Bringing physical literacy to the British Virgin Islands

Canadians have long been leading the way globally in many areas of sport and physical activity, such as establishing long-term development pathways, creating physical literacy opportunities and mobilizing coach education. As other countries rush to catch up, many of them looking to Canada as an example, Sport for Life has been approached by numerous countries including the British Virgin Islands (BVI) to share our knowledge.

At the beginning of October we mobilized a team of physical literacy specialists to the Caribbean, travelling to 12 different schools over the course of two weeks to complete assessments, introduce the PlayBuilder app, and assist teachers in incorporating movement into their everyday curriculum.

“Our mission is increasingly global in scope, and our work in the British Virgin Islands is only one example of the way we’re spreading our message far beyond our borders,” said Sport for Life CEO Richard Way.

“The work our team is doing will be the first step in creating meaningful partnerships that will result in an overhaul of the education curriculum and lasting culture change. We would like to see this next generation of British Virgin Islanders become competent at all the fundamental movement skills necessary to living an active and healthy life.”

Sport for Life’s collaboration in BVI resulted from a Healthy Schools Initiative launched by the local Ministry of Education in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and the Caribbean Public Health Agency. The BVI Olympic Committee has also been a crucial support. The goal was to improve the diet and physical activity patterns among school children by instilling knowledge, skills and motivation for adopting healthy behaviours.

That’s something Jessica Waterman, otherwise known as “Coach Jess”, has been working on with Canadian students for years. Mobilizing that knowledge overseas has proved to be a treat.

“I’ve had so much fun with these kids, giving them a movement vocabulary and helping them to unlock their innate potential. Physical literacy is a concept that reaches across borders and demographics, and having all these organizations from the British Virgin Islands come together for these kids has been very inspiring to see,” said Waterman.

This particular trip is only Phase 1 of the project, which aims to include all public and private elementary schools, as well as preschools, and will involve 12 schools as a pilot. According to Sport for Life’s Manager of Innovation Mark Verbeek, the work being done in BVI could be replicated in countries all over the world.

“The scope of our work is always expanding. As we continue to solidify pathways and create collaborations in Canada, we’re also mobilizing our best practices and sharing expertise with participants all over the world. Our latest project in the Carribean is one of the most comprehensive examples of what can be accomplished when multiple agencies come together to promote physical literacy,” he said.

“We’re introducing them to the concepts and the tools to continue raising awareness and building capacity around physical literacy, which will have a number of educational and societal impacts on the citizens of the British Virgin Islands. We can’t wait to see what they accomplish.”