As a student PE teacher I’ve been able to see different high schools across metropolitan, regional and rural contexts. My last placement was at Wiimali Catholic School.
Like many schools there was a noticeable difference in the participation in physical activities of girls and boys as well as differences between year 7 to 10 students. As students progress through high school the changes in social activities and body image influence participation levels. Year 7 students are often highly involved in organised sport and continue with active leisure activities such as riding their bikes to school. Year 10 students are experiencing an increasing sense of independence and a greater interest in drinking, parties and other social activities. Many drop out of sport as social plans take precedence over training regimes and sporting commitments. Girls in particular often develop an aversion to physical activities possibly due to fear of failure or embarrassment. This is not true of all girls however and some do continue to engage in sports both in and out of school. At Wiimali, basketball, footy and cricket are pretty popular.
Wiimali Catholic School has been identified as a socioeconomically disadvantaged school. Girls have a lower than average participation rate in physical activities and higher average BMIs. For this reason Wiimali is part of a research project called ‘NEAT girls’ being undertaken by a sports scientist from the university. NEAT stands for nutrition, exercise, activity and something else (can’t remember what the T stands for). The program is targeted towards year 8 girls identified as having low levels of physical activity and a poor diet. The program focuses on students’ knowledge and understanding of the importance of physical activities, self-esteem, and motivating the girls to achieve the recommended 10,000 steps per day on the pedometers they are given. The program also teaches nutrition and other life skills. From what I saw in the weeks I was there the program seems to be having a positive influence and the girls were really motivated to keep going.
Story by David Sprinter