SPARK physical education programs are designed to be more inclusive, active, and fun than traditional PE classes, helping students seek out physical activity and develop a lifetime commitment to wellness. Programs allow students to develop a variety of movement skills and teamwork capabilities so kids feel more comfortable in both group and movement environments, making them more likely to seek out these environments on their own or to be asked by others to participate.
Initiating a SPARK program is one of the best things your school can do to improve its PE program. SPARK was proven to work with both physical education specialists and classroom teachers. Today, after lessons learned from more than 20 years of ongoing research and field testing nationwide, SPARK PE is one of the best physical education programs in the world – a true solution to our growing problem of overweight and obese children.
The following ten ideas are taken from years of research and field-testing and provide examples of how YOU can improve your PE program.
1. Focus on lifelong activities rather than team or individual sports. While weight training, running, yoga, aerobics, golf, frisbee, tennis, and softball may all be considered team and/or individual sports, these activities tend to be carried over to adulthood more often than other competitive sports like football, basketball, soccer, and track and field events that kids may participate in during childhood and adolescence only. Click Here for sample SPARK PE activities and lesson plans.
2. Implement physical activities that children enjoy and will continue to seek out on their own. Of course we want kids to like PE class, but a better goal is to teach them movement activities they like so much that they want to do them at recess, after school, and at home as well, more than they want to play video games or watch television. Part of the trick is to emphasize “fun” over “exercise.”
3. Purchase physical activity equipment, including assessment tools. Providing equipment that enhances physical activities gives educators a wider range of choices for lesson plans during PE class. Purchasing assessment tools such as pedometers and heart rate monitors helps educators track student progress, and kids have fun tracking the number of steps or miles they can walk during a given time period. Click Here for information on the age-appropriate, content-matched equipment that SPARK recommends.
4. Break down larger classes into smaller groups. Budget cutbacks have left schools with fewer teachers and larger class sizes, making it more difficult to engage students. PE class is one area where it’s possible to break the class into smaller groups of four to six children per group, making it easier for kids to work on building their social skills and teamwork. PE class is the perfect place to provide a variety of activities in stations that kids switch up every ten minutes.
5. Provide weight and resistance training classes and equipment. More middle and high schools are offering weight training classes as an alternative to traditional PE classes, teaching a specific area of lifelong movement and exercise that kids often carry with them into adulthood. Elementary schools that are able to purchase some weight and resistance training tools can offer a shorter, four to six week program to give kids a taste of their future physical education class options.
6. Include activities for all students. Some kids are more athletic than others, and some children have developmental issues or physical disabilities that make it harder for them to participate in traditional PE class activities. Physical education programs should focus on providing a variety of movement-based activities that will allow everyone to be involved and even challenge some of the more fitness-inclined kids with activities they’re not familiar with.
7. Provide professional development for teachers. Educators that are specifically trained in physical education still need continuing education to keep them up-to-date on everything from new, innovative PE lesson plans to current health and nutrition information. Likewise, other teachers around the school can be trained to integrate physical activity, health, wellness, and lifestyle into traditional classes like reading, writing, arithmetic, and science.
8. Take a holistic approach to wellness and well-being. Creating healthy, happy children with good habits they’ll carry over into adulthood isn’t limited to physical education, movement, and activity, although these are excellent places to start. PE classes can broaden the variety of topics they teach with healthy lifestyle approaches, and the entire school can get involved by teaching these same concepts in social studies, science, and even humanities-based classes.
9. Integrate health and nutrition programs into PE classes and classroom-based classes. Health and nutrition are just as important to healthy lifestyles and lifelong wellness and physical activity and movement, so PE classes are a great place to begin teaching kids these concepts as well. Of course, we don’t want to take movement time away from kids when it’s so limited already, so schools who can integrate separate health and nutrition classes into the curriculum will produce even healthier kids. A four to six week block in a science or social studies class is the perfect place to start.
10. Provide assessment initiatives. Improving PE programs is only part of the battle. Your school will want to find a way to assess and evaluate students’ levels of fitness, in order to identify areas in which progress was successful and other areas in which improvements still need to be made. Click Here for information on the assessment tools that SPARK uses.