Mark Verbeek is transforming Health and Physical Education
at Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board.

“It’s all about supporting teachers in providing diverse and inclusive H&PE programming.”

~ Mark Verbeek, Health and Physical Education Consultant, HWDSB

Health and Physical Education Consultant, Mark Verbeek, attributes his success to physical educators who made learning personal. His mission: to create that opportunity for as many students as possible. “There’s been an evolution of phys-ed to a more holistic approach that encompasses the social, emotional, cognitive and physical,” he said.

The past few years, Mark has been working with teachers at his board to bring physical literacy to more students, families and communities. He brings educators together to discuss how they can evolve their programs to get more students active.

“We’re able to share best practices and hear what different schools are doing,” said Sofia Fox, Head of Girls' Health and Physical Education at Westmount Secondary School. “We discuss how we're assessing and making sure we’re addressing the key learnings in our courses.”

Mark said the goal is to help students train for durability and injury prevention. Developing physical literacy, he added, builds the confidence and competence to participate in activities even if they stop playing sports.

“What we’re seeing is that students who are not involved in sports are really finding their connection to fitness, because it’s really about themselves,” he said.

“You don’t have to be great at sports to be active. It’s about lifestyle.”

~ Cynthia Campanaro, H&PE Teacher, Westmount Secondary School


Engaging More

Mark encouraged teachers to try innovative approaches to reach more students. He introduced Functional Fitness Charts as a way to make fitness creative, engaging and effective.

“I was searching for a tool that could be shared with teachers to run quality programs that were progressive and based on developmentally appropriate exercises,” said Mark.

He brought staff across various disciplines together to explore cross-curricular activities, circuits and brain breaks with the Functional Fitness Charts.

“With the Get Fit Outside project we worked will all teachers to learn how we can use Functional Fitness Charts for literacy, numeracy and inclusive education,” he said.

The great thing for Mark was that you didn’t have to be an H&PE Specialist to teach physical literacy with the Functional Fitness Charts. They were vetted, visual and easy to use.

Holistic Approach
to H&PE

Traditionally ‘Health’ and ‘Physical Education’ were taught seperately. Time constraints make it tough to cover the whole curriculum.

“We’re coming from a very sport dominated model with health tacked on as little packages of units,” said Mark. “It’s a very stale delivery and there’s not a lot of interaction.”

Mark’s goal was to give teachers a resource that allowed them to focus on having meaningful conversations with students about their health.

The Healthy Active Living (HAL) Resource Package was a single resource that covered everything and saved time. “It’s a holistic approach and it’s all in one place,” said Mark.

By flipping the classroom, the books go home and students can discuss readings with parents. Teachers can dedicate more class time to discussions, making it personal.

H&PE that Lasts a Lifetime

At the secondary level, H&PE is all about longevity and applying the material to everyday life. The reflection piece is critical and allows students to see themselves in the learning. “We really need to focus on why they’re doing it,” said Mark.

Interacting with students makes it personal and inspires a healthy active lifestyle beyond the classroom. This is the ultimate goal of health and physical education. In Kinesiology for instance, Mark said it’s important to understand why biomechanics is important in the context of how we move.

“There also needs to be more of a connection to what we’re doing, both career wise and in society,” Mark said. “We’re not just preparing them for university, we’re preparing them for life.”

Mark said the Kinesiology resource package supports experiential learning, exposes students to exciting career paths and helps them apply learning. Teachers have everything they need to teach the course and it supports the physical and digital learning environments.

“Ninety percent of my students are going on to study kinesiology or health sciences,” said Cynthia Campanaro, a teacher at Westmount Secondary School.

“Students need to see themselves in the Health & Physical Education curriculum.”

~ Mark Verbeek, H&PE Consultant, HWDSB