Learning the ABC's of physical literacy

Port Coquitlam group gets $50,000 to get the city moving

Literacy and numeracy are well-established educational goals, but what about physical literacy?

The term may be turning up more in discussions about the need for children, youth and adults to get more active in their daily lives. And thanks to a new group called PoCo Active, residents of Port Coquitlam may be among the first to learn the new lingo.

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PoCo Active has received a $50,000 grant from the Sport for Life Society to train and mentor educators, health practitioners, coaches and city parks and recreation staff in the ideas of physical literacy for programs that will encourage people to be active for life.

“The more we can give people, the more ‘durable’ they become,” said Ryan Clark, executive director of the Port Coquitlam Sport Alliance, whose group is part of PoCo Active.

Already entrenched in the new provincial education curriculum, in Physical and Health Education courses, physical literacy is the underpinning of a healthy life. For children, it’s about being able to do fundamental movement skills in variety of physical activities and environments.

But as people age, they can’t leave their active days behind.

In fact, said Elisa Maruzzo, engagement manager for Sport for Life, physical literacy is just as important as we grow older to prevent infirmity and to stave off illnesses that can result from an inactive lifestyle.

“A lot of time, people don’t know what to do,” said Maruzzo, who demonstrated her balancing skills last week at the playground at Gates Park. “With PoCo Active, the doctors who provide information to their patients, teachers who work with kids will know about physical literacy because we will work with them to show them what it is.”

Physical literacy is having the motivation, confidence, physical competence, knowledge and understanding to be active. But Maruzzo admits there are challenges: lack of time, too many screens, cold, wet weather, dark evenings and lack of initiative.

Pointing to a couple of youths sitting next to an empty soccer field peering at their phones, Maruzzo said health, sport and education providers will need to work together to come up with measurable goals that will help PoCo residents be active for life, starting with the very young.

“What’s making it so they want to be on the phones and not on the fields?” wondered Maruzzo.

On the other hand, PoCo is perfectly situated for taking on such a challenge because it is located next to trails, there are a lot of parks and the new recreation complex will offer opportunities for promoting physical literacy.

With a Physical Literacy 101 course under the belts and plans for a future summit, PoCo Active members Fraser Health, School District 43 and PoCo Sport Alliance are working on plans for the future.

And one goal will be getting the message out to the community that physical activity is for everyone.

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