Physical Education [1933]

General Statement.

Physical Education in the High Schools should provide a natural continuation and expansion of the Physical Education given in the earlier grades. A well-balanced programme of gymnastics, games, athletics, and rhythmic movements is essential.

There is little need to emphasize the value of Physical Education in developing a sound constitution, preventing and correcting bad bodily mechanisms, and promoting the co-ordination of mind and body through neuro-muscular activities. These objectives are now universally recognized. There are, however, other valuable results emanating from a good programme of Physical Education which as yet have not been sufficiently emphasized—namely, the natural development of those social, moral, and spiritual qualities that mark the desirable citizen. It is especially necessary that a high code of morality and a social conscience should be developed among High School students. While bodily health and vigour are vital adjuncts to the happy and successful life of an individual, his mental health will determine in a large measure his attitude not only to life in general, but to his neighbor in particular, and will affect the service he may render to mankind as a whole. There is probably no greater means placed in the hands of educationists for fostering and strengthening worthy attitudes than a well-conducted programme of Physical Education.

The mere acceptance of the aims of Physical Education is not enough. A determined effort must be made to provide the facilities through which these desirable objectives may be realized. The theory of Physical Education has advanced far beyond actual practice. While the theory is both necessary and important, greater emphasis must now be placed on practice. Many School Boards who have spoken highly of the advantages to be gained from a thorough course in Physical Education have failed to provide the means whereby such a course could be given. The provision of adequate playing-fields and suitable gymnasia is quite as important for the education of our youth as the provision of class-rooms and laboratories.

Physical Education under competent leadership should provide activities to meet many needs of an age which gives promise of more and more leisure-time. The activities so provided will have profound effects on the future life of man.


Provision should be made for a wide variety of activities and all students should be given equal opportunity and encouragement to participate in them. All activities should be chosen on the basis of their appeal to the age group under consideration and for their power to arouse the student to realize that only persistent and earnest work produces progress. With the advance of years, new interests and desires are aroused; new hopes and ambitions are kindled. Familiar activities no longer bring a keen response and hence must give way to new types which will stimulate body, mind, and spirit.

The scope of the Course in Physical Education in the High Schools, however, will be determined finally by: --

1. Facilities for Indoor and Outdoor Work.

  1. For indoor work, every High School should have a properly lighted, heated, and ventilated gymnasium or large hall with a wooden floor. Only under most exceptional conditions should indoor work be done on a cement floor.
  2. For outdoor work, ideal conditions would provide 4 to 5 acres of playing-fields for a school of 300 to 500 students and 6 to 7 acres for 500 students and over. No High School, however, moderate in size, should have less the 2.5 acres of outdoor playing space.

2. Equipment.

  1. Of the Student - Where accommodation does not permit the wearing of the regular athletic vest and shorts, in order to derive the maximum benefit from the activities, boys should remove coats and vests and present themselves with shirt- necks open, sleeves rolled to the elbow, and pockets emptied of all breakable or dangerous articles. For girls, a plain blouse and gymnasium knickers are desirable. The wearing of crepe or rubber-soled shoes in the gymnasium should be compulsory for all High School students.
  2. Of the Gymnasium - The amount of equipment required for Physical Education in the elementary schools is almost negligible, but in order to make the full resources of a well-rounded programme of activities available to and suitable for High School students more equipment must be supplied. It is not essential that a large outlay be made all at once. The purchase should be determined by the ability and previous training of the pupils and also by the capability of teachers in charge of the work. Whatever the previous training of the students, the natural progression to exercise on apparatus is through leaping, vaulting, climbing, and balance movements. In consequence, gymnasium-mats, jumping-standards, vaulting-box, climbing-ropes, and balance-benches would have prior claim in the equipping of a gymnasium. As the students become familiar with this equipment, Swedish beams (double), wall-bars, and adjustable wall-ladder might be installed, thus completing the supply of apparatus.
    The following list is regarded as the minimum amount of equipment for a city High School:
    • 4 gymnasium mattresses, size 6’ by 4’ by 4",
    • 4 fibre mats, size 6’ by 4’ by 2.5",
    • 2 sets of jumping-standards,
    • 1 vaulting-box,
    • 2 vaulting-bucks,
    • 6 climbing-ropes,
    • 6 balance-benches;
    and later: --
    • 2 sets of double beams (Swedish),
    • 20 sections of wall-bars,
    • 1 adjustable wall-ladder.
    NOTE - The vaulting-horse and the parallel bars have been omitted from the list of necessary equipment. The former is too costly and is well replaced by the vaulting-box. Exercises performed on the latter tend to over-develop the shoulder-muscles and also to cause too great a stretching of the back- muscles, thereby favoring a high rounded back. Moreover, such exercises do not assist in the development of the chest. Hence the use of this piece of apparatus in an educational institution is of questionable value.

3. The Teacher.

The teacher is the third and perhaps the most important factor to be considered when drawing up the Course in Physical Education. The amount of special training he, or she, has had will determine to a large extent the degree of progress that can be made. Teachers who have not had special training apparatus work should use extreme caution when giving instruction in that work. In fact, it might be safer for them to continue their exercises to the free-standing variety.

Specialist versus Semi-specialist Teacher - A "specialist" means one who holds a diploma, certificate, or degree in Physical Education obtained from a recognized school or college or university. As a rule, such specialists are not qualified to teach nay subject on the cirriculum other then Health or Physical Education. A "semi-specialist" means one who is fully qualified to have charge of the work in Health and Physical Education in British Columbia High Schools and who, in addition, by virtue of holding an Academic certificate is qualified to teach other High School subjects. The employment of a semi- specialist would appear to have several advantages. Physical Education would thus be brought into closer relationship with other phases of school-work, school organization would be simplified, and the instructor in Physical Education would have equal ranking with other members of the staff. In common with all teachers, the teacher of Physical Education should possess initiative, a keen sense of humour, a keen appreciation of the value of his subject, and a sympathetic and intelligent understanding of the mental and physical development of those entrusted to his care.

NOTE - the Department of Education conducts courses in Physical Education for teachers and grants certificates after a satisfactory compliance with its regulations. Further information regarding these courses may be obtained by writing to the Department of Education, Victoria, B.C.


1. Gymnastics.

This term refers to all exercises, whether of the free-standing variety or those performed on various pieces of apparatus. This section of the programme is drawn chiefly from the Swedish system of educational gymnastics—educational because they are based on sound principles of anatomy, physiology, and psychology, and because their effects can be controlled by the teacher.

  1. EXERCISES - All exercises are placed in one or more of the following groups, according to their major effects on the body:--
    • Leg Exercises - toe and foot placing; lunging; heel raising and knee bending.
    • Arm Exercises - arm positions; arm stretching; punching and flinging; arm swinging, circling, and turning; combined arm stretching and swinging.
    • Dorsal Exercises - head bending, dropping, and turning; trunk bending forward and trunk bending downward; arch; prone lying; spanning (boys).
    • Heaving Exercises - lying and prone lying; fall hanging; climbing rope activities; circling between two ropes (girls), the beam (boys).
    • Balance Exercises - Free-standing: Knee raising and movements in knee raise position; leg raising and swinging; toe lunge; heel raising and knee bending. Apparatus: Balance bench (girls and boys), beam (boys).
    • Lateral Trunk Exercises - trunk turning; trunk bending sideways; combined trunk turning and bending; side falling.
    • Abdominal Exercises - knee and leg raising in the lying and sitting positions; prone falling; trunk falling.
    • Marching Exercises - Girls: Marching on the toes, with combination of steps, with knee raising, with turns, with change step; hop marching; skipping step; slip-step; gallop step; spring step moving forward; running.
      Boys: Marching with varying speeds, with hand clapping; on the toes; with long steps; with heavy and light steps; halting in two movements; about turns; in varying directions; with knee raising; halting with turns; change step; hop march; combination of any of the foregoing; running.
    • Leaping Exercises - These are usually divided into:
      1. Jumping - Girls: Rhythmic jumps, including skip jumping, astride jumping, spring steps, swinging steps, hopping steps, tapping steps, crosswise step or changes. Preparatory jumps (with partners giving support) upwards and sideways; (without partners) a bound, a leap, a star jump, forward jump, consecutive forward jumps with one or two steps between; jumping over ropes and marked spaces; jumping forms. Boys: Any of the aforementioned rhythmic jumps (with the possible exception of crosswise step), also high stride jumping and hopping with high knee raising; forward, upward, sideways, and backward jumps. Combine steps before and after the jump; running high; running long; running broad; running oblique; hurdle and downward jumps; hop-step jumps.
      2. Vaulting - to balance support; through; astride; face; back; side; heave. Girls will learn these exercises on the balance benches, first.
    • Note - For a description of the exercises, the teacher is referred to Part II, page 55, of the "Reference Book of Gymnastic Training for Boys." Progressive lists of exercises for boys are to be found at the end of this Reference Book, beginning on pages 239 and 293. The teacher in charge of girls ay also use these same references, choosing only the milder movements, but her attention is invited particularly to Chapter II, page 12, of the "Supplement for Older Girls."
    1. A straight forward position of the feet is preferred to the standing (and oft-times walking) position of 45 degrees.
    2. Feet closing and opening exercises might well be omitted.
    3. Leaps and bounds are preferred to the lunge movements.
    1. When teaching a new exercise:-
      1. Have a clear idea of the movement and its effect on the body.
      2. Lay emphasis on the main point or points of the movement only.
      3. First, give a clear and rapid explanation of the exercise to the class.
      4. Then, give a personal demonstration giving commands to self slowly, simply, and clearly-emphasize how done, not how not done.
      5. Finally, get a right effort from all, stimulating class to further effort by slow, well-chosen commands.
      6. Correct essentials only, leaving details to subsequent lessons.
    2. Choose exercises which call for effort on the part of the larger muscle group; e.g., the muscles of the trunk, rather than those which have local effort only; eg., arm bending and stretching.
    3. Correlate all movements so that all parts of the body are exercised. Whatever the movements, they must be varied and stimulating and should be directed to the acquiring of good posture, finely controlled movement, economy of effort, and a sense of rhythm.

The chief characteristic of girls’ work is the use of rhythmic movements rather than the more angular, rigid, heavy, and enduring movements more suited to the boys. Skipping steps, tapping steps, side and forward gallop steps, and many others, accompanied by free, perhaps somewhat exaggerated arm movements, aid in the development of an easy, graceful carriage.

2. Breaks.

These are simple movements designed to relieve the physical and mental tension often demanded by gymnastic exercises. They also serve to renew class interest and stimulate the pupils to better effort while, further, they are most effective for changing class formations and for restoring control in a class somewhat over-excited. Examples: "Backs to the wall-go!" "Here! There!! Where!!!" "Files-change." "Reverse files." "Pivot." "Follow the leader." "Boat race." "Crow hop." "Touch wood, " etc.

3. Games.

Games most suited to the pre-adolescent, adolescent, and post-adolescent fall into three main groups-namely, relays and team races, minor team games and major team games.

  1. RELAYS AND TEAM RACES. - These can be varied by adopting different team formations; eg., parallel files; parallel ranks; shuttle; zig-zag; circle; square; spoke.
    For girls: Stepping-stones; coffee grind; head balance; hand balance; all up relay; jump the belt; skipping relay; hand dribble; over and under; hop relay; thread the needle relay, etc.
    For boys: Various stunt relays; rescue relay; Paul Revere relay; leap-frog relays; whirlwind relay; team hopping; down and up relay; chicken hop relay; foot dribble relay; wheelbarrow relay, etc.
  2. MINOR TEAM GAMES. - Such games are useful:-
    1. When outdoor work is out of the question.
    2. When the number of players is too few or too many for major team games.
    3. When time is limited.
    4. When equipment is lacking.
    Examples of games: End ball, dodge ball, rounders, stool ball, captain ball, rallt ball, elimination ball, free ball, shinty, touch and pass, post ball, capto, scrimmage ball, yards (boys).
  3. MAJOR TEAM GAMES.-Every High School student should be familiar with the rules and skills of the following games: Fives, tennis, volley-ball, cricket, basket-ball, lacrosse, grass hockey, baseball (soft-ball), rugby and association football (boys).

4. Personal Skills and Efficiency Tests.

Every normal student of High School age is "skill-hungry." He (or she) craves either consciously or unconsciously for opportunities to test his (or her) skill in a variety of physical activities, particularly those activities experienced when playing the major team games. In an attempt to satisfy this craving, a list of skills of efficiency tests, ranging from a simple "throw-in" in football or basket-ball to a drive for accuracy in golf, should be included in the Physical Education Programme for High Schools.

Examples:Basket-ballshooting for goals during time-limit (all rules observed).
 Soccerdribble past opponent in restricted area and shoot for goal (accuracy of the shot to count).
 Rugbydrop kick from specified spot.
 Lacrosseshoot whilst running across the goal area.
 Cricketbat one ball out of four to "slips."
 Tennisreturn correctly at least one out of three services from partner.
 Golfdrive for accuracy or distance.
 Volley-ballserve to land the ball in specified part of opponent’s area.
 Grass hockeydribble the ball while running from a spot outside the striking. Circle and shoot for goal after crossing a line within the circle and parallel to the goal line.

The above list is by no means exhaustive and is meant to serve merely as a guide to the teacher.

5. Agility Movements.

To satisfy further his hunger for skilled movements and his desire for mastery over his physical powers, the High School student will constantly and conscientiously strive to excel in any agility exercise. Such exercises, calling for concentration of will, co-ordination of the nerves, and good muscle and rhythm sense, produce a well- disciplined body.

Examples: Crow hop; feathering; caterpillar crawl; heel toss; foot balance toss; heel slap; lift the log and slide the log; *rolling log; *paddle wheel; jump the stick; under the stick; *the dip; coffee grind; tip up; forward roll; human ball; *backward roll; the dive; cartwheel; head stand; *chair stand; hand stand; back spring; hand spring; *tanks, etc.

6. Combative Activities.

Such activities provide opportunities for students to test their skill and powers of endurance in friendly rivalry and are of value also in that they arouse a wholesome spirit of aggressiveness, and test one’s courage, confidence and control.

Examples: The various push and pull wars, individual and team; cock fighting; Indian wrestling; knee slap; *cap sparring; hand wrestling; tilting; squat tug; *mounted wrestling; obstinate wheelbarrow; *tie up; *boxing; *wrestling (catch-as-catch-can).

7. Athletics.

All normally healthy boys and girls should be encouraged to participate whole- heartedly in all the above-mentioned items of the Course in Physical Education. A similar effort should be made to foster "athletics for all," instead of for the few. From the point of view of Physical Education, the best efforts of every individual member of the class or school are more valuable than the "records" of the best performers only. The competitive spirit should not be unduly emphasized in an educational programme of athletics. Rightly conducted, athletics can play a prominent part in the building-up of a genuinely wholesome and healthy spirit of rivalry between team and team, class and class, or school and school, and tend to develop a sincere appreciation of and respect for the efforts of others.

* These items are for boys only.

Classification - Students are usually classified for athletic events according to age or weight. Of the two, the former has certain advantages. The Exponent system, however, has further advantages since it takes the age, height, weight, and grade of the pupils at one time.

Events - Girls: 50- and 60-yard dashes, 14 years and under; 75-yard dash, 15 years and over; 100-yard dash, 15 years and over, optional; standing broad jump, progressive in teams; standing high jump; standing hop-step-jump; skipping race; potato race; hoop race; basket-ball throw, overarm.
Boys: 50-, 60-, and 75-yard dashes, 14 years and under; 100-yard dash, 15 years and over; standing and running high jumps; standing and running broad jumps; standing and running hop-step-jump; hurdles—80 yards with 6 hurdles 2 feet 6 inches high, 14 years and under; 90 yards with 7 hurdles 2 feet 6 inches high, 16 years and under; 100 yards with 8 hurdles 3 feet high and 120 yards with 10 hurdles 3 feet 6 inches high, 16 years and over; baseball (hard) throw for distance (juniors); 8-lb. shot-put (seniors). Pole vaulting, javelin throw, discus throw, and 1/4, 1/2, and 1-mile races may be added to the senior programme.

Before students are permitted to enter for strenuous competition in athletics they must have medical consent.

8. Swimming.

With the possible exception of walking, swimming is one of the best forms of exercise for the human body. Training in methods of rescue and resuscitation of the apparently drowned has considerable social value. Moreover, free contact with cold water contributes in large measure to the strengthening of moral character and induces a spirit of hardihood.

9. Dancing.

Participation in dances, well chosen and rightly interpreted, does much to develop a sense of rhythm and to increase the natural elasticity of the body. Dancing assists the girl to overcome the self-consciousness characteristic of the adolescent and helps to change her uncertain and awkward movements into movements of ease, freedom, grace and charm.

Before a new dance is taught the actual steps embodied therein should be practised freely. Where whole dances cannot be used, various steps which occur in many of the Folk and National Dances should be taught in their stead.

Examples of steps: Step; run; hop; skip; slip; dal steps; galop step; pas marche; pas de valse; pas de basque; hopping step; change of step; tapping; rocking step; shuffle; barn dance step; polka step; changes; pivot; snatches; coupe; jete; pirouette; mazurka step; gavotte step; curtsey.

Examples of dances: National - Cochin China; French Reel; Swedish Schottische; Girls’ Pleasure; Dal Dance; Kanafaska; Dutch Dance; Virginia Reel.
English Folk Dances - Parson’s Farewell; Black nag; Goddesses; London is a Fine Town; Newcastle; Hey Boys Up We Go; If all the World were Paper; Up Tails All; Hunsdon House; Sellenger’s Round.

10. Remedial Exercises.

Every teacher must use great discretion in giving remedial exercises, for without a good knowledge of anatomy and physiology as applied to exercise in particular, he is apt to produce rather than counteract the so-called school deformities. In all cases the remedial work given must be in agreement with the school doctor’s recommendations.

The mild deformities common among school-children are usually attributable to the undue lengthening of certain muscles and the tightening of the counteracting muscles, a condition which may have been caused through:--

  1. Tight or otherwise misfitting clothing. (If so, this fault must be remedied before any corrective exercises can improve the condition.)
  2. Bad and unhealthful habitual sitting, standing, or walking postures. (Such postures may be due to general weakness, that is poor muscle tone throughout the body, or to some specific ailment. Again steps must be taken to have the cause removed and then exercise can be given to tone up the whole muscular system and to stretch the particular muscles involved.)
  3. An unbalanced mental outlook probably prompted by a feeling of inferiority. (In such cases little private chats to inspire a personal pride in one’s body may achieve quicker and more lasting results than any exercises.)
Conditions.Corrective Exercises.
Poking chin.
  1. Head pressing backward, keeping the chin down.
  2. Standing tall. Reaching as high as possible with the crown of the head, keeping the chin down and in.
Round shoulders
  1. Arm swinging, circling, and flinging in the lateral plane.
  2. Most hanging positions, particularly on the stall-bars.
Protruding abdomen
  1. Standing against a wall (or door) with feet 3 or 4 inches away and the buttocks, shoulders, and head touching the wall. (Draw the abdomen in slowly and forcibly—relax quickly.)
  2. Back lying (draw in the abdomen to make the whole of the spine touch the floor.)
  3. Back lying with knees pulled into the chest—rocking motion backward and forward.
Hollow back
  1. Same as 3 above.
  2. Standing - trunk forward and downward bend to grasp the ankles (pull hard—tuck the head in).
  3. Long sitting - lean forward to grasp the ankles; Strong steady pull with head in.
Flat Feet. Standing with feet a little apart and parallel:--
  1. Heels raising quickly - lowering slowly.
  2. Turn soles of feet inward (walk on outer borders of the feet).
  3. Toe standing (walk with heels turned out as far as possible).
  4. Picking up small objects with the toes.

The Lesson Plan.

(50-60 minutes.)

The lesson must be conscientiously prepared beforehand. It must be based on accepted gymnastic principles and all practical details of its presentation must be carefully considered. This will include, among other things, words of command, faults likely to be expected and the best methods of correcting these, the placing of equipment, and attention to the ventilation of the room.

Suggested scheme: Divide the lesson into two main parts—I. and II. Each of these to be subdivided as follows:--


  1. A quick activity - may take the form of a simple game, "break" or running in fours and jumping to head a rope strung across the gymnasium.
  2. Simple free standing exercises and rhythmic jumps (arm and leg exercises). Both of the above to occupy from 5-7 minutes.
  3. Dorsal exercises (free standing or apparatus).
    Arm or heaving exercises—the latter on apparatus.
    Balance exercises (free standing or apparatus).
    Lateral exercises (free standing or apparatus).
    Abdominal exercises (free standing or apparatus).
    Dorsal exercises (free standing or apparatus).

The above to occupy the next 20 minutes or so.


  1. Marching and running.
  2. Jumping and vaulting.
  3. Games or dancing.
  4. Practice in personal skills and efficiency tests, or combative activities, or agility movements, or athletics, or boxing and wrestling (boys).

Part II to occupy the remainder of the lesson-time.

It is not intended that every lesson should begin and continue in the above order. But care must be taken to ensure that all parts of the body are exercised judiciously in every lesson. The period may begin with a game or a series of relays, followed by exercises, and later the class may be divided for team-work.

In giving the free standing exercises continuity of movement should be the aim. This does not mean that the exercises are to be given and performed with speed, but rather that they should be a steady, continuous flow of movement. The end of one exercise may quite conveniently become the starting position for the next, and so on.

When apparatus is available, a pleasant change in the programme is made by allowing the various groups of students to practise exercises on a designated piece of equipment under the direction of their leaders. The Team System should be a marked feature of High School Physical Education. It provides excellent opportunities for practice in personal skills and efficiency tests, athletics, agility movements, and combative activities, and assists greatly in organizing the class for competitions.

Reference Books for Teachers.

  1. W.G. Brandreth: Canadian Book of Games and Other Activities (Ryerson Press).
    Games: Athletics; Combative Activities; Agility Movements; Personal Skills and Efficiency Tests; Team System.
  2. Reference Book of Gymnastic Training for Boys (His Majesty’s Stationery Office, Adastral House, Kingsway, London, W.C. 2).
    Detailed description of free standing exercises and exercises on the apparatus; Planning the lesson—division of time; Team System; Agility movements.
  3. Supplement for Older Girls—Physical Training Series No. 12 (His Majesty’s Stationery Office, Adastral House, Kingsway, London, W.C. 2).
    15 desirable lesson programmes for girls. Suggestions for teaching and new features of exercises; Games practices.
  4. Syllabus of Physical Training for Schools, 1919.

Source: British Columbia. Department of Education. Programme of Studies for High Schools. Physical Education, 1933, pp. 46-54.
Transcribed by Bernice Hennessy, Jody Kirkby, and Breanna Mayes, History 349, Malaspina University-College, May 2001.