Category Archives: physical activity

Le Grand Défi – Pierre Lavoie’s Energy Cubes for Schools

Hats off, chapeau to Pierre Lavoie, his team and his partnerships with not-for-profits, school boards and the private sector. At our house, Le Grand Défi is a succès fou. Just check our kids all pleased as punch in this twitter pic sent to M. Lavoie. It was snapped just before the school bus pulled up on the day they brought in their final numbers for Le Grand Défi – Cubes d’énergies.

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Le Grand Défi

 

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C’est un homme qui fait bouger le monde.

He’s a man who makes people move.

 

Each May, grade school kids throughout Quebec and in francophone schools across the country take the energy cube challenge. Kids are asked to track their physical activity in 15 minute intervals over a 4 week period. Each 15 minutes equals 1 energy cube. Our kids are the outdoors types constantly on the run. They love this friendly competition. There is a little whining on occasion and disagreement over a sibling’s interpretation of the numbers. But all told it’s a celebration of play in motion.

Each kid gets a little book to track their progress over the course of the 4 weeks. At the end of each week, a parent signs attesting to the accuracy of the count and the books go into school for the weekly tallies.

Les CubesThe book

Lavoie started out on his incredible journey in 1999.

“In 1999, Pierre Lavoie launched the first Défi Pierre Lavoie in Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean in order to raise awareness in his region about lactic acidosis, the illness which took two of his children from him, and raise funds for research. He cycled alone over 650 km in 24 hours on an itinerary around the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region.” (Source)

Since then, Lavoie has served as an inspiration to adults and children alike.

The kids are racking up the cubes. For the first at bats in 2009, 16,970,889 cubes. In 2015, 103,081,934. The cubes are on the move.

For more on Pierre Lavoie visit Le Grand Défi or The Grand Défi. The video below gives a sense of the power of Lavoie’s message, of his actions. A tribe of movers and shakers is in motion around him riding the physical activity wave.

Our kids are raring to go every May – ready to jump, run, rattle and roll. Are there similar physical activity programs in your area? Keep them movin’

In Praise of Loose Parts

In play, ‘loose parts’ are skirting the edges of nirvana. Ask any kid. Now they probably won’t call them ‘loose parts’. They’re more likely to use the generic and all encompassing ‘stuff’ prefaced by cool, awesome, or great. It might even go the way of ‘this stuff is epic’.

Simple play is best for kidsStudents at Emmaus Primary Catholic School – Melbourne, Australia. Photo: Jay Town. Source: HeraldSun

Wood, rope, tarps, tires, milk crates, cardboard boxes, fabrics and apparently hay bales too can make up a loose parts inventory. It’s what the kids do with it that’s a real blast. They create, they build up and pull down, they improvise, they move, groove and PLAY!

Now, thanks to Australian researcher Brendon P. Hyndman we have empirical evidence that loose parts in primary schools go way beyond a good thing. From the perspective of increasing physical activity, engaging a broad cross-section of kids and being light on constantly squeezed budgets, this study shouts out ‘Eureka!’ embrace loose parts play.

Here are selected comments from A Guide for Educators to Move Beyond Conventional School Playgrounds…. published in the Australian Journal of Teacher Education.

the way they interact with each other…it’ s lovely to listen to…the co-operative play has really increased…they do negotiations…interactions between levels has been fantastic

kids in my room have mixed with kids they wouldn’t normally hang out with…there’s not a…set number that can or can’t be involved

students became a lot more complex in what they did…it was a real journey…there was…dragging, pulling and moving…then came the building phase…then came the dramatic phase…but all of those remain there

Quantitative data, as the charts below demonstrate, also offer a compelling storyline – given the opportunity, kids will choose to build and play with a variety of loose parts so much so that it becomes the dominant play activity.

Ausie Journal of Teacher Education

Given that many kids in Australia and elsewhere are getting the bulk of their physical activity and play within the school setting, in excess of 50% in some instances as cited in Hyndman’s study, these findings are significant.

The effects of the loose parts intervention were measured at various stages over a 2 1/2 year period and engagement remained steady.

“…teachers’ perceptions were that student exhibited increased amounts of excitement, engagement, creativity, problem solving and physical activity during their play with the introduced movable/recycled materials.”

Loose parts are an important part of the playwork canon and have strong roots in the UK within adventure playgrounds and with groups such as Pop-Up Adventure Play. David Rockwell’s Imagination Playground has also a taken a page from the loose parts experience in the creation of the big blue block play environments.

Loose Parts

All hail loose parts. They are the jazz of play bebopping the kids along in a wonderfall of spontaneity. There are downsides though that can’t be dismissed. As more and more schools, neighbourhood groups and play schemes embrace loose parts, it just might start proving difficult to source the ingredients – milk crates, cardboard boxes and of course hay bales!

Here are the kids, subjects of the research study, in action at Emmaus Catholic Primary School in Ballarat, Australia as reported by WIN News Victoria.

We hope to get something on the go in Halifax this summer and we’ll let you know how it turns out. I have just started to put together a menu of ingredients and am wondering where I will be able to acquire some of them at little or no cost. If any readers have put together a loose parts play event, I’d love to hear from you.

Many thanks to Brendon Hyndman for his grand research. You can follow him @Dr_BPH.