A couple of years ago, if you had done a Google search on the words “physical literacy”, you wouldn’t have found much. Today, the same search delivers more than 42 million hits.
Reflecting the increased awareness of physical literacy and its importance to child development, the NHL’s Calgary Flames, through its Flames Foundation for Life, are supporting a new 10-year study into physical literacy.
Researchers from Mount Royal University in Calgary, in partnership with the Cardel Place recreation centre, will begin by evaluating the current physical activity levels of 240 children aged four and five years, as well as their competence in various fundamental movement skills related to agility, balance, coordination and upper limb strength.
In the next ten years, half of the children will be exposed to a wide variety of physical activity and physical education experiences designed by researchers to develop physical literacy. The other half, the control group, will get exposure to those activities and sports their parents and schools provide.
“We will be designing activity programs that are purposeful and bring together three major influences on child development: recreation, sport and education,” says Mount Royal’s Dr. Dwayne Sheehan.
In each of the next ten years, the researchers will retest the 240 children to see how the two groups compare in their development of fundamental movement skills and physical literacy. Researchers will also compare the overall activity levels of the two groups to see if the children who are intentionally taught fundamental movement skills are more active than the control group.
They will also look to see if the children have greater knowledge of or changed attitudes towards physical activity.
The Flames Foundation for Life has contributed a quarter of the $400,000 budget for the initial phase of the study, with the rest of the cost shared between Cardel Place and the Allan J. Markin Foundation.
“This study is going to provide valuable evidence about the effectiveness of intentional programming on physical literacy,” says Sheehan. “As well, it will hopefully provide a program model that we can disseminate for other recreation centres to use. The long-term goal is to see what kinds of activities and programming approaches to exercise will best encourage kids to stay active.”