Middle School

Middle schools and junior high schools support fitness and provide opportunities.

The middle school and junior high school years are an important time to develop good physical activity habits that promote health and fitness in youth. Opportunities to experience and explore a broad range of physical activities and sports are vital.

If elementary schools are ideal for developing physical literacy and fundamental skills, middle schools provide the perfect setting to develop and maintain physical fitness of youth as they enter the growth spurt. This is also the time to continue converting fundamental movement skills into fundamental sport skills. 

Middle schools are ideal for exposing youth to a range of physical activities and sports, so they can begin to discover sports they enjoy and build confidence in basic skills. Many may not have opportunities to join similar sport and physical activity programs outside of school. 

The adolescent years are important for establishing healthy body weights. Daily routines should include regular vigorous physical activity along with a healthy dietary intake and sufficient sleep. This will contribute to positive overall physical, emotional and psychological development.

Sadly, the middle school years are typically when most youth drop out of physical activity. With the growth of video games and other “screen time” sedentary pursuits, physical inactivity is increasing among this age group. 

Through quality physical education programming, middle schools can address the activity needs of youth, introduce more youth to sport, and improve the overall health of Canadian society. And not all programs should be overtly competitive: it’s important to introduce youth to physical activities such as yoga, cycling and rock climbing that can be enjoyed for a lifetime. 

Currently, there are serious challenges to delivering quality daily physical education in Canadian middle schools: 

  • Few middle schools have physical education specialist teachers.
  • Constricted school budgets prevent hiring of physical education specialists.
  • The importance of daily physical education is not recognized in all school districts. 
  • Many school sport teams deny access to youth by insisting on competitive tryouts and “cutting” participants.
  • Many students arrive at middle school without having developed physical literacy in the elementary grades, so teachers are forced to teach fundamental movement and sport skills in a remedial setting. 
  • If students have had unhappy experiences with physical education at the elementary grades, they often have negative attitudes towards physical education in middle school, so they participate with reluctance and half-hearted effort.