A Curriculum of Wellness

Reconceptualizing Physical Education

by Michelle Kilborn (Author)
©2016 Textbook X, 186 Pages
Series: Complicated Conversation, Volume 47


A Curriculum of Wellness seeks to encourage a deeper discussion about teaching our children how to be healthy and live well. It makes a significant contribution to the field of education as it features influential curriculum concepts nuanced with action research principles in a unified, intimate, and deeply relational inquiry into physical education teacher practice. This work presents a very practical yet complex and wisdom-guided way to transform teaching practices that follow more holistic understandings of wellness. A new mode of curriculum inquiry, wisdom-guided inquiry, is presented, providing an opportunity to open up a fresh avenue to understand curriculum and become engaged in discussions that concern teaching, learning, and public education. An outstanding feature of this book is its transdisciplinarity. While the story is situated within physical education discipline, this book has implications for all teachers and teacher educators because it provides insights that encourage us to consider more carefully the subjective insights of teachers and to understand these as central to being and becoming a teacher. A Curriculum of Wellness is essential reading for curriculum and pedagogy scholars, teacher educators, teachers, and other health-related professionals to think differently about curriculum and pedagogy – making it a great option for many related graduate and undergraduate courses.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Dedication
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1: Setting the Stage for Wellness
  • Chapter 2: Connecting Theoretical Perspectives to a Curriculum of Wellness
  • Chapter 3: Locating Ourselves in Curriculum Inquiry
  • Chapter 4: Wisdom-Guided Inquiry: A Mindful Journey
  • Chapter 5: Teaching a Curriculum of Wellness in Physical Education
  • Chapter 6: Pedagogical Moments Synthesized
  • Chapter 7: A Curriculum of Wellness: (Re)turning to the Tree(s)
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Author Index
  • Subject Index
  • Series index

← vi | vii →DEDICATION


Mom, you were always most comfortable talking with people and being outside—playing softball, picking apples, fishing, sailing, playing in the garden, planting flowers (with or without shoes on). Your priorities were your relationships with people, the land, the water, the plants, and animals. You passed on your knowledge through your hands (and your big feet), your heart, your smile, your laugh, your touch, your actions, and your words. And you continue to share your wisdom—your lessons are found in your way of being, the way you lived your life—this is your energy that flows within and around me now. If I pay attention, it is always there.


Mom, you said to me in May 2010,

“Live each moment—live life now, Michelle.”

I practice this every day and it is how this book came to be.← vii | viii →


We are all connected, and each detail of life, no matter how big or small, can contribute to a greater event. This is a moment in my life in which I am reflecting on the experiences, events, and people that played a significant role in making this book happen. It was a journey that involved many people and I want to express my heartfelt appreciation to the following individuals.

I want to first acknowledge, Kim, my co-researcher, colleague, and friend. You are truly an inspiration. I am honored to have participated in the Holistic Health class with you and your students, and grateful for the many meaningful teaching and learning moments. What I learned from you goes beyond any research inquiry. It is really beautiful to see you help children and youth learn how to smile, to breathe, to be still, and be at peace. These things are so important—they can change our world.

Thank you, William Pinar, for your kind support and belief in my work. Your scholarship and vision in curriculum theory has inspired much of my journey towards a curriculum of wellness.

Dwayne Donald, thank you for encouraging me to tell my story and, more importantly, listening. You walked with me and frequently reminded me to return to the trees, to breathe. You showed me scholarly work can be done in different ways—painting, sketching, braiding, sitting by the river, running ← ix | x →(without a watch), or just being still. Several years ago, you offered three words to me: (i) aokakiosiit, (ii) miyo-wichitowin, and (iii) aatsimskaasiin. This was wise counsel that has and will continue to guide me on my journey of life.

Nancy Melnychuk, your journey to be well was not only inspiring, but a curriculum in itself that I have learned from. Your guidance, advice, feedback, kindness, and encouragement to explore physical education from different lenses is a testament to your kind and compassionate way of being.

Thank you, Terry Carson, for seeing the potential in my work and encouraging me to consider writing a book. This book would not have happened without your suggestion.

To the team at Peter Lang, thank you for your expertise and guidance through production, and for supporting my convictions to allow stories and remembrances to be expressed in their wholeness.

Finally, to my family: You have traveled on this journey with me. Mom, you made me promise to stick to the plan and pursue a career in academia—I am glad I took your advice. Dad, you are my biggest fan and my best friend. You walked every step of this path beside me with patience and love—supporting me, listening and sharing your own thoughts, helping me up when I fell, wiping my tears, celebrating my achievements, and sometimes just holding my hand with no words needed. Tracy, you are always the one behind the scenes with your love, kindness, and compassion.


Curriculum is yearning for new meanings. It feels choked, out of breath, caught in a landscape wherein “curriculum” as master signifier is restricted to planned curriculum with all its supposed splendid instrumentalism.


A wellness way of being begins with the trees of my childhood—climbing, sitting in and under, swinging from, listening to—I am connected to their natural rhythms. This is something that is part of me—all I have to do is listen, see and feel.


A Curriculum of Wellness

While the symptoms of the declining health of young people are overtly visible, I am deeply concerned with what is not seen and how the rest of the world, particularly the education system, contributes to this state of “unwellness.” My concerns began with my own experiences as a high school physical education and science/math teacher where I witnessed and participated in ways of being and teaching that work against promoting wellness. Ironically, schools are an opportune place to provide guidance for children and families to live healthfully in this world, but a key problem is that the current curriculum does ← 1 | 2 →not nurture a wholeness of living. It is this absence of wholeness that I wish to problematize and spark conversation within the field of (physical)1 education toward a curriculum of wellness.

A curriculum of wellness takes into consideration the complicated conversation that results when we pause to breathe and explore a reconceptualized understanding of curriculum—one that weaves together past, present, and future experiences and visions about physical education, health, wellness, wisdom, curriculum, research, action, currere,2 inquiry, and being. A curriculum of wellness understands curriculum as a journey of life (Grumet, 1980), an active process of turning inward to consciously understand how one lives in the world (Pinar, 1975). This is a dialectical model that mediates between individual and world (Grumet, 1988), objectivity and subjectivity, self-understanding and life history situated in society, culture, and politics (Pinar, 2012). These reconceptualist understandings of curriculum demand a wider view that brings together education and the culture large, and a commitment to fundamental change (not a simple edit of already established traditional curriculum)—this is the nature of reconceptualization: “to conceive again” (Doerr, 2004, p. 12). Reconceptualists “invite diverse perspectives that push toward newer modes of understanding” rather than on “efficient design for implementation institutional purposes” (Schubert, 2009, p. 136).

A curriculum of wellness takes us beyond the dualism of Western epistemology and brings into light the third space, “dwelling in the zone of between” (Aoki, cited in Pinar & Irwin, 2005, p. 161) to consider different ways of being and knowing that encourages wellness—a balance of the emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual dimensions of the self and harmony between self and others. This indwelling is where curriculum comes to life and what it means to be alive, to live in the world, and to be. Dwelling in this tensionality Aoki believes is what it means to live life, “for to be tensionless is to be dead like a limp violin string…seek appropriately attuned tension, such that the sound of the tensioned string resounds well” (p. 382). A curriculum of wellness encourages living in the tensionality between curriculum-as-plan and curriculum-as-lived; self and other; objectivity and subjectivity; body, mind, and spirit. This third space, as David Jardine from the University of Calgary explains, is a location of “ambiguity, ambivalence and uncertainty, but simultaneously, a site of generative possibilities and hope—a site challenging us to live well” (Aoki, cited in Pinar & Irwin, 2005, p. 429).

A curriculum of wellness involves an embodied approach to inquiry beyond the “epistemological limit-situation in which current curriculum ← 2 | 3 →research is encased” (Aoki, cited in Pinar & Irwin, 2005, p. 94), opening up new possibilities for enlightenment with a view of humanity as a “dialectical relationship between one’s subjective being and one’s objective world” (p. 339). This embodied approach where inquiry is lived inter-subjectively is grounded in wisdom traditions’ understanding that “life has a Way to it, a Way to live that is compatible with, or co-extensive with the very manner of Life’s unfolding” (Smith, 2008a, p. 2). Wisdom traditions guide us to re-examine our world from a point of view that demands consciousness, mindfulness, and connections between the mind, body and heart

Finally, a curriculum of wellness demands action and doing, simultaneously with theory—rejecting the dualistic view of theory and practice and accepting “that which sees them as twin moments of the same reality” (Aoki, cited in Pinar & Irwin, 2005, p. 120). This “doing and thinking about it” approach is relational, reciprocal, participatory, and emancipatory, where the epistemological and ontological are considered together (Sumara & Carson, 1997). This is an ethos of (action) research that when considered together with currere, wellness, and being, helps characterize the wisdom-guided way that is required to inquire into the experiences of what it means to be able to lead children along a path of wellness.

My own inquiry journey continues to evolve as I pay attention to the pedagogical moments in front of me, weaving in and out of the many identities that constitute who I am and becoming—physical education teacher, student, curriculum manager, teacher educator, scholar, researcher, athlete, daughter, girlfriend. I turn inward with reflexive and reflective thoughts of the many experiences throughout my years and my visions for the future. Images, feelings, emotions, people, places, ideas about the educational experiences of my students—past, present, and future—pass through my consciousness. I pause for a moment to contemplate the synthesized moment of my current location of inquiry and consider the enormity of the situation facing young people today. We seem to have adopted a philosophy and created an environment that has effectively usurped that which is there naturally for children—an intrinsic awareness of how to be whole, how to be healthy (Greene, 1973; Welwood, 1992). Again, how have I (the many I’s of my identity) contributed to this current situation of ill-health for children? How has the field of physical education (and education as a whole) collectively contributed to this state? What are the tensions that we must dwell within to open the question of inquiry in a way that encourages multiple perspectives and possibilities beyond the status quo? How can reconceptualizing curriculum be a catalyst for transforming ← 3 | 4 →teaching and learning in (physical) education beyond the instrumentalized traditions that continue to plague our field? I believe it starts with teachers living a curriculum of wellness with their students.


X, 186
ISBN (Softcover)
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2016 (March)
Wellness teaching how to be healthy Curriculum wellbeing Mindful journey Physical Education
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2016. X, 186 pp.

Biographical notes

Michelle Kilborn (Author)

Michelle Kilborn is an assistant professor at Memorial University of Newfoundland. She received her PhD from the University of Alberta and has received several awards for her work in curriculum studies and teacher education. Prior to her university career, Dr. Kilborn spent 12 years teaching physical and health education.


Title: A Curriculum of Wellness