Archive for March, 2010

The Link Between Physical Activity and Academics

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

The data are clear – healthy students are better learners. Over the years, a number of scientists have shown a correlation between high standardized test scores and physical fitness scores (CA Dept. of Education study), and that more time spent in physical education class did not result in a decrease in academic performance (SPARK study in Research Quarterly – Click Here).

Additional studies around the world have supported these conclusions, while there is virtually no data to justify a common myth: PE should be reduced or eliminated so children have more time to focus on other subjects.

It is important to understand that physical activity positively affects the following:

* Overweight and obesity
* HDL cholesterol
* Blood pressure
* Insulin resistance
* Skeletal health
* Musculoskeletal injuries
* Psychological well-being
* Self-esteem
* Anxiety and depression

An impressive list of outcomes everyone can support. Yet, can we draw the same conclusions from physical education classes? No.

Unfortunately, physical activity and physical education do not always go hand in hand. Studies of physical education have shown not all PE classes are offered in sufficient dosage (frequency and duration) and/or instructed with adequate quality (in this context – 50% or better moderate to vigorous physical activity) to produce the desired health benefits in students. If physical education is not active, it cannot claim the health benefits.

SPARK strongly supports academic learning AND healthy students through quality, daily physical education for grades Pre K-12. And, SPARK realizes that in many schools, physical education and physical activity time are inadequate – totaling far below the recommended 60 minutes a day. Therefore, we’re providing a link to a section on our website that includes resources to support physical educators integrating academic learning and/or reinforcement into their PE classes, and generalists (e.g., classroom teachers) incorporating physical activity into their classrooms.

Click Here to access articles, research studies and webinars that discuss the link between physical activity and academics.

In addition to the content on that page, if you are a member of the SPARKfamily, visit the G.Y.M. (Great Young Minds) section for sample lessons and videos that link physical education to the core content standards.

URGENT- Advocate for Quality Physical Education!

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

Urgent Request- deadline of March 26th!

Advocate for Quality Physical Education as part of the NCLB reauthorization (ESEA)

The U. S. House Education and Labor Committee is collecting comments regarding the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (formally No Child Left Behind) reauthorization. In an effort to have Physical Education addressed and included in the reauthorization, your participation is extremely necessary. This is crucial as our country is at a very critical point and we can NOT miss this opportunity.

Please take a few moments to send the following points to the email address below. Now is the chance many of you have been waiting for and it is a small window of opportunity. Please let our Federal Leaders know how important physical education is to our students and their health.

Please identify your group or identify yourself as a supporter of quality physical education.

Please request that the new Elementary and Secondary Education Act should:

  • Refocus the newly developed Successful, Safe and Healthy Students section to a Coordinated School Health Approach extending the already proposed activities to provide a critical facility in which many agencies might work together to maintain the well-being of young people.
  • Include the text of the FIT Kids Act, requiring schools to report on the quality and quantity of physical education, physical education facilities, teacher accreditation, and physical education curriculum;
  • Require all physical education teachers to be licensed in physical education;
  • Include physical education standards as part of the core curricula all students need especially when developing assessments for student growth; and
  • Maintain the Carol M. White Physical Education Program as a stand-alone grant program, with minimum funding of $100 million.

10 Ways Parents Can Help Their Children Be More Physically Active

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

by Paul Rosengard, Dr. Jim Sallis, Dr. Thom McKenzie

For optimal health, children should accumulate at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity (e.g., brisk walking) every day and do vigorous sports or exercise 3 times a week.

1. Frequently ask your child what physical activities they like to do, then help them do it!
2. Be a role model. Show children physical activity is important by enthusiastically participating in it.
3. Participate with your child (e.g., play catch, chop firewood, go on walks together).
4. Encourage your child to participate on sports teams (e.g., Bobby Sox, Little League, basketball, etc.).
5. Plan family events, including weekend getaways and vacations, that include physical activity (e.g., hiking, water sports, skiing).
6. Enroll your child in out-of-school physical activity lessons and classes (e.g., martial arts, dance, swimming, gymnastics).
7. Transport your child to places where she/he can move and play safely.
8. Monitor television viewing and video game play. Have your child “earn” time for these “low voltage” activities by accumulating minutes of physical activity.
9. Select gifts that encourage physical activity (e.g., a ball, a jump rope, a pair of in-line skates).
10. Write and speak with school administrators showing your support for quality physical education and physical activity programs on campus.

3 Tips for Writing a 2010 PEP Grant

Friday, March 12th, 2010

This week we’re featuring a blog post from a guest author, Aaron Hart. Mr. Hart has been involved in the development of numerous successful PEP grants and we’re thankful to him for sharing some of his insights below:

We’re all waiting eagerly for this year’s 2010 PEP Grant application guidelines. As we try to be patient here are three tips for writing a successful Carol M. White PEP Grant as you prepare for this year’s competition.

  1. Know your needs. In your application, clearly outline where your program can improve and how PEP funding will make those improvements. Prove that you’ve done your homework by utilizing available assessment tools like the School Health Index and PECAT.
  2. Work well with others. More and more we’re seeing the power of the community collaborative. Where are students spending their time before, during and afterschool? How can you bring all of those settings together to make a coordinated effort to improve physical education, activity and health-related messaging? At SPARK we have solutions to help you coordinate your efforts before and after-school, during recess, at home and of course during physical education classes.
  3. Energy Balance. Often PEP Grant applications are only focused on one half of the energy balance equation – activity. Don’t forget about nutrition! SPARK offers several ways to improve your nutrition environment combined with powerful nutrition education tools.

Hopefully these tips will help you prepare for the upcoming competition.

If you are a past applicant that has not been awarded, or a district that would like to apply, contact SPARK for assistance! SPARK and Sportime are here to assist you with grant proposals. To date, more than 100 PEP grants have been awarded to organizations that chose to implement SPARK curriculum/training and Sportime equipment! This is a comprehensive, turnkey program that encompasses evaluation of your PE program, creating/improving your curriculum to meet PEP standards, writing your grant proposal, and implementing the new program.

Contact a SPARK representative for a free cost proposal and for help writing SPARK into your grant submission. We want to make it easy for you to implement SPARK and improve the quality and quantity of PE/PA at your site(s).

Please visit our 2010 PEP Grant page for more information or contact us during your application process.

More good news!

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

After my excitement about the President and First Lady announcing multiple strategies for combating childhood obesity on February 9, I did not imagine the next good news would come so soon. Two weeks later, on February 24, 2010, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger held a summit on health and obesity. He was joined by Bill Clinton, which made it a star-studded and bipartisan event.

The real action came at the press conference after the summit. The Governor announced new bills and executive actions that again place California at the forefront of public health efforts to improve physical activity, eating, and obesity. There were several important policy initiatives introduced, as explained in a press release: Most of the policies were designed to increase children’s physical activity! This focus on getting California kids active is very welcome. The policies cover a wide range of issues, including simplifying funding for joint use agreements, targeting Safe Routes to Schools funding to disadvantaged communities, and requiring 30 minutes of daily physical activity in after-school programs.

Of particular interest is the proposed law to require 50% of PE classes to be spent in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) by 2013. This has been a public health objective for decades, but has never been adopted by a state. If passed, this bill could start a national trend to align public health and education goals. The goal of PE has always been to “teach through the physical” so I expect this law to help PE meet its multiple goals. Requiring 50% MVPA will stimulate teachers to find ways of teaching skills and knowledge through activity, in a way that will meet the current health needs of children.

Even when the bill passes, there is a long way to go to effective implementation. Between now and 2013, the PE community and public health advocates will need to work hard, work smart, and work together to obtain the funding needed to train teachers, adopt curricula, and develop practical accountability systems required to bring highly active PE classes to all California students. We will have to be sure that improvements are made in the low-resource schools that have the poorest quality PE now. But the effort will be worth it. More-active PE will be great for California children’s health and academic performance. This will be a big step toward defeating childhood obesity. I believe that highly-active PE classes will be seen as an improvement in quality by school administrators, parents, and legislators. Improving quality is a strong foundation for increasing PE minutes per week and bringing PE to all high school students.

Please write to the Governor and your representatives in Sacramento expressing your support for these bills that will help California children become more active and healthy. Make sure the professional and civic organizations you belong to support these bills. This is a great opportunity for California physical activity and physical education advocates, so let’s make sure the bills are passed, then work for the funding and support to implement them throughout the State. If you are not in California, then recommend your state’s leaders adopt the same, or even better, measures to improve children’s physical activity. Let’s see which state will win!

Jim Sallis

The End of an Era: Peter Savitz Retires

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010

Ho-hum.  The last weekend in February usually passes without much fanfare.  This year – 2010 — was different.

Wendy and I flew to Atlanta to honor a friend and colleague as he transitioned from full time work to retirement; and I want to tell you about it.

Our friend is Peter Savitz, the President of Sportime – or – what was once Sportime.  You see, the Sportime we all knew and loved really doesn’t exist anymore.  Sportime used to be a separate company that served the physical education market by providing truly innovative products to students and teachers.  Today, Sportime is a product line and a part of a large company, School Specialty.  This is different, don’t know if it’s better or not, we’ll leave that to time and others to make that call.  What we know today is that the Sportime (and Fitness and Sport) catalogs we’ve all used in our careers are not called Sportime anymore, they’re School Specialty Physical Education and Recreation, and won’t be created by the same people.

So what of Sportime’s leader – Pete?  After 40 years in the industry, working with Larry Joseph to build a company from scratch, he’s hanging up his sneakers.  Under Pete’s leadership, Sportime grew to be one of the largest equipment providers to physical educators in the U.S.  Headquartered in Atlanta, Pete hired a lot of terrific staff, gave them the tools to do what they do best, and enabled their development.  Pete is one of those rare individuals that can answer almost any question related to the business.  He also made himself available to you 24/7.  Pete didn’t supervise people, he supported them.  A lot of others could benefit from his lessons on how to run a company, empower  staff to succeed, and ensure that doing right by people and watching the bottom line, are not mutually exclusive concepts.

Pete’s first SPARK act in 1989 demonstrated his generosity.  He approved the sale of equipment to our research study at a 50% discount.  This enabled us to purchase more equipment for participating schools, a very good thing.  We liked the Sportime equipment, their people, and their service, so when it was time in 1993 to begin our dissemination phase, I approached Sportime first.  Soon we reached an agreement on how SPARK would recommend Sportime equipment to our SPARK schools.  This level of partnership continued until 2002 when it was time for SPARK to transfer our licensure from San Diego State to Sportime.  That’s why for the past 8 years, I’ve been fortunate to call Pete my boss.

So, at his retirement party during this uneventful week in February, I (and a lot of others) had a chance to thank him publically.  Not only to thank him from my individual perspective, but for all of us who have been a part of our SPARK team – as Pete was.  He wasn’t just my support person, he supported everybody at SPARK.  He gave his time freely and genuinely cared about each person’s professional and personal growth.  He helped SPARK grow, and more importantly, he helped us evolve as an organization.  We’re smarter and better because of Pete.

Before Pete left, he had to watch the Sportime he built change significantly – piece by piece, person by person.  That couldn’t have been easy, but in typical Pete fashion, you didn’t hear him complain.

Pete’s work touched too many lives to mention.  Pete loves physical education and physical educators.  He is a big supporter of our profession in words and deeds.  Whether you know Pete from his support of NASPE’s Teacher of the Year program, or from his/Sportime’s contributions to your school or agency, or perhaps you had the opportunity to meet him at an AAHPERD conference, I hope you’ll make a minute to thank him for a remarkable, meaningful career.

He can be reached at

-Paul Rosengard