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Is there a body in the 21st century school? April 27, 2010

Posted by Editor21C in Directions in Education, Primary Education, Secondary Education.
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From Dr. Jorge Knijnik

How should we think about the body in the 21st century? As a PDHPE (personal development, health and physical education) lecturer, my main concern is to encourage teaching-learning practices that recognize the pivotal importance of an active lifestyle for a healthy life in a society that each day is becoming more sedentary. What is the place of the body among an ever-increasing amount of new technology which demands a great amount of time sitting in front of a computer? I certainly do not have the answer; however, I have some insights to start the dialogue.

1 Real relationships     While it is fun to play video and wii games, playing traditional games with classmates is also fun. Although some people think traditional games are old fashioned, children still, for example, love to run after each other. They still love to hide from each other and they still love to throw balls. The key issue here is that children are learning how to live together in the real world through games. How best can we live together? Games can teach us much about this extremely important issue. While playing and having fun, the children are also developing their interpersonal relationships and movement skills, which are fundamental to achieving a healthier lifestyle. However, future PDHPE practices need to take into account a number of important issues which have emerged in recent years – for example, inclusiveness for all students, gender issues and different skill levels and of the obstacles a child can face while playing games. Teachers must be skilled in ways to improve individual confidence as well as cooperation between students to enhance relationships.

2 The body in the new century      How can 21st century bodies be educated? As primary students are no longer expected to simply reproduce movements without thinking but are increasingly required to create their own forms of bodily expression, how can teachers deal with such a challenge? The key feature here for students is learning to be, which means finding themselves through and with their bodies.

3 Let the kids play     It is important that children develop the ability to organize themselves and their games and therefore teachers must be alert to the fact that sometimes is important to give some responsibility to the students. ‘Give games back to the students.’ It may take more time in the beginning stages but students will learn how to organise themselves and how to cooperate with each other. Getting together to set up their own games and to establish the rules is an exercise in democracy, building crucial values for citizenship.

Yes, there is a place for the body in 21st century schooling. This place is there because real students are there. They can enhance their learning through new technology, but they should not hide themselves behind this technology. PDHPE content and activities can ensure that our students will improve their knowledge about themselves, their health and their bodies, as well as their skills in communicating and integrating with others to build a healthier community.

From Dr. Jorge Knijnik – School of Education, University of Western Sydney, April, 2010


1. Laura - April 6, 2011

There is a real push for a more active lifestyle from primary level throught to adulthood. Shows such as Bigest Loser are one of the most popular on TV today – hopefully this flows through to teaching children about health and fitness. Hopefully there will be more and more support for PDHPE in primary schools in the coming years as an integral part of the curriculum and not just something that is fit in when and if there is extra time.

Jorge Knijnik - April 15, 2011

Thanks Laura for your comment, I hope also PDHPE gets more space in the schools, and the students can take advantage of funny and meaningful lessons. Thanks for joining the debate,

2. Sharon - September 5, 2011

I love the idea of ‘let the kids play’. I think sometimes adult intervention can suck the fun out of physical activity. Food for thought!

Jorge Knijnik - September 18, 2011

Hi Sharon, that’s the battle of my life…let the kids decide how to play, to make their own decisions, with little intervention…Thanks for your support, Jorge

3. RMT - August 21, 2012

Shows like the Biggest Loser are there for theatre and provide little else. I think we need to take the money from the olympics and use it to build community spaces, then you get more involvement.

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