2007 News

Standard Examiner By Becky Wright Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Getting a head start on fitness

Bree Sweeten, a petite Head Start student at Creekside Elementary in Kaysville, wiggled her eyebrows, nose and cheeks, then flicked her tongue like a lizard.

A few moments later, she was hopping around the room with a scarf on her head. She finished up with a performance of the Chicken Dance.

"I like to play," Sweeten said.

But Sweeten wasn't just playing. She and the other students, who did the same things at the teacher's direction, were getting a head start on fitness with the NikeGO Head Start program.

NikeGO Head Start is a partnership between Nike, the National Head Start Association and SPARK (Sports, Play and Active Recreation for Kids). It was designed to help kids develop an active lifestyle in preschool years.

"We have generations of adults that are much less active than they used to be, and it's led to greater levels of overweight and obesity. Those unfortunate situations lead to many diseases that impact public health-care costs significantly," said Paul Rosengard, executive director of SPARK programs.

"If the idea is to try to create a healthier U.S. population, one of the best ways to do that is through children." But Rosengard says children are struggling, too.

"We know that the percentage of overweight and obese children has more than doubled in the last 25 years," he said.

According to statistics posted on the NikeGO Web site, nikego.com, children spend an average of 5 1/2 hours a day in front of a television or computer. Unless they start eating less and exercising more, one in three U.S. children born in 2000 will contract Type II diabetes, according to those stats; the odds are one in two for African-American and Hispanic children.

Make it fun

The way to get kids exercising is to make it fun.

"We don't even like using the word 'exercise' with children," Rosengard said. "Exercise has a connotation of 'do this and do that,' and being more drudgery and not very much fun.

"We're trying to flip that equation and lead with the enjoyment and fun, and a chance to play with your friends and get healthy at the same time."

Davis/Morgan/Summit Head Start was one of 12 sites in the nation selected to join the NikeGO Head Start program during this school year, and the only one in Utah; sites are selected primarily on the incidence of obesity among preschoolers.

Teachers received a "playbook" of activities, written by SPARK with input from the National Head Start Association, plus training and equipment to do the activities; everything was underwritten by the Nike sporting goods company.

Head Start is a federal program designed to get preschool children ready to enter school by offering education, health and nutrition services. The program's goals mesh well with the ideas of the nonprofit SPARK organization, which promotes lifetime wellness by creating research-based physical activity and nutrition programs for kids.

Start with basics

Brett Lund, fatherhood and volunteer specialist for Davis/Morgan/Summit Head Start, attended training in November. He says one of the best things about NikeGO is that it starts with basics.

"They're teaching kids to hop, skip and jump. They teach them how to identify their own space," he said. "People tend to think these kids are older than they are. They're trying to teach them how to throw, kick and catch, when they need to go back to the basics of how to move bodies and be safe, and understand what their personal zone is."

The preschoolers at Creekside Elementary were all smiles during a recent NikeGO session. Each student started the class by selecting a colorful rubber circle to stand on; that circle became his or her home base for the rest of the session.

They listened intently and followed instructions during an activity called "Body Talk," moving eyebrows up and down, chins side to side and shaking their feet on cue.

They were marching and hopping to the song "Knees Up Mother Brown," and then moving about the room with colorful scarves. Another activity had students listening to different kinds of music to determine whether they should walk, gallop, skate or hop.

Enjoy the benefits

While the kids are having fun, and meeting the program's goals for physical activity, teacher Melody Little says they are reaping other benefits.

"It's working great. We're not only doing physical fitness, we are learning colors, how to follow directions and math skills," she said. "I'm getting more sentence structure from the children."

Mark Dewsnup, health and nutrition specialist for Davis/Morgan/Summit Head Start, says the program is also helping students emotionally.

"If they get some energy out, behavior problems start to go away," he said. "They're better able to follow directions and sit still when they need to, so we have calmer classrooms."

Dewsnup says trainers offer ideas for adjusting typical activities to include more movement.

"For example, if you're playing Simon Says, instead of saying 'Simon says touch your nose,' you could have the children bend over five times ... or walk around a desk three times," he said. "It's something you're already doing, you're just bringing in more physical activity -- more moving and stretching.

If NikeGO Head Start doesn't sound like training for future athletes, it's because it's not.

"This is not sports -- it's not little precursors to being on a football team," said Rosengard. "This is not intended to create little jocks or athletes. It's intended to help children become confident and competent movers, so they will enjoy the process and seek out physical activity in many ways."

Additional information can be found on the Web sites www.nikego.com and www.sparkpe.org.

TIPS FOR PARENTS

SPARK (Sports, Play and Active Recreation for Kids), a partner organization in NikeGO Head Start, puts setting an example high on its list of "13 Ways Parents Can Help Children Be More Physically Active."

According to SPARK, children should accumulate at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity such as brisk walking per day, and participate in vigorous sports or exercise three times a week.

Here are more ways SPARK says parents can help children get the activity they need:

  • Ask your children what physical activities they like to do, then help them do it -- often.
  • Participate in activities with your child; play catch or go on walks together.
  • Encourage your child to participate on sports teams.
  • Plan family events and vacations that include physical activities such as hiking, swimming and skiing.
  • Enroll your child in physical activity classes outside of school, such as martial arts, dance or swimming lessons.
  • Take your child to places where she can move and play safely.
  • Have your child "earn" time for watching television or playing video games by accumulating minutes of physical activity.
  • Buy a gift that promotes physical activity, like a ball, jump rope or skates.
  • Be vocal. Let school administrators know you support quality physical education programs.
  • Ask school officials to provide opportunities for physical activity before and after school and during lunch breaks.
  • Encourage schools to offer assemblies, field trips and other events that promote physical activity.
  • Talk with government officials and developers, and advocate the creation of neighborhood parks, bike paths and walking trails.

Visalia-Times Delta - Visalia CA By Natalie Garcia January 12, 2007

Idea behind new PE program:

With childhood obesity reported at epidemic rates, Visalia Unified School District officials decided it was time to revamp the elementary school physical-education program.

This week, more than 60 third-grade teachers will finish a round of training in the use of noncompetitive, inclusive games that keep children active during the entire physical-education session. The training program is called SPARK, which stands for Sports, Play and Active Recreation for Kids.

"We disguise fitness," trainer Kristy Hilton said. "So the kids are having fun and don't realize they are getting fit."

Hilton said all students, including those suffering from asthma or even a broken arm, are served by the curriculum. It's designed to accommodate children with special needs and circumstances, she said.

"The traditional stuff separated the haves from the have-nots," she said. "We don't do any elimination games."

Instead of having several students stand outside a circle while others pelt each other with dodgeballs, SPARK training promotes games like all-run kickball. Here's how it works:

  • After one student kicks the ball into the field, everyone on his team runs the bases after him.
  • Members of the fielding team form a line after the ball has been recovered, then pass it to each other between their legs and over their heads until the ball reaches home plate.
  • The kicking team tallies the number of runners who made it home safely before the ball reached the plate.

Keeping children active during the entire period of physical education sometimes requires more equipment, trainers said. During Wednesday's training session, Hilton led teachers through a sequence of hockey exercises, while the teachers followed along with their own sticks and balls.

Shelton said the new equipment was paid for by a one-time 2004 grant that provided $2,000 to all of Visalia Unified's elementary and middle schools.

SPARK techniques are already being taught in the district at various levels of intensity, said Nancy Shelton, the district's physical education curriculum coach.

"It's easy to teach, and it's fun," Shelton said. "Classroom teachers are not trained to teach physical education, and we are trying to train them to pass on a quality physical education to the students."

The idea is to get all the students involved in the activity and emphasize cooperation and trust between children - values that the traditional approach to physical education had little room for.

"The kids are happier when it's done - there are no hurt feelings," said Julie D'Acquisto, a third-grade teacher at Royal Oaks. "It's so well-designed that everyone's engaged in activity."

Teachers need to make good use of the precious time they have their students outside the classroom. State law requires 200 minutes of physical activity every 10 days of school for grades kindergarten through eight, which breaks down to 20 minutes a day.

Shelton said sometimes students don't get even that much activity because there are no consequences for failing to meet the standard.

"Our teachers face tremendous pressure to get the scores up in reading and math," he said, "and until there's that pressure in PE, I don't see it changing."

SPARK, however, seems to have inspired some teachers to devote the proper time and energy to physical education," Shelton said.

Cottonwood Creek teacher Lisa Majarian said she really enjoys the SPARK techniques because they are inclusive.

"I never liked PE [as a child]," Majarian said. " I was never a small person. Everything was competitive, and there's all the side-picking."

"Now I love it," she said. "I think it is because they all feel successful."

The reporter can be reached at ngarcia@visalia.gannett.com.


Mount Vernon News- Fredericktown, OH By Pamela Schehl, News Staff Reporter Friday, January 19, 2007

SPARK workshop gives teachers fresh ideas

FREDERICKTOWN - Physical education teachers from around Knox County recently joined representatives from Meigs Local schools in a two-day training series on the SPARK program - Sports, Play & Active Recreation for Kids. Sponsored in part through the recent physical education grant received by Fredericktown Local Schools, the workshop was arranged by grant coordinator Tiffany Spitler and featured elite trainer Dr. Kristy Hilton.

One of the main concepts of the program is to learn by doing, and that's what was happening during the recent middle school/high school training session. Hilton was guiding the teachers though a series of activities to reinforce the basic concepts of the SPARK physical education program: B, boundaries and routines; A, activity from the get go; S, stop and start cues: I, involvement by all; C, concise instructional cues and S, supervision.

Most of the activities introduced by Hilton downplay the traditional team sports model of physical education, while at the same time encouraging teamwork, cooperation and social interaction. One of the nontraditional warm-up activities involved participants forming various group combinations and engaging in activities such as "toe tag." More traditional skill building drills were next, but with each "student" determining at which competency level he or she should start. Team drills included a fun and fitness circuit of activities as well as cooperative games.

Using a somewhat devious maneuver, perhaps potentially useful in middle school or high school physical education classes, Hilton taught the workshop attendees a series of warm-up exercises. To the surprise of the trainees, the exercises, when performed in sequence, turned out to be "real" dance steps that could be easily performed to music.

Hilton said the SPARK curriculum aims to add fun to physical education classes as well as encouraging more purposeful movement by pupils.

"We want them moving with a purpose, either to learn a new skill or to increase social skills. Lifelong skills such as walking, golfing and fishing, that's what should be taught and encouraged," she said. " Instead, traditionally, we have focused on team sports, and if a kid acts up in gym, we punish him by making him do laps. ... SPARK rejects that approach."

The SPARK curriculum is aligned with standards set by the National Association for Sport and Physical Education. Hilton said many of the activities, according to research, can also help improve student test scores in math, science, reading and writing. Students keep written response journals of gym class activities.

Veteran physical education instructor Annette "Netter" Neighbarger, Mount Vernon Middle School, said she enjoyed the SPARK workshop, and came away with some fresh ideas.

"The one main concept that Dr. Hilton presented that was new," Neighbarger said, "was that research finds that children do not need warm-ups other than doing the same skill at a lower weight or fewer [repetitions] or slower speed. There were a lot of new ideas on how to warm up the classes with just raising the heart rate. The three of us at my building will be implementing some of these new ideas.

"I feel that Fredericktown schools, in receiving this grant, will help lead the way for all Knox County schools. Tiffany Spitler and the physical education teachers at Fredericktown are very willing to help all of us to make strides toward more active children in our communities. I personally appreciated them being willing to allow us to attend the workshops and learn all about this new PE curriculum."

Spitler said the SPARK training will also help physical educators create after-school programs that will provide activities for students from kindergarten through 12th grade.


Ukiah Daily Journal- Ukiah, CA By ZACK SAMPSEL The Daily Journal January 24, 2007

SPARK: Sports, Play and Active Recreation for Kids

Educators from throughout Mendocino County participate in a game designed to make cleanup a fun and active part of the classroom. SPARK training has helped more than 7,000 educators nationwide.

It wasn't just fun and games Sunday at the Mendocino County Office of Education.

In an effort to help educators learn more about childhood obesity and its prevention, the First Five Association of Mendocino County began a series of training sessions in sports, play and active recreation for kids, also known as SPARK.

SPARK is California's most widely used physical education program, and sessions aren't limited to California either. Master Trainer Jeff Mushkin has been involved with SPARK for more than two years and has led trainings nationwide.

More than 20 Mendocino County-area teachers and childcare providers participated in the first of three SPARK sessions. Some educators drove from Gualala, Boonville and Fort Bragg to participate in the seven-hour training session filled with activities, learning sessions and a few surprises along the way.

"It's great to get to talk with other childcare providers and learn more about working with kids," Johanna Knaus said. Knaus runs her own childcare business, Johanna's Country Childcare in Fort Bragg.

Childhood obesity continues to be a problem throughout the United States. California began attempts to combat childhood obesity with the Children and Families Act of 1998, which helps to provide children up to 5 years of age with development services designed to battle this growing problem. According to the California WIC Association, "14 percent of children from birth to 5 years old were overweight in 2002."

Childhood obesity has also been linked to diabetes, asthma and other chronic diseases.

And it's the hope of enabling the students to make better choices and remain active that fuels First Five and SPARK. Anne Molgaard, executive director of First Five Mendocino, said laying the groundwork for Mendocino County educators to better help children is one of her main priorities.

"We're really trying to move beyond our kids waiting in line during gym class to just play a game for five minutes," Molgaard said. "That's not activity. And there's been enough screaming about childhood obesity; let's act."

Mushkin not only made sure the teachers got involved in the activities like "Beanbag Bonanza" and "Movin' Magic," but he also keeps the focus on the activity's application in the classroom. Mushkin said educators must always be prepared for the unexpected, and the simple, clear and concise rules to his activities make it an easy task.

But Mushkin admits that while SPARK is great fun for the teachers, it's truly all about the kids who will benefit from their SPARK training throughout life.

"For me, the best part is seeing the teachers' eyes light up," Mushkin said. "If I see those teachers having fun, then I feel safe, knowing the kids will be having the most fun."


San Francisco Chronicle-San Francisco, CA By: Jill Tucker February 10, 2007

New PE: fitness over sports New games downplay competition, accentuate exercise

There have often been two kinds of children in gym class.

The ones who love it -- those picked first for teams and blessed with strength or skill.

And the ones who hate it -- those picked last and who cringe when the dodgeball comes their way.

Forget fun. Physical education was about survival of the fittest.

Yet PE teachers in California and across the country are looking to change that. Increasingly, they are ditching dodgeball and competitive games to create classes focused on fitness and fun -- classes where no one feels inferior or left out.

"It's changing a lot," said Monique Ortega, a PE teacher at Claire Lilienthal Alternative School in San Francisco. "There's a lot more cooperation and group activities that are noncompetitive and where everybody participates."

To that end, Ortega and 14 other San Francisco teachers and after-school instructors gathered in a large classroom Friday to learn how to engage all students in fitness. And that means filling as many class minutes with as much strenuous exercise as possible.

Currently, students spend about four minutes of each PE class participating in vigorous physical activity, said Julie Green, who conducted the training using a program called SPARK -- Sports, Play & Active Recreation for Kids.

That's not nearly enough, said Green, who is also a San Diego PE teacher.

Students should be active for 25 minutes each day -- or half of a regular class period. The SPARK program uses a variety of techniques and repetitive rules to help reduce the time needed to explain a game, leaving more time for activity.

Roughly 100 San Francisco teachers and other staff members are expected to participate in similar trainings throughout the year.

As a steady rain fell outside Friday, the 15 adults (ranging in age from their 20s to their 50s) ran around a large classroom playing tag, tossing balls and generally channeling the goofy behavior of their middle school students.

Each game included new ways to make sure no student was left on the sideline.

Colored balls flew across the room as the adults played a loud game of "dribble keep-away."

The object was to dribble one's own ball while swatting other players' balls away.

"If your ball is knocked away are you out?" Green shouted above the laughter as balls rolled under tables and against walls. "Absolutely not!"

After a few minutes of the game, Green called for the class to freeze. The adults stood up, many out of breath, their cheeks flushed.

"We're not training them to be professional athletes," Green said of the children who will play the same game at San Francisco schools in the coming weeks. "We're training them to have a love of fitness."

In short, it's all about getting children off the couch.

With childhood obesity on the rise and video games and television dominating kids' free time, public officials increasingly look to encourage fitness and health in young people.

At the same time, educators have often had to put physical education in the backseat to focus on academics to boost test scores.

Two years ago, state education officials estimated that 70 percent to 80 percent of California schools were not meeting the required number of PE hours -- 200 minutes every 10 days for elementary students and 400 minutes every 10 days for middle school students. High school students are required to take two years of PE.

Meanwhile, state physical fitness standards require schools to teach nutrition and other health-related curricula; students are spending PE time listening to lectures and reading material rather than running around, said John Deppmeier, a PE teacher at A.P. Giannini Middle School.

The SPARK curriculum, however, incorporates health topics into the playtime.

Just before lunch Friday, the teachers ran around the room playing a tag game called Heart Attack. Those tagged had to feign a heart attack and couldn't move until someone saved them by doing three jumping jacks together.

The game "gives you the opportunity to talk about health issues," Green said as the adult "students" ran around the room. That could include discussing the risks associated with heart disease, including tobacco, stress and inactivity, Green added.

Carol Porter, another A.P. Giannini PE teacher, sat out the Heart Attack tag game to jot a few ideas in a notebook.

As she watched the others, she said that physical education classes had changed significantly since she started teaching PE 35 years ago. Then she taught sports; some students excelled, others didn't.

"The kids who couldn't do something would always take a position where the ball wouldn't come to them," she said. "They prayed the ball wouldn't come to them."

It's a relatively new concept to teach skills that can be used for a variety of activities rather than only sports, Porter said. "Before it was all about winning," she added. "Now, it's a kinder approach to learning and playing."

E-mail Jill Tucker at jtucker@sfchronicle.com.


Appeal-Democrat-Marysville, CA By: Breeana Laughlin March 23, 2007

MJUSD wants PE to be OK

Marysville Joint Unified School District teachers and after-school specialists today will participate in one of only two research-based physical education programs in the nation.

"We train teachers how to teach physical education that is more inclusive and more active for children," said SPARK program representative Ryan Schissler SPARK (Sports, Play and Active Recreation for Kids) trainers will spend six hours teaching 40 district employees strategies, games and activities that, they said, will motivate students to be more physically active and promote lifelong activity.

"In all the games SPARK uses, no one is being left out. No one is being picked first or last," Schissler said. "Since all the kids are being included, they all have the chance to be active and play equal amounts. They enjoy physical education more."

The SPARK training is being used as part of a $1.5 million grant the school district received from California's After-School Education and Safety Program to assist educational and literacy tutoring, homework assistance and recreation activities.

"We commend Marysville for the extra work they been doing to try to increase the activity levels for students in their district," Schissler said.

Appeal-Democrat reporter Breeana Laughlin can be reached at 749-4724. You may e-mail her at blaughlin@appeal-democrat.com.


PRNewswire - Beaverton, OR May 1, 2007

Nike Brings PE to More Than 400 Schools Across the U.S. and Gets Kids Moving During National Physical Fitness and Sports Month

In honor of National Physical Fitness and Sports Month and National Physical Education and Sport Week, which kicks off today, Nike will host a series of NikeGO PE events in five communities nationwide: Portland; New York; Chicago; Los Angeles; and Memphis. Coordinated in conjunction with local school districts, the events will feature students, Nike athletes and local dignitaries who will participate together in a series of "new PE" activities to draw attention to the important need for keeping kids active and ensuring physical education classes remain in schools.

NikeGO PE, which is present in more than 400 elementary schools across the U.S., seeks to instill a lifelong love of physical activity in young people and is designed to address rising inactivity rates in youth, a major national health problem.

Basketball stars Damon Stoudamire (Rookie of the Year) and Candice Dupree (All Star), Serena Williams (winner of eight Grand Slam singles titles and an Olympic gold medal in women's doubles), and former Olympic marathoner Alberto Salazar are just a few of the Nike athletes scheduled to participate in NikeGO PE classes this month.

"Nike understands that there is a critical need to get young people active during their school day," said Chad Boettcher, director of US Community Affairs for Nike. "We want to give them as many chances as possible to be physically active because we believe that activity helps young people become fit and healthy adults."

Boettcher said, "We hope that these NikeGO PE events will educate whole communities about the importance of keeping PE in schools. Together, we will celebrate dance, sports and play to make a point about the importance of ensuring that kids participate in 30 minutes of vigorous activity every day."

Working together to create a new, innovative approach to physical education, Nike and SPARK (Sports, Play and Active Recreation for Kids) teamed up to create the NikeGO PE curriculum, as well as "hands-on" teacher training and matched equipment sets. These tools help PE specialists and classroom teachers work together to provide "new PE," an approach to physical education that is more inclusive, active and fun than traditional PE classes. Activities in the NikeGO PE "Playbook" are designed to develop students' fitness, motor, and social skills, while providing strategies that integrate literacy, math science, art, and nutrition into PE lessons.

NikeGO PE modifies games, dances and sport skill to create a movement environment in which every child, regardless of ability, is provided with many opportunities to participate and feel successful in PE class.

The Problem of Inactivity in Youth

American school-aged youth are becoming the least physically fit generation in history. In the past 30 years, overweight and obesity levels in children have more than doubled. There is evidence that today's youth may develop significant health complications such as heart disease, Type II diabetes (adult onset diabetes) and premature death unless they exercise more. Children spend a considerable amount of time in school, and schools are a powerful motivator for helping them adopt healthy lifestyles. Several studies demonstrate school-based PE programs are one of the most effective ways to facilitate activity in our youth.

Unfortunately, in many school districts across the country, the role of the PE specialist has been eliminated or drastically reduced. With recent national guidelines recommending that young people accumulate at least 60 minutes of physical activity daily, having a quality physical education program in every school should be a national priority. Through NikeGO PE, Nike seeks to increase the quality and quantity of PE in schools.

"The realities of the times we live in demand that we strengthen physical education in our schools and ultimately bring daily physical education, taught by qualified PE specialists, back to every school in the United States," said Paul Rosengard, executive director of the SPARK Programs. "Because physical activity must be done regularly over time to achieve health benefits, the goal of NikeGO PE is to encourage classroom teachers to supplement the PE instruction already provided by their school's PE specialist.

"NikeGO PE was created to bridge the gap until more full-time PE specialists are placed in schools nationwide -- a shared goal of Nike and SPARK."


The Greeneville Sun- Greene County, TN By: Amy Rose, Education Editor 08-08-2007

County Schools Start New PE Program

As students in Greene County elementary schools begin a new year, they also will begin a new physical education (PE) curriculum called SPARK.

SPARK stands for Sports, Play & Active Recreation for Kids, a national program designed to keep students constantly moving during PE class.

About 15 Greene County PE teachers for grades K-8 and some visiting PE teachers from Johnson City and Johnson County were given SPARK training July 30-31 at Chuckey Elementary School.

The mandatory training was led by Laura Matney, coordinator of school health of Johnson City Schools and a certified SPARK trainer.

Matney said Greene County is one of two school systems in the nation to receive SPARK training this year for the brand new curriculum for grades 3-6.

She explained that a goal of SPARK is to ensure that moderate-to-vigorous physical activity takes up greater than 50 percent of the time during PE class, and maximum participation is required.

"This is all positive for children," Matney said.

She noted that students are allowed to choose their own challenges as a way to make the curriculum harder through its "Physically Active Choices to Enjoy" (PACE).

Matney added that a letter about the new PE program will be sent home to parents at the first of the year.

Valerie Walters, Greene County coordinator of school health, said she received several suggestions on PE curriculum from the Tennessee Department of Education, and she reviewed a number of them by attending conferences and seeing samples.

"The reason this one intrigued me is because it does have a high school component," Walters said, noting that Greene County hopes to work toward adding the SPARK program at the high school level.

Another "selling point" for SPARK, Walters said, is that it keeps everybody moving and busy during PE class.

For example, students do not spend much time standing in line waiting to be picked for a team, Walters said.

Compared to last year, Pat McIntyre, Chuckey PE teacher, said SPARK breaks the larger games down into smaller games, so every child is moving at all times.

Also, SPARK adds more activities and equipment than last year, McIntyre said. Walters showed special equipment that will be used with the SPARK curriculum, including cones, Frisbees, balls, dance mats, jump ropes, balloons, batons and other items.

Among the equipment were "sequencing balls" that had numbers printed on them in both English and Spanish.

SPARK also prints written self-assessments in both languages. These printed sheets help students determine if they are doing well at a particular activity.

During the training at Chuckey, teachers played several games, including a three-on-three Frisbee keep-away game.

SPARK has sample yearly plans that provide ideas for teachers to follow throughout the year.

The K-2 plan includes:

  • September - "Perceptual Power," which establishes class environment, behavioral expectations of students, management and organizational protocols, and teaches concepts, principals, and techniques which provide the foundation of physical development;
  • October, "Great Games";
  • November, "Bean Bag Boogie";
  • December, "Parachute Parade";
  • January, "Happy Hoops"; o February, "Jumping for Joy";
  • March, "Having a Ball";
  • April, "Let's Hit It";
  • May, "Dance With Me"; and
  • June, "Superkid Stunts."

The 3-6 plan has two types of activities.

    • September, cooperative games and parachute;
    • October, aerobic games;
    • November, power walk and jog;
    • December, dance and rhythms;
    • January, jump rope;
    • February, "Run to the Border/Run USA";
    • March, fun and fitness circuits;
    • April, gymnastics;
    • May, group fitness; and
    • June, SPARK favorites.
    • September, Frisbee;
    • October, soccer;
    • November, field games;
    • December, handball/wallball or all-run games;
    • January, basketball;
    • February, hockey;
    • March, volleyball;
    • April, track and field;
    • May, softball; and
    • June, SPARK favorites.
  • Type I includes: Type II includes:

According to a SPARK brochure, in 1993, SPARK was validated by the U.S. Department of Education and earned "Exemplary Program" status, and SPARK received the "Governor's Commendation award in California.

In 1998, the Surgeon General's Report on physical activity and health cited SPARK as a "school-based solution to our nation's health care crisis," the brochure states.

In 2005, according to the brochure, SPARK earned "Gold" ranking for both elementary and middle school PE programs from a comparative study of effective U.S. Physical Activity/Health Interventions.

The brochure also mentions SPARK's "Lifelong Wellness" (LW) component, which "is designed to teach children and adolescents the skills and techniques necessary to be active outside of physical education class, on the weekends, during vacations and ultimately the rest of their lives.

"Additionally, SPARK LW provides lessons in nutrition and healthy food choices, safety and injury prevention, positive self-talk, goal setting (activity and nutrition), balance and moderation in diet and exercise, decreasing television viewing and video game playing and much more.

"Parents become involved via interactive homework assignments and participating in activities with their child," the brochure states.

For more information, visit www.sparkpe.org on the Internet.


BY LOU WHITMIRE News Journal, Mansfield, OH 11-2-07

Area physical education teachers learn to fit fun into class

MANSFIELD - Kristy Hilton instructed nine area high school physical education teachers Monday about new ideas to get their students moving. Her mission upon becoming a P.E. teacher was to whip her students into shape, literally. Now she sees that idea was all wrong. "That's my job as a P.E. teacher and what I did," said Hilton, an elite trainer for SPARK - the Sports, Play and Active Recreation for Kids curriculum. SPARK is a San Diego State University research-based program offered exclusively by School Specialty.

"And I can care less if my kids get fit now. It's not my goal anymore. "My goal is to want my kids (students) to move for the rest of their lives. Because before, when I got my kids fit in class and they got an 'A' in class, they never moved again when they got out of high school. They hated what I did to them."

Hilton said she doesn't care how many laps or calisthenics students do.

"I just want to find something - he likes to break dance, she likes yoga - something that they all want to do for the rest of their lives," Hilton said.

This week, all physical education teachers from the Madison school district took part in a training workshop at the Mid-Ohio Education Service Center, 890 W. Fourth St.

Physical education teachers from throughout the state also participated.

The new equipment Madison P.E. teachers will receive in conjunction with the SPARK curriculum will be purchased from a Mansfield company, School Specialty, 100 Paragon Parkway.

Teachers are receiving training because of a $355,000 physical education grant awarded to the Madison Local School District, one of 146 districts nationwide to receive a U.S. Department of Education Carol M. White Physical Education Program award. That program allocates millions of dollars to schools and community-based organizations to initiate, expand and improve P.E. programs, according to a news release from School Specialty's headquarters in Wisconsin.

Sue Subich, P.E. teacher at Madison Comprehensive High School, has been a physical education teacher for 30 years. The former Madison volleyball coach was among the high school teachers learning new ideas Monday.

Subich is excited about the grant money, which will allow the district to purchase new equipment students will enjoy.

"I just feel like next year for the first time we're going to have the chance to maybe get some of those kids (who don't like to exercise in gym class) to enjoy activities again," she said.

Subich said she learned a lot of new ideas. She already used one or two of them in gym class this week.

"Our job is a lot of fun," she said. "It's what I loved as a kid. I feel like they've paid me 30 years to play."

Crestview High School P.E. teacher Rusty Radcliffe attended the conference, which was free to his district.

"I've already used some of the new things I learned," said Radcliffe, who also has coached football at Crestview. "I agree with her philosophy on kids - we're not interested in the top triangle, those athletes at the top. We want to find a way for all the kids to exercise."

Radcliffe said he had fun being the student instead of the gym teacher.

"The ideas you get from other people are even more helpful than the ideas you get from the trainer," he said.

This year he also is teaching P.E. to Crestview students who are in the multi-handicapped classes.

"She showed us some real easy ways to adapt simple things. The big part of that is the socialization, getting kids out of their classroom with the rest of the student body," he said.

The workshop trainer asked P.E. teachers the pros and cons of their jobs.

Dawn Luedy, a P.E. teacher for the New London High School, said she enjoys the awesome facility her students exercise in but on the flip side, the district does not have a weight room facility.

Everyone agreed students need to have more mandated physical education classes, especially with childhood obesity.

Barney Cornell, a P.E. teacher at Marion Elgin High School, said he would like to see the Ohio Department of Education mandate one full credit of P.E. each year for high school students. In Ohio, high school students are required to have one-half credit of physical education to graduate.

"And now there's proposed legislation that says if you're in marching band or sports, you don't have to take P.E.," he said with exasperation.

P.E. teacher Karen Murphy of Bettsville High School said her students enjoy some special offerings, including conditioning classes.

"And that's really cool," she said.

She said her district is the second-smallest in Ohio, with 230 students, so she is always thinking of ways to be creative.


By: Ryan Pagelow Lake County News Sun- Waukegan, IL December 26, 2007

Waukegan receives $1.5M grant for physical education New equipment, training to keep kids active longer

Gym class in Waukegan Public Schools won't be quite the same in the wake of a three-year, $1.5 million grant given to improve its physical education programs.

The windfall means some new soccer balls and new training to change the way gym class is taught -- from kindergarten through 12 grade. The focus will be on keeping students active longer during gym class, assessing their fitness and developing lifelong physical activities.

"It's not your old gym class," said Mary Olson, grant coach and gym teacher for 18 years.

A group of physical education teachers participate in the FitnessGram and Spark training programs at Miguel Juarez Middle School in Waukegan.

This year the district received the first $496,000 of the Carol M. White Physical Education Program Grant through the Department of Education. To put that amount of money into context, Mary Olson said she had less than $100 last year to purchase equipment for students as a gym teacher at Greenwood Elementary School.

"My budget was 36 cents per kid for equipment," Olson said. "How can you improve the quality of the physical education experience if you don't have the funds to do it? This obviously allows us to think outside the box and benefit the students of Waukegan."

Using the grant, the district is purchasing new equipment such as soccer balls, basketballs, dance music and curriculum manuals. The new equipment means students won't waste class time waiting around for their turn.

"Ideally, what we want to have is equipment for every child so that no child is waiting for their turn. That's the goal, to keep these kids moving by engaging them in moderate or vigorous activity for at least 50 percent of the time," she said.

Activities will be broken down into smaller groups for more action.

District gym teachers recently received training in new ways for kids to do physical activities, such as multicultural dances, regardless of their athletic ability. They'll be using Spark, a research-based program designed to make activities in gym class fun and more active.

Rachel Schlesinger, a teacher at Clearview Elementary, has already started using some of the activities in her class from the new 700-page curriculum binder. It's the first time there's been a districtwide physical education curriculum since Schlesinger started working here four years ago, she said.

"I started using stuff right away. Waukegan has been lacking in so much for curriculum for physical education. It's so inspirational," she said.

She's also limited her instruction time to about 30 seconds at a time, instead of three or four minutes, so the kids are more active during their 25-minute gym class. The activities are also less focused on competition.

She's looking forward to the $8,000 in new equiptment coming to her school next month.

In addition to new activities, the teachers were trained to use the FitnessGram, which allows them to measure students' aerobic capacity, body composition and muscular strength and flexibility, Olson said. It's the first time the district will have a standard fitness assessment tool.

At the high school level, gym teachers will adopt the PE4Life program to encourage students to remain engaged in physical activities after they graduate from high school to fight obesity, Olson said.

The new programs will be implemented in the schools starting next semester.

By the third year of the grant, the district will purchase new treadmills, exercise bikes and elliptical machines for fitness centers at both high school campuses.

"We're teaching kids the proper things to do once they graduate high school so they'll continue on and know how to keep their body strong and healthy," she said.


By SARAH NEWELL Hickory Daily Record December 30, 2007

Program to SPARK students to get healthy After-school initiative aims to help students become active, fit

HICKORY - Catawba County children may be getting more active in the new year, with a new after-school program sponsored by the Catawba County Public Health Department.

Staff of the Catawba County Kid Connection Program, the after-school program for all three school systems, trained with Catawba County Public Health staff recently in SPARK - Sports, Play and Active Recreation for Kids - said Maria Reese, Healthy Carolinians coordinator with the public health department. The staff will integrate what they learned into the existing morning- and after-school program, she said.

"They learned about incorporating team-oriented sports that are not competitive, such as kickball and all types of dancing - line dancing, square dancing, cultural dancing - and games like 'Cookie Monster in the Middle,' where one child's in the middle of the group, and you try to catch them," Reese said.

The staff was trained for elementary schools and will be trained for the middle schools in February. The program will be implemented in the schools when students go back to school in January - although some of the staff may have already begun implementing the new curriculum, Reese said.

Other aspects of SPARK involve healthier snacks for children, including providing fruits, vegetables and bottled water a few times a week.

The program's being funded by an Eat Smart Move More N.C. Community Grant the public health department received, which will also help education children about healthy eating, physical activity and limiting TV watching.

All of this is important, considering 24 percent of children ages 2 to 20 are overweight in Catawba County, according to the 2006 North Carolina Nutrition & Physical Activity Surveillance System, Reese said.

They'll be monitoring the success of the program by information that was gathered about the Kid Connection Program last semester, and information that will be gathered next semester. Reese said that last semester, the schools were split as to how much time they gave children for structured physical activity. Over the course of one hour before school and three-and-a-half hours after school, about half had students do physical activity for 30 minutes, while the other half of the schools had children do physical activity for two hours.

Reese said students will be encouraged to have a healthy lifestyle by having a fruit and vegetable challenge in February. They'll check in with the nurses at their school and report on how many fruits and vegetables they've been eating, with prizes for the students that have been eating the most.