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How can sports days champion well-being?

Being seen as promoters of well-being within our school, we considered re-imagining sports day with a well-being lens. We collaborated on how our end of year celebration could mirror what we value within our programme of inquiry while also being aligned to our school’s mission, vision, and values.

As a physical education (PE) team we aim to equip students with skills that enable them to participate and enjoy PE and physical activity whilst understanding the how, why, and when, of movement. We believe that with these skills students get to individually and collectively engage in physical activity that can enrich their lives.

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): Good health and well-being

As one of two United Nations (UN) schools in the world, the UN’s sustainable development goals (SDGs) are important drivers in our pedagogical approach to teaching and learning.

We framed our thinking through Dr Martin Seligman’s theory of well-being: PERMA.

The PERMA model conceptualizes several factors that contribute to well-being. The elements are defined, measured, and pursued independently of each other (Seligman 2012). The five elements are:

  • Positive Emotion: More than just happiness. Positive emotion can include, but is not limited to joy, compassion, awe, hope, interest, and love.
  • Engagement: Framed through Mihay Csikszentmihalyi (1990) work on ‘Flow’. During ‘flow’ experiences we are intensely focused on a task, and time may seem to stop as we lose our selves in the task. Two conditions for flow to occur are a ‘just right’ challenge and clear goals with immediate feedback.
  • Relationships: The ‘R’ is for Positive Relationships. The hallmark of positive relationships is not one from which negative experience or interaction has been eradicated. In fact, positive relationships do include some negativity. However, the balance between positive and negative should be a healthy one, where the positive outweighs the negative. (Gottman and Silver 1995)
  • Meaning: Meaning and purpose in life, belonging to and serving something that one believes is bigger than the self.
  • Accomplishment: Achievement, competence or mastery is often pursued for its own sake, even though it can be linked to numerous areas, e.g., a sense of meaning or positive emotion

Re-imagining through a lens of well-being

With our shared understanding of well-being and the framework of the personal, social and physical education (PSPE) scope and sequence from the Primary Years Programme (PYP), we intentionally matched the day’s activities to the three strands:

  • Identity: Experience what makes us who we are and appreciate our host country – Vietnam
  • Active Living: Promote understanding of a balanced, healthy lifestyle by making informed choices
  • Interactions: Show how you work with other people and living things to create a better world for everyone

When designing our activity choices, we followed some guiding principles:

  • Connections with and a celebration of our Programme of Inquiry
  • Connections to our host country, Vietnam
  • Activities where we could host 100+ students at a time
  • Highly desirable activities, with something for everyone
  • Well-being is more than sport and expands beyond the PSPE scope and sequence

As with any new event there were challenges, many we reflected on as a team and lots were captured in our staff and student reflections:

We believe students throughout the course of the day would have experienced the five elements of PERMA. Our school health center (SHC) reported that there was a 66% reduction in students self-admitting to the SHC compared to our previous ‘sports day’. Is it a stretch to connect this data to PERMA? Potentially. However, this could be part of our next steps as a school – how will we measure student and staff wellbeing.

Matt is Elementary School (ES) PE team lead at UNIS Hanoi, Vietnam who is dedicated to empowering students to find joy in a diverse range of activities. With a strong passion for research-driven practices, he constantly seeks out evidence-based approaches to enhance teaching and learning experiences. Matt enjoys the application of data to inform his teaching methods, ensuring that students receive the most effective and impactful instruction. Through his work, Matt strives to foster a positive and inclusive environment where students can develop competence, build confidence, and embrace the joy of movement.

Sydney is a physical education and biology teacher, currently part of the ES PE team at UNIS Hanoi. With a focus on physical literacy and well-being knowledge, Sydney believes these skills open doors to a healthy life of adventure. Embracing each learner’s unique journey, Sydney empowers students to celebrate their own unique adventures and make the most of every opportunity that comes their way.

Student wellbeing: a collaborative learning journey with schools worldwide.