Strathcona Trust

Syllabus of Physical Exercises for Schools [1911]


Series A. (For children Aged 7-9 Years)
Series B. (For children Aged 9-11 Years)
Series C. (For children Aged 11-14 Years)


    1. Abdominal Exercises
    2. Skipping Exercises
    3. Dancing Steps
    4. Games


The present Syllabus of Physical exercises has been compiled by the Executive Council of the Strathcona trust with a view to preserving uniformity in instruction in Physical training in the public Schools of the Dominion, and has been approved by the various Provincial departments of Education for use in the schools under their control.

This Syllabus is, in the main a reprint of the latest official Syllabus authorized for use in the Public Elementary Schools of England which is based on the Swedish system of educational gymnastics, already adopted by several European countries.

While certain of the words of command and explanatory notes have been modified, no change has been made in the general arrangement and form of the exercises in the English Syllabus, which have been most admirably selected and arranged in proper progression with a view to the promotion of the harmonious development of all parts of the body, and their suitability for children of school age; special care having been taken to exclude all exercises likely to prove injurious to children of weak physique, to which end some of the ordinary Swedish exercises, or combinations of movements, though well designed for average use have been omitted or modified in order to avoid risk of straining children below the average, either in vigor or physical capacity. Further, freedom of movement and a certain degree of exhilaration being essentials of all true physical education, games, and dancing steps have been introduced into many of the lessons. If appropriately taught, many of the free movements accompanying games and dancing steps cannot but have good results, as, indeed, experience has shown where such exercises have been introduced.

With a view to encouraging teachers to consider the principles embodied in the Syllabus and to apply them to the teaching of the children under their care, some general guidance has been provided in the Chapters and Appendices of the Syllabus as to the Theory and Practice of the subject. These have bee dealt with as briefly and simply as possible.

OTTAWA, June 15,1911.



The Object of Physical Training

The object of Physical training is to help in the production and maintenance of health in body and mind.

The conditions of modern civilization with its crowded localities, confined spaces, and sedentary occupations; the increasing need for study and mental application; and the many social circumstances and difficulties which restrict opportunities for natural physical development, all require that children and young people should receive physical training by well-considered methods, not for the purpose of producing gymnasts, but to promote and encourage, by means of such training, the health and developments of the body.

The purpose of Physical Training is not to fit the child to perform certain more or less difficult exercises, but to give him a stronger and more healthy body and to aid him to approach more nearly to the ideal of perfect physical development.

It is especially during the period of growth, when body, mind and character are immature and plastic, that the beneficial influence of Physical Training is most marked and enduring; and the highest and best results of education cannot be attained until it is realized hat mental culture alone is insufficient, and that Physical Exercise is necessary to the development not only of the body but also the brain and the character.

Physical Training should thus be commenced when the child first attends school, and should be continued at least throughout the whole of the growing period. The natural free movements of the very young child supply all that is required at the beginning of life in the way of physical exercise. When, however, the child first comes to school, His natural desire for movement is necessarily restricted for purposes of organization and discipline. This restriction must be compensated y frequent opportunities for free movement, which should chiefly take the form of play. This constitutes the first step in what may be considered as Physical Training. By degrees a few simple exercises may be introduced into the curriculum, which should still contain a large element of play, but play directed by the teacher. The exercises should then be gradually increases until they take the form of regular lessons on the lines indicated hereafter. It is of the greatest importance that the creative element should never be omitted if the best results are to be gained. Enjoyment I s one of the most necessary factor in nearly everything which concerns the welfare of the body, and if exercise is distasteful and wearisome its physical as well as its mental value is greatly diminished.

Effects of Physical Training

Physical Training has, or should have, a twofold effect; on the one hand a physical effect and on the other a mental and moral effect, which for convenience may be termed educational in the popular sense. The direct results upon the health and physique of the child may be described as the physical effect. The teacher must clearly recognize that the child is a growing organism whose powers for physical work vary definitely and widely at different ages, and that a scheme of exercises designed for men undergoing training is not suitable for young boys and girls. To meet the special circumstances of continuous growth and development, a course of graduated exercises has been framed to suit children of all ages and both serves, which aims at training every part of the body harmoniously. Not only can it be adapted to children of various ages, but under medical supervision it can be used to counteract and remedy various physical defects of weakly children.

Exercises, if rightly conducted, also have the effect, not less important, of developing in the children a cheerful and joyous spirit, together with the qualities of alertness, decision, concentration, and perfect control of brain over body. This is, in short, a discipline, and may be termed the educational effect.

These two elements are obviously blended in varying degree in every suitable exercise and according to circumstances, now the one aspect of the exercise, now the other, is to be regarded as the more important. The difference consists rather in the stage at which, and the manner in which, the exercise is taken than in actual difference of movement.


Exercise of the body may therefore be considered, according to its effect, physical or educational.

  1. The Physical Effect -
    1. On the General Nutrition.
    2. Corrective.
    3. Developmental.
    These are interdependent parts of one combined effect.
  2. The Educational Effect -
    On the formation of the character and the development of the higher mental and moral qualities.


(a) Effect on the General Nutrition.

Exercises having a beneficial influence on the general physique produce a nutritive effect; that is, they contribute to the better nutrition of the body. Such exercises consist chiefly of massive movements, which are of two kinds: general and special.

General Massive Movements are those of the limbs and trunk, which involve the whole bony and muscular structure of the body, and quickly and powerfully affects both respiration and the circulation. Types of such exercises are to be found in the natural play movements of children such as running, leaping and skipping, also in marching, dancing, cycling, and games of all kinds. It is chiefly through such movements, given a sufficient supply of suitable food and fresh air that the structure of the body is built up during the growing period, and the artificial conditions of school like make it of the first importance that adequate provision should be made for such exercises. Wherever opportunity offers, children should be encouraged and if necessary, taught to take part in all manners of games in which a considerable number can engage at the same time. The value of organized games as an adjunct to physical training is very great, though they should not take the place of the regular lessons in physical exercises.

Among the Special Massive Movements may be included the various balance movements, shoulder exercises, and lunges. These have beneficial effect upon the nervous system and strengthen the control exercised by the nerve centers over the muscles.

(b) The Corrective Effect.

The term "corrective effect" is used here to denote the remedy or adjustment of any obviously defective or incorrect attitude of action of the body, or any of its parts. Exercises employed for their corrective effect do not usually involve the whole body, but the trunk or limbs taken separately, in order to encourage local development. Special movements of the head, back, and arms, come under this heading, and we may also include respiratory exercises. "Remedial" exercises also fall into this group, but are not, as such, within the scope of the present Syllabus.

Breathing Exercises are used in particular to stimulate the activity of the lungs and circulation, and thus increase the supply of oxygen to the body. Unless the lungs are from time to time expanded to their maximum capacity, they cannot attain their full development, and it is equally necessary that the chest walls and the muscles controlling them should be properly exercised. The object of such exercise is thus to promote the healthy activity of the lungs, as well as to increase the ability of the chest. In this connection it is important to not in estimating the effect of chest exercise, that the most important measurement is not that of the chest when distended to its maximum capacity, but the difference in measurement between the full and empty chest. Respiratory movements have also mental effect in quieting and controlling a class, particularly after a vigorous exercise, but they should not be attempted while the children are actually out of breath, or in a badly ventilated atmosphere.

These exercises are also valuable in the correction of "mouth breathing". In a large number of cases this is originally due to a faulty habit of breathing, and not to any obstruction or hindrance to the free passage of air through the nose. In such instances the habit can nearly always be eradicated, with great advantage to the health of the child, if breathing exercises, with the mouth closed, are efficiently practiced.

Corrective exercises proper are designed to counteract the malpositions so often assumed by children in school, and also to correct certain bodily defects, many of which, unless care is taken are apt to be intensified by the artificial conditions of school life. For instance, Trunk and forward and backward bending, and the lateral trunk movements are most useful in assisting chest development and in strengthening the back and neck muscles in children who have round shoulders and flat, ill-shaped chests, while shoulder blade movements are also useful for the same purpose. Such children have great difficulty in doing these exercises well. Again, Heel Raising corrects the tendency to flat foot. A teacher is often able to effect marked improvement in children who habitually assume malpostions by means of some of these exercises.

(c) The Developmental Effect -

One of the aims of Physical Training is to promote the development of the muscular system and the body as a whole, in order to attain the highest possible degree of all-round physical fitness. Physical Training has also an equally important influence on the development and specialization of the brain cells.

There are in the brain certain "centers" or masses of brain matter, which preside over coordinated movements of all kinds. Thesis centers begin to perform their functions in early life, when the child learns to stand, to walk or to talk. As new movements are attempted new centers become active, certain nerve impulses become more or less habitual, and thus new nerve paths are opened up and established, and the connections between the centers in different parts of the brain become increasingly well defined and co-related. It has been found that within reasonable limits the greater the scope of the physical education, the more complex and highly specialized and developed do these centers become.

Massive movements, involving large groups of muscles, are acquired earliest; the finer movements—for instance, those involving the small muscles of the hand, the balance exercises, and the more difficult combined exercises come later, and a premature attempt to develop these more difficult movements results in unnecessary fatigue of the nerve cells. Accuracy and precision of movement are not to be expected from young children, because their brain centers are not sufficiently developed. As the centers are gradually educated, so the exercises become more precise and exact.

There should, therefore, be no demand for accurate movements in the infant school and but little in the lower standards. It is only in the upper school, with children from 11-14 years of age, that real precision and smartness of execution should be required.


The Educational Effect is common in greater or less degree to all physical exercises, which have a strong mental and moral influence in addition to their direct effect upon the brain and body, and must be recognized as a powerful factor in the formation and development of character. The child unconsciously acquires habits of discipline and order, and learns to respond cheerfully and promptly to the word of command. For the correct performance of the exercises it is essential that the response shall be ready, as this encourages activity and alertness together with accuracy and precision.

Again, in the process of learning a variety of new movements and exercises the memory is strengthened. As the exercises become more advanced there is an increasing demand on the powers of concentration and initiative, and also of endurance and determination. The constant call for self-control and self-restraint, for cooperation and harmonious working with others, needed for performing physical exercises and for playing organized games, helps to foster unselfishness and promotes a public spirit which is valuable in after life.

Rightly taught, Physical Exercises should serve as a healthy outlet for the emotions while the natural power of expressing thought, feelings and ideas by means of bodily movement is encouraged and brought out, a power which was in ancient times carefully and even religiously cultivated, but which now tends to disappear under modern conditions. This appeal to the aesthetic sense is very great, and extremely important, for in learning to appreciate physical beauty in form and motion, the perception of all beautiful things in insensibly developed and the child gradually learns to seek beauty and proportion not only in his external surroundings, but also in the lives and character of those he meets.

While this educational effect is not wanting in such simple natural movements as walking, running, or breathing, when performed with intention, it belongs in a higher degree to other and more difficult exercises in the Syllabus. At first, each of these exercises requires for its performance a certain concentration of mind and a certain effort of will, and it is only by repeated and at first laborious, efforts that perfection of execution is attained. Some degree of fatigue always accompanies the earlier performances, and the more immature the structures put into action the more sensitive they are, and the earlier do they show fatigue. In this connection is should not be forgotten that those exercises which involve the two sides of the body symmetrically are easier to learn, and entail less mental fatigue than asymmetrical movements. An exercise, for example, in which the right arm and left leg move together requires much more though and concentration than one in which the two arms or legs are making equal and similar movements. A t the same time the effect of each performance is stored up as a permanent memory, the repetition becomes by degrees less fatiguing and as a result of lessons repeated week by week the exercise is eventually performed automatically. At this stage its educational value to some extent ceases, but its nutritive value and physical effect remain and are even increased. It follows that in a school course, one and the same exercise may be used for two quite different purposes: (1) During the process of learning, for its educational effect; (2) When it has been mastered for its physical effect. Though as has been pointed out, no hard and fast distinction can be drawn in practice between these effects, the matter is of importance when it is necessary to determine into which group an exercise shall fall in arranging a Table of exercises.


An important physiological effect of physical exercise is to promote the functional activity of the various parts of the body, either directly or indirectly. Increased activity will, within limits, produce increased efficiency. It is necessary to a right understanding of this matter, which lies at the foundation of the science of physical exercise, that a brief consideration should here be given to the elements of physiology which are chiefly concerned. A subsequent section will deal with the application of this knowledge to the work of the Syllabus.

The Work of the Muscles.

When a muscle is made to contract repeatedly an increased amount of muscle substance is used up to supply the energy required for the work, and an increased supply of nourishment will therefore be necessary to make up for the loss. Any additional work also means an increase in the poisonous waste products which are taken up and removed by the blood. The presence of these in the blood rapidly affects and stimulates to greater activity the special center in the brain which controls the action of the heart and consequently the heart begins to beat more rapidly and sends an increased amount of blood to the muscles and other parts of the body. In this way the additional nourishment required by the muscles is provided. Muscles, which are regularly and suitably exercised, become larger, stronger, and more capable of work. This is partly due to the increased activity of the muscle tissue itself, which becomes more capable of absorbing and making use of the nourishment which is thus brought to it; it is also due to the increased activity of the circulation, which provides them with an additional supply of blood and consequently of food. Exercise not only increases the size of a muscle, it also removes form it unnecessary fat and other tissue which is likely to decrease its power to contract, and so properly regulated physical exercise produces a better and more useful muscular system.

The bones also increase in size with the muscles and for the same reasons— increased supply of blood and increased tissue activity. The skeleton as a whole, therefore, becomes bigger and heavier than would have been the case had there been no physical training. The joints also participate in these changes and are rendered more flexible and supple as well as stronger by exercise.

Muscular Fatigue and Overwork.

When a muscle continues to work vigorously, the waste products tend increasingly to be formed more rapidly than they can be conveyed away by the blood, and the longer the work continues the more these waste materials accumulate locally in the muscle. There they exert their poisonous effect on the muscle-fibers and still more on the endings of the nerves which pass to these fibers; as a result the muscle becomes less and less fit to work, and finally is unable to contract a t all: It is then said to be "fatigued," or tired. If the muscle is now allowed to rest for a sufficiently long time, the accumulated waste products are gradually removed by the blood, at the same time brings the nourishment necessary for the repair and restoration of the muscle tissue, and this then by degrees recovers its original strength and power. If the period of rest is not sufficient, the muscle will not have entirely recovered form the fatigue, and will therefore be unable to work so well or for so long a period. If this occurs frequently, and the muscle is as a result almost continuously subjected to the influence of these poisonous products, the efficiency and capacity of the muscle sooner or later becomes seriously impaired, and it is said to be "overworked." It has been well said that, "Overwork is nothing but fatigue pushed to an extremity. Between fatigue and overwork there is simply a difference of dose in the substances which poison the organism; the substance are the same and have the same origin; they are always the waste products of combustion produced by work."

The stiffness and the local tenderness which follow unaccustomed muscular exertion is probably also partly due to the action of these waste products. When the muscle is trained to exercise they are either formed in a smaller quantity or they are more readily removed, and stiffness does not follow. The tenderness is also possibly due to the actual injury of some of the muscle-fibers caused by the unusual or violent contractions, and this would explain why the tenderness so often persists for several days and after other fatigue effects have passed away.

The Circulation.

Increased exertion, as already explained, is followed by increased activity of the heart, which beats more frequently to keep pace with the demand of the tissues for a larger blood supply. Suitable exercise affects the heart muscles just as it affects ordinary muscles, and it becomes more efficient and healthy. On the other hand, overwork, or violent efforts, such as mountain climbing, or running a race when not tin training, entail a serious strain on the power of the heart, which not un-frequently results in permanent damage or disease. The return of blood to the heart from the muscles is partly brought about by the relaxation and contradiction of the muscle-fibers which occurs in exercise. This aids the alternate filling and emptying of the deep veins in the muscles, and so helps to maintain the circulation, both in blood vessels, and lymphatics.


When the impure blood resulting from physical exertion reaches the brain, it stimulates not only the center controlling the heart, but also that which governs respiration. In consequence the breathing becomes deeper and more rapid, and a larger volume of air is breathed in and out. This means that more oxygen enters the lungs, more blood is purified, and more of the poisonous carbonic acid gas is got rid of. Occasional deep breathing, which causes the chest walls and lungs to expand to their fullest capacity, is of the greatest use in promoting their healthy and complete development.


Certain violent exercises or efforts are liable to cause breathlessness. This is characterized by a feeling of distress and inability to breathe normally. It is usually produced by movements involving a considerable number of muscles, when a large amount of work is done in a short time, as for instance running, jumping, climbing. It is a particular form of fatigue caused by large doses of waste products, chiefly, perhaps, carbonic acid gas which enter the blood in consequence of the exertion. The heart and lungs are stimulated, therefore both act more rapidly and the lungs become very full of blood, containing much carbonic acid and little oxygen. The carbonic acid gas is meantime being produced much more rapidly than it is being removed form the body, and in the endeavor to cope with this the respirations become increasingly irregular and excessive. This really defeats it s own ends; the inspirations being comparatively deep, while the expirations are shallow and difficult, less and not more carbonic acid gas is eliminated, and less oxygen is introduced into the blood. The center controlling the heart is soon injuriously affected by the excess of this gas the heart becomes less able to force the blood onward throughout the lungs, it beats more and more feebly and rapidly in the effort to do so, and this strain greatly accentuates the general feeling of distress. The breathlessness passes away with rest, as the carbonic acid gas is gradually removed, oxygen is supplied, and the body is then frequently able to adjust itself to the continuation of the exertion, which originally produced the breathlessness, without further difficult. This is known as gaining "the second wind" and means that the heart and lungs are working in harmony and that the carbonic acid gas is being rapidly and satisfactorily eliminated.

When more or less in training though temporary breathlessness may occur, it is possible to gain the "second wind" without a rest as the heart and lungs are able to adjust themselves more readily to the demand for the increased elimination of carbonic acid gas.

The Skin and Kidneys.

Another result of muscular exercise is the formation of heat, the more vigorous the exercise the more heat is produced. This heat must be disposed of in some way it the body is to retain its usual temperature. In consequence of the quickened circulation the skin becomes full of blood, and is flushed and hot, while the excretion of the sweat goes on so actively that visible drops of perspiration appear. The evaporation of this moisture causes rapid cooling of the surface of the body, and the loss of a considerable amount of heat, so that the excess of heat formed is gradually dissipated. At the same time by means of the increase in the perspiration, additional impurities are removed from the body. It is because of the cooling caused by evaporation from a moist surface, that it is necessary to change damp clothes and so avoid catching cold after violent exercise. This loss of moisture from the body is largely the cause of the thirst, which is experienced after physical exertion. The action of the skin shares to some extent in the work of the kidneys, to which the duty of removing most of the remaining impurities from the blood is allotted.

The Digestion.

The organs of digestion, in common with the rest of the body, receive a more abundant supply of blood in consequence of physical exercise, and the blood itself circulates more rapidly. The functional activity is thus increased, and the appetite, digestion and absorption of the food improved. But for this very reason it is important that physical exercises should not immediately follow a meal, because in that case blood would pass to the muscular instead of to the digestive organs.

The more vigorous action of the muscles of the intestines which accompanies the improvement in the general muscular tone, together with the mechanical assistance given to the onward passage of the food by the contractions of the abdominal muscles, serves to prevent accumulation in the lower part of the bowel, and constipation is thus avoided.

The Nervous System.

The part played by physical exercise in the development of the brain centers has already been referred to, but the general tone and condition of the whole nervous system is also benefited in common with the rest of the body. It must not be forgotten that the improved quality of the muscular work, which always results from suitable physical training, is due even more to the grater efficiency of the nerve centers than to the actual growth and development of the muscles themselves. Actions which appear to be the most simple depend in fact upon an extremely complex nervous and muscular mechanism, and one of the objects of training is to ensure that every action is carried out with as little fatigue and dissipation of energy as possible.

The general physical training given in the school will thus prepare the way for the more accurate and special training necessary in after life in learning any skilled trade or profession.


To sum up: The chief effect of suitable physical exercise is to improve the general nutrition of the body.

By the "nutrition" of the body is meant the general activity and functions of the various tissues, including their power to absorb and make use of the nourishment that is brought by the blood, and their ability to eliminate and remove the waste products which are constantly being produced in greater or less amount; the processes, in other words, which are necessary to the healthy life of the organism as a whole, as well to its individual parts. Exercise serves to promote all these activities, and by encouraging the harmonious cooperation and working of the various organs, necessarily exerts a beneficial influence on them all.


(1) The Relation to the Health of the Child

The exercises in the Syllabus have been carefully selected to suit children between 7 and 14 years of age. It is probable that the physical capabilities of these children have been under rather than over estimated, so that the exercises if rightly taught, may be safely performed by children of comparatively weak physique. In many schools, however, there is a certain proportion of scholars whose general physique, on account of illness, underfeeding, or an unsatisfactory physical environment, is such that physical exercises of any kind are likely to do harm rather than good. There are certain conditions which the teacher should learn to look for and recognize among the children, and in any case of uncertainty the child should be submitted for medical examination as soon as possible.

One of the objects of Medical Inspection in the school is to discover defects among the children, especially those, whether mental or physical, which may interfere with school work, and so prevent the child deriving full benefit from the curriculum, or which may cause the child to suffer positive harm from the ordinary school course. The teacher can do much to aid the doctor in this respect by noticing and observing children who are in any way abnormal. Among the conditions to be watched for, especially during physical exercise, are: -

  1. Breathlessness. - Occasional short and violent efforts even to the production of breathlessness are made by all healthy children in natural play. They form an important factor in the physical development, and for such healthy children and occasional 15 or 20 seconds of hard running or skipping is entirely good. But the regular appearance of breathlessness in a child during the performance of exercises in this Syllabus is a danger signal, and indicates either that the child is too tightly clothed or that the exercise is causing undue physical strain.
  2. Signs of General Fatigue. - should also be carefully noted. For instance a listless, languid way of performing the exercise; inability to give attention; a tired attitude, with the head bending forward, the shoulders stooping, and a general relaxation of the limbs. There may be a puffy look about the eyes, due to want of tone of the small muscles of the face; sometimes the child will frown and screw the eyes up, and even make nervous grimaces and movements. The general muscular tone is lowered because the poisonous waste products which are formed in the body and which cause the fatigue, act largely on the nerve centers which govern the muscles.
  3. Pallor. - The teacher should notice if a child is unusually pale during the exercise, and especially if this paleness increases. It may be due merely to a temporary cause, such as the heat, or fatigue, and is often seen with anemic children and when the ventilation is inefficient. The pallor may, however, have a much more serious origin, as, for instance, in heart disease.
  4. Fainting. - may occasionally happen with any child, especially in the how weather or it the child is under-nourished; in such a case it may be only necessary to allow him to rest for a time in the fresh air. If the child is subsequently ill or if the fainting should occur again, especially after exercise, it is important that he should be excluded from all physical work until he has been medically examined.
  5. Mouth Breathing. - All children who habitually breathe with the mouth open should be noted, and special attention given to them during breathing exercises. Mouth breathing may be due to habit only, and can then often be corrected by the teacher; but frequently there is some actual obstruction to nasal breathing and the child is unable to breathe in the correct way. Such children keep their mouths constantly open, the nostrils are small and contracted, and the expression is vacant and stupid. They are often deaf, and consequently inattentive and dull. The voice is thick and flat, they are very liable to constant cold, to sore throats, and, especially the younger ones, to bronchitis. Such children should always be presented for medical inspection, as the appropriate treatment is usually followed by a very marked improvement, both mental and physical.
  6. Malpositions. - The teacher must remember that physical training does not begin and end with the regular physical training lesson. Exercises practiced a few times in the week will be of little avail unless care is taken at the same time to secure good positions during other lessons, such as reading, writing, drawing, and needlework. Standing for long periods, kneeling on seats, stooping over the desk, hunching up the shoulders or twisting the body and limbs should not be allowed, as these movements tend to produce malformation of the chest and encourage the development of spinal curvature. It must also be remembered that a child is incapable of remaining for very long in one attitude, and therefore frequent change of position should be permitted. Moreover, a child should never be expected to sit or stand in a position of strain, and any placing of the arms, so as to interfere with the movements of the chest, such as folding them behind or in front, must be avoided.

(2) School and Personal Hygiene

There remain for consideration several points of importance with regard to school and personal hygiene in relation to physical exercises to which reference will now be made.

Fresh Air. - During all exercises, and more especially during the few minutes of daily exercises in the classroom, the doors and windows should be opened so that while the children are in active movement the rooms may be well flushed with fresh air. It is most necessary to remember that ventilation, which may be sufficient while the children are at rest, becomes quite inadequate during active movement. Exercises in an impure atmosphere may do more harm than good, because the children are breathing in increased quantities of foul air. Whenever possible exercises should be performed in the open air.

It is desirable that dust should be avoided as far as possible. When exercises are done in dirty classrooms or halls or in unpaved playgrounds, dust is added to the other impurities which may be present in the air, and is a further source of danger, as it is apt to cause among other things much irritation of the throat and lungs.

The teacher should avoid any practices which are likely to increase the amount of dust in the air. For example, if the blackboard is cleaned with a dry duster, a great deal of chalk dust always escapes into the room. If, on the other hand, a damp cloth is used, the chalk adheres to the duster and does not help to increase the dust already present in the air. It may also perhaps be desirable to add a word as the necessity for maintaining schools and classrooms in a thoroughly clean state. A large amount of dirt is necessarily brought in by the children, and dirt in any formal ways tends to cause unhealthy conditions. Soap and water form one of the best disinfectants and if the floors are frequently scrubbed, the wall and furniture washed, and dust prevented from accumulating on the windowsills, shelves or in other places, illness, especially of an infectious nature, is likely to occur much less often.

Dress. - While the exercises included in the course are of such a nature as to admit of their being done in ordinary school dress, there is no doubt that the efficacy of many of the exercises both for boys and girls, would be greatly enhanced by the wearing of suitable clothing and especially of suitable shoes. Such exercises as "Heel raising" or jumping cannot be properly performed in badly fitting and unsuitable foot-gear, and it is recommended that , wherever possible, a supply of gymnastic shoes should be made part of the school equipment. Heel-less shoes with leather soles are more comfortable and cleanly than the rubber-soled shoes usually provided. Special dresses for girls should be of such a nature that they may be worn as part of the everyday clothes. The teacher should direct the attention of the girls to the injurious effects which may arise form tight underclothing and corsets. Tight collars or sleeves, &c., should also be avoided. Children should be taught that it is unhealthy to wear too many and too thick garments, which hamper the movements and consequent development of the limbs and body, and prevent the proper action of the skin. It is essential that instruction in physical exercises should be given to the older girls by women teachers, so that the opportunity of giving advice as to dress and matters of personal hygiene may be taken advantage of to the fullest extent.

In the case of pupil-teachers an students, a suitable costume should always be insisted upon, and they should be taught physical exercises by an expert. Otherwise, when they come to the Training College, or begin to teach in the schools, their movements will be stiff, hampered and awkward, and they will not acquire the ease and grace of movement which is essential to a good teacher of physical exercises.

The women teachers themselves should be encouraged to wear gymnastic costume, especially those who have taken a course of physical training. It is quite impossible to illustrate many of the movements efficiently if a long skirt is worn, and the example of a suitably dressed teacher is of the greatest value, especially when it is necessary to correct the order girls in matters of dress. Moreover, it will assist the girls to realize more clearly the many advantages, both practical and aesthetic, or an appropriate costume.

(3) The Relation of Lessons in Physical Training to School Lessons

In order to obtain the best results from physical training it is very desirable that lessons of 20-30 minutes should be given as frequently as the curriculum will allow. At least there should be three or four periods in the week when physical exercise should be taken as a regular lesson, and if only a limited time is available in the week for this purpose, frequent lessons of short duration will be found more profitable than longer lessons given at greater intervals.

Learning physical exercises demands concentration of attention and mental exertion comparable in all respects to that required in other school lessons. Performance of the exercises entails a certain amount of fatigue, such as is necessarily involved in all profitable efforts of an educational nature, and this point should be kept in mind by teachers, who should not regard the physical training lesson as a compete relaxation from school studies. There is, therefore, the need for adjusting the length of the lessons to the age of the children and for observing a suitable progression of exercises so that at each stage some effort will be required, but an effort which never amount to strain, while a higher degree of precision and accuracy may be insisted upon with increasing practice and advancing years. Physical exercises should, for this reason, not be taken when the children are suffering from mental or physical fatigue. If this should ever be necessary, the lesson must be limited to simple, easy and recreative movements.

"Recreative" Exercises. (*See Appendix) - In addition to the regular lessons, certain well-known simple exercises should be used in the classroom for their recreative effects. The exercises best suited to this purpose are those which can be done quickly and without mental effort, their effect depending largely upon the amount of energy put into muscular contraction in a given time. For this reason massive, simple and rapid movements are best. The effect being comparatively transient, such exercises require frequent repetition to secure permanent benefit. They should be performed in the classroom several times daily with open windows for two or three minutes at a time. They may, if necessary, be taken by the children while at their desks, and every considerable period during which the children are confined to the classroom continuously should be broken up by an interval of such exercises. Children who have been for a long time at one task and are becoming listless and inattentive are at once refreshed by a few minutes’ exercise in such quick and massive movements.

Music. - Music is at times made use of in the physical training lesson and is of great value if properly employed. It must, however, be clearly recognized that it should not be used in the formal lesson with the regular physical exercises, because exercises performed to music are carried out rhythmically, more or less mechanically, and without much thought or concentration of mind. For this reason the Educational and Development effects are greatly diminished, though fatigue is lessened and the recreative effect is markedly increased. Music, should, therefore, be used in Infant Classes, where it is especially important to avoid fatigue and to make the lessons bright and cheerful; it may also be used to accompany marching or dancing steps, when teaching the older classes, either if the children are tired, or in order to avoid monotony and render the lesson more recreative.


The character and degree of instruction in Physical Exercises in Infant Classes, that is, generally speaking, of children under 7 years of age, as in other subjects, is a matter which may to some extent be left to the discretion of the teacher. These children should have extremely short and varied lessons, as they are physiologically incapable of keeping their attention on one subject for long at a time, and any attempt to force the immature brain to do work for which it is not yet fit results in nerve strain and fatigue and may seriously retard subsequent progress at school. Infants cannot be expected to sit still as long as older children, and must therefore be allowed plenty of scope for free movements. They should not stoop over their work nor should they bring it nearer the eyes than 10-12 inches. No work on a small scale, such as fine sewing or writing between narrow lines, which requires exact accurate movements or is liable to cause eye- strain, is to be approved in an Infant School. Free are drawing, from the standing position, on blackboards or wall surfaces, may be regarded as a valuable variety of physical exercise for such children. Intervals for play and organized games should be frequent, and simple nutritive exercises, such as marching or running, are very useful. The exercise should be quick rather that slow, fee rather that constrained, large and massive rather that fine—simple, rhythmical and easily learned. It is also very desirable that the liking for definite games should be established at an early age, and the children should be encouraged to play these rather than to spend their free time in aimless running about the playground.

Accuracy or precision of movement is hardly to be expected from infants. The exercises should be of the massive type, so that large groups of muscles only are used, and breathing exercises should also be frequently given. In these Infant Classes music should be used as far as possible; the exercises are more easily performed to a definite rhythm, the fatigue is consequently diminished and the enjoyment greatly increased.


To sum up, there are certain elementary necessities which are required for a healthy life. The child must be fed, sufficiently and suitably; it must be properly clothed, warmed and housed; it must have enough sleep, rest and fresh air, and the needful attention to personal hygiene and cleanliness. These in themselves, together with the natural walking, running and jumping done by any ordinary child, will often suffice to produce a healthy and a well developed body and brain, since even apparently simple actions, such as standing or walking, require the combination and coordination of many muscle groups. It is, however always desirable, and in many cases necessary to give further aid to the physical development. This may be done in two distinct ways: (1) by formal, set physical exercises, such as are given in the Tables of this Syllabus: and (2) by physical exercises having a more recreative or aesthetic character – for example, games and sports of various kinds and many varieties of dances. Both these two classes of exercise are needed, each supplementing the effect of the other.


Method of giving the Lesson.

In order to obtain the best results from a lesson in Physical Training it should be rendered as enjoyable and interesting as possible to the children. This will depend partly on the selection of exercises, but also, to a very great extent, on the personality and methods of the teacher. Impatience on the one hand, and hesitation on the other, should be avoided, and, while cheerfulness is greatly to be desired, the manner should be firm and decided in order that discipline may be maintained.

Selection of Exercises.

With regard to the selection of exercises, a certain number of familiar movements which can be performed easily with energy and vigour should always be given. In addition, running and jumping and the various kinds of marches and games are always popular with the class, and are very valuable in re-awakening the interest of the children after comparatively dull or difficult exercises. New exercises should be judiciously introduced, but too much of the lesson should never be taken up with explaining and teaching fresh movements. A game should be introduced into every lesson, as far as possible, if only for a few minutes.

Children should also never be kept too long in anyone position, particularly a difficult position, neither should an exercise be performed so often as to become wearisome. All stiff, strained or unnatural positions should be avoided.

Whilst adhering closely to the Syllabus, the teacher must always be able to give the lesson without reference to the Syllabus during the class. This will greatly help to prevent the instruction becoming tedious to the scholars, will make the lesson far more effective and, in addition, will save valuable time. Before taking a lesson, the teacher should endeavour to look over his Table and make sure that he remembers the exercises and the order in which they come. He should consider how he intends the lesson to go, what new exercises, if any, will be taken, how they should be taught, and how much time can be given to each exercise, When the teacher has a good grasp of the lesson, and knows exactly what is to be done, he will pass without hurry or loss of time from one movement to another, with that quiet confidence and decision of manner which do so much to keep awake interest arid attention, and to gain a willing and cheerful response from the children.

Besides making himself familiar with the Table of exercises to be taught, the teacher must also consider the size and general arrangement of his class, in order that the space available for physical exercises may be utilized in the best possible manner.


Commands should be given just loudly enough for all the children to hear distinctly. Shouting is quite unnecessary and leaves the teacher no reserve for suddenly awakening the attention of the class. A quiet command can be made as empathetic as a loud one because its emphasis depends upon its distinctness and firmness and not upon its loudness. The tone of voice should be varied so as not to become monotonous, and every word should be spoken with distinctness.

Commands should always be given in a cheerful, lively manner, as this has a great effect in making a class work happily with interest.

Every command should consist of two parts, the explanatory and the executive. The explanation should show as clearly as possible what is to be done, and the executive word indicates when the movement is to begin. For example:

Explanation.   Executive word.
Head backward - bend.
Left foot forward - place.
Arms upward - stretch.

It is sometimes necessary to precede the explanation by a Caution, as, "Without raising the shoulders, head backward - bend."

The explanation should always be given slowly and distinctly.

The method of commanding the executive word varies. For a quick movement it must be given sharply, and in a higher tone than the explanation. For a slow movement it should be given more smoothly and deliberately. It must in fact indicate as far as possible the way in which the exercise is to be carried out. Arm stretchings, for instance, are decidedly quick movements and must be commanded quickly. Arm swingings are somewhat slower. Arm raising or parting is taken and commanded slowly. Foot placings are performed more quickly than lunging. The trunk movements are nearly all essentially slow movements.

A pause must be made before the executive word is given, during which the class can prepare for the movement to be carried out. This pause should not always be of the same length, but may vary, in order that the children should not fall into the habit of anticipating the executive word. With beginners, and with unfamiliar exercises, a longer pause than usual is as a rule necessary. The teacher must also learn to control his own voice and breath, so that he may be able to give the command in the right way and at the right time.

If the teacher finds that the ordinary command for a movement does not exactly express the way in which he wishes it to be done, he may add words expressing this to the explanatory part of the command. For example, "quickly," "slowly," "slightly," "twice," "by numbers," etc.

Exercises may be carried out to full words of command, or, as they become familiar, to numbers. When a movement, or a series of movements, is to be repeated, there is no need to repeat the whole command, but the word "Repeat" may be used. Take, for example, Heel raising and Knee bending. This may be commanded as: "Heels-raise, Knees-bend, Knees-stretch, Heels-lower. Re-peat, 1,2,3,4."

It may also be given as "Heel raising and Knee bending by numbers-1,2,3,4. 1,2,3,4."

As the exercise becomes still more familiar, and with older children, the numbers may be omitted. The command is then, Heel raising, and Knee bending-begin. The class performs the exercise once, judging their own time, and for further repetitions the command Re-peat may be given.

The Position of the Teacher.

The position of the teacher while conducting the class is a matter of importance. The most common faults are either remaining in one place during the whole of the lesson, or moving aimlessly about. When explaining or illustrating an exercise the teacher should stand where he can see, and be seen by, every child in the class. At other times he should move round the class as occasion requires for the purpose of correcting faults and in order to better observe the way in which the exercises are being performed.

Illustration and Explanation of Exercises.

All exercises should be taught as far as possible by illustration, the teacher first performing the movements himself or causing them to be performed by a scholar placed in front of the class. This should be accompanied by a few words explaining the essential part of the exercise and any special; points to be noted. Minor details may be introduced afterwards. It is important to remember to teach one thing only at a time until the exercise is fully understood. All one-sided exercises must be performed an equal number of times to the right and left. Later, illustration or explanation should only be given when it is necessary to remind children of a particular movement or to correct errors. As little time as possible should be taken up in this way, and the children should be encouraged to remember the various points in the exercises without constant repetition of the explanations. The teacher should seldom, if ever, perform the exercises with the children, as in case it is not possible for him to see that it is being properly carried out.

The Correction of Faults.

Every exercise is designed to produce some specific effect, and any departure from the correct method of performing it detracts from the desired effect, or even tend to cause definite harm. The correction of faults is therefore an important part of the instruction and requires a knowledge of the purpose and effect of the exercise, and of the faults which usually occur, together with the easiest way of correcting them. In the first place it is necessary to secure a correct starting position, because, if this is faulty, the movements taken from it cannot be accurate. Then the positions of the body and limbs during the exercise, the direction, distance and speed of the movements, must be carefully observed. Further, the teacher must show great patience when correcting faults, a scolding tone should never be adopted, but every effort made to encourage the children. Much individual variation exists in the capacity of individual children for performing physical exercises, and as long as reasonable attempts are being made to carry out instructions correctly he should not become impatient if the movement is not done accurately even after several repetitions. Every effort should be made to encourage children who are backward or behind the rest of the class, and it is important to distinguish between inability and carelessness. Backward children should never be exposed to ridicule, neither should they be incessantly corrected or they may lose courage and become indifferent.

There are two general methods of correcting faults:

  1. While the class is performing an exercise.
  2. While the class is standing easy.

The former method should be used only in the case of small faults which require little more than a word to secure their correction, as "Heads up," "Knees straight," etc. Should it be necessary occasionally during a complex exercise to make a longer correction or an additional explanation the command As you were or Attention may be given, and after the fault has been corrected, the exercise should be recommenced. Faults of a more serious nature, or which affect a large number of children, should be corrected while the children "stand easy" the fault can then be explained and illustrated in detail.

It is occasionally necessary for the teacher to place the child in the correct position, especially in the case of younger ones; this practice should not be employed too freely, and should never take the form of roughly handling or pulling the child about. All the faults in an exercise should not be corrected at once, but the worst and most important mistakes should first be put right and afterwards the less serious ones.

The best way of correcting a fault which is habitual, or which has arisen during the course of the lesson, is by the employment of corrective exercises (as head bending backward for bad carriage of head and neck). It should be remembered that a fault is not fully corrected until the habit has been eradicated. If a child requires special correction involving considerable attention, he should be taken separately, so as not to waste the time of the others.

Unrestricted breathing should be maintained during all exercises, and the teacher should, if necessary, remind the children to breath freely, especially during those exercises, such as Trunk bending backward, in which there is any likelihood of the breath being held.

Co-operation between Teacher and Pupil.

There is no part of schoolwork in which the spirit and capability of the teacher are so clearly reflected in the performance of the children as in physical exercises. Whatever the period of exercise may be it should be full of purpose throughout. Every exercise should be performed "with intention," i.e. with distinct realization of its purpose and with the requisite vigour and decision. To secure this it is important that the teacher should get the children to take a keen and lively interest in the lesson, and to share in the esprit de corps of the class. This will best be accomplished by sympathy, cheerfulness, and the cultivation of a sense of partnership between teacher and pupil.

Above all, the teacher must remember that the ideals aimed at, which are discussed in the Introduction, can generally be most satisfactorily reached by a happy combination of ordered movements and freedom, so that, tough discipline is maintained, the children find real enjoyment in their lesson.


2. Simple Breathing Exercise

(a) With Hands on chest.

The hands rest lightly on the lower part of the front of the chest with the finger tips two or three inches apart and directed inward (see Fig. 62) .The child is thus able to feel the movements of the chest walls during breathing. The mouth must be kept closed during the exercise, and both inspiration and expiration should be deep and slow.


[OR, BREATHING-begin.]

(b) With Hips firm.

This exercise is taught in a similar way, the hands being in the Hips firm position, to take the weight of the arms off the shoulders.


Hips-firm. Breath-in.

(c) At Attention.

In this exercise the breathing is taken in the position of Attention. In commanding Breathing Exercises care must be taken to give the executive words (in, out, etc.) smoothly and deliberately, so that children who breathe comparatively slowly shall not be unduly hurried, and those who naturally breathe more quickly shall not pause too long at the end of inspiration. Indeed, there is much to be said for substituting the command "Breathing-begin" for the double command "Breathe-in, Breathe-out," thus allowing each child greater freedom in regard to the rate of breathing. Breathing exercises should not be done in regular time for the reason given on page 57. Deep breathing should never be given immediately after vigorous exercise. If the children are "out of breath," the jumping or running should be followed by marching or marking time, and. the breathing exercise should only be commenced when the class are again breathing quietly.



On the command "Fall in" the children should take their places in one rank arranged according to height. As a rule, the shortest should be on the left of the class, the tallest on the right.

When a class consists of more than twelve children a rear rank should be formed, about two paces behind the first rank. In cases where the class is too large to be formed up in two ranks, or where the available space is broad and short, the class may be divided into two divisions, each arranged in two ranks.

Young children may be placed in position, but with older children this is unnecessary. On falling in, the children will assume the "stand at ease" position. The class should then be called to Attention.


In order to straighten the ranks, all the children of the front rank, except the child on the right, will turn their heads smartly to the right, each child will then move up or back till he can just discern the lower part of the face of the child second from his right, and until he is about a hand’s breadth from the child on his right. The body must be carried backward or forward with the feet; the children moving to their dressing with short quick steps without bending backward or forward. The shoulders must be kept perfectly square and the position of Attention retained throughout. The rear rank children will continue looking to their front and will cover and correct their distances, as the children of the front rank take up their dressing.


LEFT-dress can be performed in a similar manner.

(Children over 10 years of age will be taught to turn their heads to the front as soon as they have obtained their dressing, the Command "eyes front" will then be unnecessary.)

A class is said to be "in single rank" when the children stand side by side in one line; "in two ranks" when there are two similar lines, the pupils of the rear rank being two paces in the rear of their front rank pupil; a front rank pupil with his or her rear rank pupil form a "file." When a class in two ranks turns to the right or left, it is said to be "in file"; when a class in single rank turns to the right or left it is said to be "as in file." A class standing "in file" will correct it’s dressing on the command "Class-cover," when the pupils in front will stand still, the others placing themselves directly behind the children in front.


Beginning with the left foot, the feet are raised alternately from two to six inches from the ground, according to the size of the children, keeping the feet almost parallel with the ground, the knees raised to the front, the arms steady at the sides, and the body steady; the class should not move backward or forward while marking time.


(The raised foot is lowered to the position of Attention.)


In ranks. To take distance, the class mark time, and all except the file on the right gradually move to the left, at the same time turning the head to the right: until, by raising the right arm sideways to the shoulder line (palm downwards), the finger tips touch the shoulder of the child on the right. The class then halt, the arms are lowered to the side and the heads turned to the front.


Single Distance from the right – take.
Class – halt.
(The right arm and raised foot are brought back to the position of Attention.)

If less distance is required, the right hand is placed in the "Hips firm" position, and each child moves to the left until his right elbow touches the left arm of the child on the right.


Elbow Distance from the right - take.
Class – halt.

In file. The class mark time, and, with the exception of the leaders, all move backwards, until, by raising the arms forward (palms inward), each child is able to touch the outside of the shoulders of the one in front with the tips of his fingers. The class then halts, and the position of Attention is resumed.


Distance Forward – take.
Class – halt, I.
(The arms and raised foot are lowered to the position of Attention.)



Keeping both knees straight and the body erect, turn to the right on the right heel and left toe, raising the left heel and right toe in doing so. On completion of this preliminary movement, the right foot must be flat on the ground and the left heel raised, both knees straight, and the weight of the body, which must be erect, on the right foot. Bring the left heel smartly up to the right without stamping the foot on the ground.


Turning to the right by numbers – 1, 2.
(After the children have been instructed by numbers they will turn to the right on the command "Right—turn," observing the two distinct movements without any pause between them.)


Turn to the left, as described above, but on the left heel, and right toe, the weight of the body being on the left foot on the completion of the movement. Bring the right heel smartly up to the left without stamping the foot on the ground.


Turning to the left by numbers – 1,2.
Left – turn.


To turn about, the children will turn a half circle to the right as detailed for the right turn.


Turning about by numbers – 1,2.


Children may also be taught to turn while marking time, as this is a simpler way of taking the movement. The right or left turn may be taken in two movements, the about turn in three.


Quick Mark – time (left, right).
Left – turn, 1,2.
About – turn, 1,2,3.


One, or two, paces forward or backward are taken, beginning with the left foot.


One (two) Pace Forward (Step Back) – march, 1,2.
(The left foot is placed forward; then the right foot is brought to the position of Attention.)
Stepping sideways is performed to the command:
One (two) Pace to the left (Right) – march, 1,2.


In numbering in twos, the child on the right numbers "one", the next child "two", the next "one," and this is continued along the rank, each child turning the head quickly to the left when speaking, and to the front again immediately afterwards.

With older children the front rank only should number, each child in the rear rank taking the same number as the one directly in front of him.

With younger children both ranks may number separately.


From the right in twos – number.

To open ranks after numbering, the "ones" of the front rank take two paces forward, and the "twos" of the rear rank two paces backward, so forming four lines. Closing ranks is performed in the reverse order. (See Fig. 63.)


(To open ranks)
"Ones" of the front rank two paces forward, "twos" of the rear rank two paces step back – march.
(To close ranks.)
Close Ranks – march.

For older children the command to open ranks will be "Open ranks – march."

After opening ranks a turn to the right or left may be made it the teacher considers it desirable.

If the class is only large enough to form one rank, the children number in threes instead of twos. To open ranks, the "ones" take a pace forward and the "threes" a pace backward, while the "twos" stand still.


(To open).
"Ones" A pace forward, "Threes" A pace step back – march.
(To close).
"Ones" A pace step back, "Threes" A pace forward – march.

On the word Dismiss, the class will turn to the right, and after a pause disperse.




Physical exercises may be taken in the classroom either as "recreative" exercises for a few minutes at a time between other lessons, or it may be necessary in some schools to take the regular lesson of physical training in the classroom. In the latter case it is desirable that the available space shall be utilized to its fullest extent, and it is often possible, by carefully arranging the children, to carry out a considerable number of exercises even in a somewhat crowded room. It will be understood that where infants are taking their exercises in the classroom they will only do such movements as are suitable to their age.

Children should as far as possible stand clear of their desks, either between them or in any free space there may be at the front or back of the room. Quarter or a half turn to the right or left will often make an exercise, such as "Arm stretching sideways," or "Arm flinging," possible, which could not be taken if the whole class faced directly forward. Certain exercises, such as Head movements, Breathing exercises, some Arm movements, may if necessary be taken in the sitting position.

Children should not be allowed to stand on the seats or forms on account of the additional strain and fatigue entailed in balancing the body correctly. When the room is extremely small the class may be taken in two divisions.

The windows should always be open when Physical Exercises are being taught. If it is necessary to take the lesson in the classroom, the tables of exercises should be followed as far as possible:--

  1. Introductory Exercises. - The usual Order movements can seldom be given. Head movements and Breathing exercises can always be done. Some foot movements such as "Feet closing and opening," "Alternate toe or heel raising," and in many cases "Foot placings," are also possible.
  2. Trunk bending backward and forward should not be omitted.
  3. Arm bendings and stretchings can often be taken in every direction and in all cases in some directions. If the children are somewhat crowded together, alternate instead of double movements may be taught.
  4. Balance Exercises, "Heel raising and Knee bending," "Heel raising," "Knee raising", and in many cases "Toe support placing" and "Leg raising" are usually found possible.
  5. Shoulder-blade Exercises can be taken in nearly every case.
  6. Trunk turning and bending sideways are always possible if the children have room to stand and may also be taken in a modified form from the sitting position.
  7. Marching. Whether this is possible depends on the distance between the desks and on the amount of available free floor space. "Step" marches should seldom be attempted. Where necessary, marching may be replaced by "Marking time with knee raising" or "Running on the spot."

"Recreative" Exercises. - As these exercises are only taken for a few minutes at a time the arrangement of the class is not of great importance. Examples of such exercises are: -- Breathing exercises, Head movements, Arm bending and stretchings (taken quickly and vigorously), Trunk bending backward and forward, Arm swinging and flinging, and Running on the spot.


A few notes on the method of teaching Physical Exercises in the Infant School may be given appropriately here. Until the age of five years it is well to limit Physical Exercises to free play and games with occasional marching, running, and breathing exercises. From five to seven years of age some preliminary instruction may be given to prepare the child for the more formal lessons taught in the other departments of the school.

General Directions. - The lesson must be short, 15 minutes being long enough for Infants. It should be made as interesting and varied as possible, and no exercise should be repeated more than two or three times insuccession. The exercises should be chosen for their general effects on nutrition as a whole, and for their power to stimulate respiration and circulation. Slow movements should not be attempted. At the same time, it must be constantly remembered that your children readily become fatigued, and therefore ample opportunity for resting must be allowed.

Commands. - Directions to Infants should never take the form of a definite "command." The exercise should be explained or described in the ordinary speaking voice, and the children may then be ready to begin. Commands, as given to older children, tend to exact a certain precision of execution, which is never needed in the Infant School. The teacher should herself illustrate the exercise, and may perform it with the children.

Faults should not be too strictly corrected, as perfect positions are not to be expected or desired. Too much correction wearies the children and detracts from the recreative effect of the lesson.

No systematic attempt should be made to teach Order movements, the children may be placed in position or may be given their numbers by the teacher.

Though it is not necessary in the Infant School to teach the exercise in the definite order and sequence given in the Tables, it may be convenient to consider the suitability of the exercises in each group for young children.

  1. Introductory Exercises. — "Head bending forward and backward," or "Head turning" may be taught. "Marking time," especially with knee raising, is a useful leg movement. "Feet closing and opening" and "Feet astride placing" may also be used. Easy commencing positions, such as "Hips firm" or "Arms bend," may be taken as exercises.
  2. Trunk bending backward should not be taught to Infants because considerable strain attaches to its correct performance. "Trunk bending forward and downward" is easily done by young children and may be given cooperatively often.
  3. Arm bendings and stretchings. - Any simple movements, upward, downward, sideways or forward, may be taught. They must, however, be taken more quickly, and less precisely than with older children. In stead of keeping the fingers extended, the fists may be loosely clenched.
  4. Balance exercises are unsuitable for Infants, as the brain centers are as yet too undeveloped to profit by such movements. "Heel raising and lowering" may, however, be taught as it is quite easily performed.

The Summary of Portions of the "Syllabus of Physical Exercises for Schools"

By Shane Hyde


During the late 1800’s –early 1900’s physical education was slowly creeping into the educational studies. The new ideas of including physical exercise were designed more like that of military exercises. In 1907, the federal Department of Militia provided drill instruction to teachers in Canada. These teachers once certified, could earn an extra $100 a year in salary. This paved the way for new techniques for teaching. Three years later a private foundation awarded $500,000 to the schools of Canada for the development of Physical Training. This private foundation was the Strathcona Trust.

Lord Strathcona who held the title as Canada’s High Commissioner to Great Britain established the Strathcona trust. Lord Strathcona used a trust fund of $500,000 to develop a syllabus of physical exercises that he modeled after a similar syllabus already being used in Britain. Strathcona put 50% of the $500,000 towards the development of physical education. His goal was to create physical exercise as well as establish a form of military cadet corps in the public schools.

British Columbia adopted Lord Strathcona’s idea in 1910. By 1912, physical education had become mandatory in all public schools. Although the syllabus stressed the aspects of physical exercise and human physiology the exercises were more closely linked to that of the military. In fact, most of the calisthenics and drills were performed by officers on loan from the Militia department.


In the pages previous, the history of physical education was described. There were many things that are very similar to the way that both our new teachers are taught to teach and the way that our students are taught the actual material. It is very surprising the amount of knowledge surrounding the human physiology aspects. This information described in the syllabus about the importance of physiology towards physical exercise was remarkably modern. Such things as body framework, muscles, circulation, respiration, digestion, the nervous system and many more. It was amazing that these teachers were learning this type of information that takes modern teachers years to learn.

However, as modern as some parts of the syllabus are there are still major areas where modern educators would question. The whole aspect of the military approach has been dropped from the curriculum. The need to practice and go over in great detail, the ways of setting up the drills and calisthenics, is no longer needed. The whole idea of setting up into ranks and file has also been gladly forgotten in today’s exercises.

In today’s teachings the instructors are more concerned with the children having fun and allowing them to get some quality exercise. There is a quote in the syllabus that reads, "the young children should be encouraged to play organized games, rather than spend their time in aimless running about." In today’s teachings of physical education for the young children it is taught to let the children experience "play and fun."

There are many areas where the teachings according to the syllabus seem quite extreme. Things such as specific exercises to teach the students how to breath through their noses and not through their mouths. The idea of doing breathing exercises in order to develop stronger chest muscles and increase lung strength seemed a little absurd. In today’s teaching it is understood that any type of cardiovascular exercise will help improve these areas.


In conclusion of this examination and presentation of "The Syllabus of Physical Exercises for Schools" it has to be addressed that without this syllabus the development of physical education might have taken much longer to occur. The syllabus although strict and militarily like, paved the way for the future of physical education in public schools. The work of the great Lord Strathcona, and his executive council for the Strathcona Trust, has been very well received and appreciated by many. The work in the field of physical education will continue to excel and develop thanks to the efforts of the past.

Source: Syllabus of Physical Exercises for Schools. Published by the Executive Council, Strathcona Trust [1911]
Transcribed by Shane Hyde, History 349, Malaspina University-College, May 2001
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