uniqueness of each student in mind, the curriculum facilitates a deep understanding of both physical and health literacy to provide students with the theoretical and practical foundations
to embrace their interests and passions and have a healthy active lifestyle.


The curriculum unites two curricular areas, physical education and health education, into one concentrated area of learning to provide a comprehensive focus on healthy living for students. Although blended, physical and health education maintain their core attributes and qualities while supporting the development of a deeper understanding of their interconnectedness.

Collaboration and networking opportunities Given its scope and flexibility, the PHE curriculum offers many opportunities for networking, collaboration, and exploration of potential partnerships between teachers, parents, local health authorities, and others who might help support the learning experiences for students, building stronger connections between the school and community.

Flexible teaching and learning

The curriculum promotes flexibility for teachers to create learning experiences that are contextually relevant to their students’ needs, interests, and passions. Teachers use their professional autonomy when considering where (school, community) to teach their students and the amount of time spent on each aspect of the curriculum. The curriculum extends the learning beyond the walls of the school to connect with the lives of students in ways that are authentic and meaningful to them.

Design of the Physical and Health Education Curriculum


As in all other learning areas, the PHE curriculum is based on the Know-Do-Understand model. The four key features of the curriculum structure are the Big Ideas, Curricular Competencies, Content, and Elaborations.

Big Ideas


The Big Ideas represent the “understand” component of the curriculum model, the deep understandings that students develop as a result of their learning. Collectively, the Big Ideas progress in sophistication and degree of connections to the lives of students throughout the curriculum. The examples of Big Ideas below illustrate how students’ understanding of well-being and physical activity develop as they progress through the grades.





Knowing about our bodies and making healthy choices helps us look after ourselves.

Adopting healthy personal practices and safety strategies protects ourselves and others.

Healthy choices influence our physical, emotional, and mental well-being.

Advocating for the health and well-being of others connects us to our community.

Daily physical activity helps us develop movement skills, physical literacy, and is an important part of healthy living.

Movement skills and strategies help us learn how to participate in different types of physical activities and environments.

Physical literacy and fitness contributes to our success and enjoyment in physical activity.

Daily participation in different types of physical activity influence physical literacy and personal health and fitness goals.

Curricular Competencies

The Curricular Competencies are action-based statements that represent the “do” component of the curriculum model and identify what students will do to demonstrate their learning. Where possible, the Curricular Competencies have been written to promote flexibility and creativity and provide multiple ways for students to demonstrate their learning. The examples of Curricular Competencies below illustrate students’ development of healthy-living goals as they progress through the grades.





Identify opportunities to make choices that contribute to health and well-being

Explore and describe strategies for pursuing personal healthy-living goals

Identify, apply, and reflect on strategies used to pursue personal healthy-living goals

Reflect on outcomes of personal healthy-living goals and assess strategies used 


The Communication, Thinking, and Personal and Social Core Competencies underpin the Curricular Competencies. The Personal and Social core competency is strongly relevant to the PHE curriculum. The Core Competencies also support the development of habits of mind that are important to the development of Curricular Competencies; these include:


  • persisting in tasks and goals
  • taking responsible risks
  • thinking interdependently in groups and teams
  • creating, imagining, and innovating new ways to accomplish tasks
  • applying past knowledge and experiences to new situations
  • managing impulses and emotions
  • striving for accuracy and setting high standards

(Adapted from Mindful by Design, by Arthur Costa and Bena Kallick, 2009)




Content is the “know” part of the curriculum model, and includes topics that identify what students will learn about at each grade. Aside from being rich in information, the Content learning standards act as a supporting structure to assist students in demonstrating the Curricular Competencies that will lead them to understanding the Big Ideas. Exmaples of Content are shown below.





different types of substances

effects of different substances, and strategies for preventing personal harm

strategies for managing personal and social risks related to psychoactive substances and potentially addictive behaviours

physical, emotional, and social aspects of psychoactive substance use and potentially addictive behaviours




Elaborations have been provided for many of the Content and Curricular Competencies learning standards in the Physical and Health Education curriculum. The Elaborations (included as hyperlinks) offer definitions, clarifications, examples, and further information about the topics or competencies at a given grade. They have been included to provide additional clarity and support for both teachers and students and can serve as potential places to being teaching and learning. Examples of Elaborations within the Physical and Health Education curriculum are shown below.





Social and community health

Social and community health

Social and community health

Social and community health

What are some factors that might make a situation unsafe and/or uncomfortable? 
How do caring behaviours make people feel?

What can you do to stand up for yourself in an unsafe and/or uncomfortable situation?
How does acknowledging similarities and differences between you and your peers influence your relationships with them?
What types of outdoor activities can you participate in in your community?

What are some strategies you can use to avoid an unsafe or potentially exploitive situation while using the Internet and/or in the community?
What can you do if you are being bullied and/or see someone else being bullied?

How can you avoid an unsafe or potentially exploitive situation on the Internet, at school, and in the community?
What can you do if you are being bullied and/or see someone else being bullied?


Important Considerations



Alternative Delivery Policy


The Alternative Delivery policy outlines how students and their parents or guardians, in consultation with their local school authority, may choose means other than instruction by a teacher in the regular classroom setting for addressing learning standards in the Physical and Health curriculum.

The policy recognizes the family as the primary educator in the development of children’s attitudes, standards, and values, but still requires that all learning standards be addressed and assessed in the agreed-upon alternative manner of delivery.

It is important to note the significance of the term “alternative delivery” as it relates to the Alternative Delivery policy. The policy does not permit schools to omit addressing or assessing any of the required learning standards within the physical and health education curriculum. Neither does it allow students to be excused from meeting any learning standards related to health. It is expected that students who arrange for alternative delivery will address the health-related learning standards and will be able to demonstrate their understanding of these standards.

Safety considerations

Educators should keep the following safety guidelines in mind and develop procedures to prevent or minimize incidents and injuries. In a safe learning environment, the teacher will:


  • Consider safety as a key consideration in planning and organizing for learning
  • Remain knowledgeable about up-to-date safety information
  • Ensure that students are familiar with safety rules and guidelines
  • Remind students of safety rules and guideline and observe students to ensure that they follow them
  • Have a plan in case of emergency
  • Ensure that students are aware of procedures for responding to emergencies


By planning safe learning environments and choosing age-appropriate and developmentally appropriate activities, teachers can reduce risk and guard against injury.


Inclusion, equity, and accessibility for all learners


British Columbia’s schools include young people of varied backgrounds, interests, and abilities. The Kindergarten to Grade 12 school system focuses on meeting the needs of all students. When selecting specific topics, activities, and resources to support the PHE curriculum, teachers are encouraged to ensure that these choices support inclusion, equity, and accessibility for all students. In particular, teachers should ensure that classroom instruction, assessment, and resources reflect sensitivity to diversity and incorporate positive role portrayals, relevant issues, and themes such as inclusion, respect, and acceptance.

Government policy supports the principles of integration and inclusion of students who have English as a second language and of students with special needs. Some standards may require adaptations to ensure that those with special and/or ELL needs can successfully achieve the required learning standards in this curriculum.

Some students with special needs may require program adaptation or modification to facilitate their achievement of the learning standards in this curriculum.

Adapted programs

An adapted program addresses the learning standards of the required curriculum but provides adaptations to selected learning standards. These adaptations may include alternative formats for resources, instructional strategies, and assessment procedures.

Adaptations may also be made in areas such as skill sequence, pacing, methodology, materials, technology, equipment, services, and setting. Students on adapted programs are assessed using the curriculum standards and can receive full credit.

The following are examples of strategies that may help students with special needs succeed:

  • Adapt the task by simplifying or substituting skills, maintaining the integrity of the intended activity/outcome
  • Adapt the task by changing the complexity
  • Adapt the rules and scoring systems (e.g., allow kicking instead of throwing)
  • Adapt the equipment (e.g., smaller, softer, or lighter equipment) or the setting (indoors instead of outdoors)
  • Provide opportunities for more practice, extra time, or extension of learning
  • Adapt evaluation criteria to accommodate individual student needs
  • Adapt the number of activities the student is expected to complete
  • Increase the amount of learning assistance
  • Adapt the expectation of how a student is to respond to the instruction
  • Adapt the extent to which a student is actively involved in the activity.

Modified programs

A modified program has learning standards that are substantially different from the required curriculum and have been specifically selected to meet a student’s special needs. A student on a modified program is assessed in relation to the goals and objectives established in the student’s Individual Education Plan (IEP).

The following are examples of strategies that may help students on modified programs:

  • Specify personal support (e.g., by peers or teacher assistants)
  • Set individualized goals that consider prescribed outcomes but are developed to suit the student’s special needs
  • Modify activities by providing parallel ones for students with unique needs

Healthy learning Environments
The learning spaces for PHE are many, including the schoolyard, community centres, fields and trails, and various other outdoor places. Teaching students to appreciate and respect the environment is an integral part of being active in these spaces.
Teachers may look for ways to connect learning in PHE with other provincial curricula. There are many natural connections, such as:

  • English Language Arts — communicating ideas and viewpoints about healthy living topics
  • Mathematics — calculating heart rate, using daily physical activity time in calculations
  • Social Studies — group processes and teamwork, leadership, and rights and responsibilities at home, at school, and in the community
  • Science — human body systems; appreciating the value of fresh air and outdoor spaces
  • Environmental Science — implications of human impacts on the environment, such as making various food choices, being aware of the impact of using trails, and understanding the health risks associated with sun exposure and air pollution

Whatever the approach used to facilitate connections among these subject areas, it is important to maintain the integrity of each discipline.

First Peoples Principles of Learning

The First Peoples Principles of Learning have been affirmed within First Peoples societies to guide the teaching and learning of provincial curricula. Because these principles of learning represent an attempt to identify common elements in the varied teaching and learning approaches that prevail within particular First Peoples societies, it must be recognized that they do not capture the full reality of the approach used in any single First Peoples society.

The First Peoples Principles of Learning greatly influence the curricula and are woven throughout. They lend themselves well to the Physical and Health Education curriculum as they promote experiential and reflexive learning, as well as self-advocacy and positive self-identity in learners. They also promote the well-being of the self, family, and community, all of which are key elements of the Physical and Health Education curriculum.


Working with the First Peoples community


To address First Peoples content and perspectives in the classroom in a way that is accurate and that respectfully reflects First Peoples concepts of teaching and learning, teachers are strongly encouraged to seek the advice and support of members of local First Peoples communities. As First Peoples communities are diverse in terms of language, culture, and available resources, each community will have its own unique protocol to gain support for integration of local knowledge and expertise. Permission for the use or translation of cultural materials or practices should be obtained through consultation with individuals, families and other community members. This authorization should be obtained prior to the use of any educational plans or materials.

To begin discussion of possible instructional and assessment activities, teachers should first contact First Peoples education co-ordinators, teachers, support workers, and counsellors in their district who will be able to facilitate the identification of local resources and contacts such as Elders, chiefs, First Nations tribal or band councils, First Peoples cultural centres, First Peoples Friendship Centres, and Métis or Inuit organizations. In addition, teachers may wish to consult the various Ministry of Education and Child Care publications available, including the “Planning Your Program” section of the resource Shared Learnings. This resource was developed to help all teachers provide students with knowledge of, and opportunities to share experiences with, First Peoples in BC.