Archive for October, 2010

Top 10 Reasons to Use PECAT with PEP Grants

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

The purpose of the Carol M. White Physical Education Program (PEP) provides grants to local educational agencies (LEAs) and community-based organizations (CBOs) to initiate, expand, or enhance physical education programs, including after school programs, for students in kindergarten through 12th grade. The priority is the initiation, expansion, and improvement of physical education programs (which may include after-school programs) in order to make progress toward meeting State standards for physical education for kindergarten through 12th grade students by (1) providing equipment and support to enable students to participate actively in physical education activities; and (2) providing funds for staff and teacher training and education.

So how can you maximize your PEP dollars to assure you are spending money on the PEP grant priorities?  In order to provide equipment, support and training, one needs to have a program of study or curriculum.  The curriculum will drive equipment, training and support.

The Physical Education Curriculum Analysis Tool (PECAT) was specifically designed by CDC to help school districts conduct a clear, complete, and consistent analysis of physical education curricula. PECAT results can help school districts enhance, develop, or select appropriate and effective physical education curricula for delivering high-quality physical education in schools including equipment, training and support.

The PECAT is based on the NASPE national standards for physical education and includes an overview of high-quality physical education, information about physical education curricula, tools to assess a curriculum, and resources for developing a curriculum improvement plan. The PECAT can assist in assessing how closely the written curricula align with national standards for high-quality physical education programs.

Here are the top 10 reasons PECAT takes the mystery out of deciding on quality curriculum for physical education as it relates to the PEP grants. Utilizing the PECAT to determine your needs can strengthen the case for your PEP grant.

  1. Fitness education and assessment: PECAT provides guidance to help make clear decisions about your program and what your needs may be in the area of curriculum and assessment.
  2. Motor Skill and Physical Activity: PECAT helps to provide a methodical review of curricula instruction in a variety of motor skills and physical activities to determine an appropriate and research based curricula program to purchase for PEP funding.
  3. Cognitive Concepts: The PECAT will help determine the development and instruction in, cognitive concepts that support a lifelong healthy lifestyle within a curricula program.
  4. Social Concepts: Opportunities to develop positive social and cooperative skills through physical activity participation is a priority for PEP.  The PECAT can assist in evaluation of curricula for the PEP grant funding.
  5. Nutrition: One priority for PEP funding is instruction in healthy eating habits and good nutrition.  PECAT and HECAT both can assist in documented evidence in this category.
  6. Professional development: PEP encourages the opportunity for growth.  Professional development is a key role and the PECAT can assist in determining the feasibility of a curriculum by including training.
  7. Affordable: Money is scares and should be maximized when received.  PECAT has a section in the beginning to help determine if curricula is affordable and appropriate for your school/district.
  8. Grade Group Specific:  PECAT helps takes the guesswork out of age appropriateness.  Content and skills are specific for each grade group, pre-K-2; 3-5; 6-8; and 9-12.
  9. Assurance: The concepts, sub-skills and skill examples were developed through a rigorous CDC process guided by research evidence and expert opinion.
  10. Change Facilitator: PEP recipients are to identify research based programs that can effect change (improvement).  PECAT identifies strengths and weaknesses for change which improve physical education or after school programs, including the research behind the curricula.

Utilizing the PECAT as a methodical process to establish need for curriculum, training and equipment will strengthen you PEP grant and your PEP grant evaluation.  SPARK has been evaluated with PECAT and is not only a research and outcomes based program by its own merit but the PECAT scores show SPARK is also a quality physical education curriculum. Click Here to see the PECAT scores for each SPARK Physical Education program.

Inclusive Physical Education

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

It can be challenging for physical education teachers to effectively include students with special needs into their classes. Here are a few strategies to help ensure that all students are able to participate in physical education:

Organization and Management

  • Be sure the space is free of hazards
  • Put special needs students near the front when explaining instructions
  • Provide opportunities for exploration and allow adequate practice time
  • Group students by mixing ability levels- do not put all special needs students in one group


  • Be sure the equipment is age appropriate for age and size
  • Use different types of balls or equipment that are easier to manipulate and/or less threatening
  • Deflate balls to slow the activity down
  • Increase/decrease the size of the target to meet individual needs

Activity Modifications

  • Limit the size of the play area
  • Change or simplify the rules of the game to equalize abilities
  • Allow for different skill levels within the same activity; kick a stationary ball instead of a pitched ball
  • Designate a space for each student, when needed, such as using a spot, carpet square, hoop etc

**Remember to address each student’s IEP (Individual Education Plan) as well as their individual needs and seek out help to expand your knowledge about working with special needs students.

Empty Junk Food Calories: Half of Your Kid’s Diet?

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

Many of you may already know what the experts recently revealed; kids these days are getting an exorbitant amount of their daily calories and nutrition (or lack thereof) from junk food, desserts, and an unlikely culprit: whole milk.

We all know that kids eat more junk food than they should, but we’ve always been told that their ability to metabolize at a faster rate made that completely acceptable. Recent findings claim that junk food makes up approximately 40% of the average kids’ diet. Perhaps this statistic will shine some much needed light on the matter at hand.

According to researchers behind the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, children between the ages of 2-18 are getting about 40% of their calories from just six different foods:

  • Soda
  • Sugary fruit drinks
  • Grain desserts: cookies, cakes, donuts
  • Dairy desserts: ice cream, milkshakes
  • Pizza
  • Whole Milk

Two of these items are in the dessert category, and three others are junk food snacks. It’s a wonder that kids in the age bracket of 2-18 even have access to that much junk food. The most surprising item to make the “naughty” list is whole milk. Many parents feel that this provides a hearty serving of Vitamin D, Calcium, and other necessary nutrients. What they do not realize is that when moderation is not enforced, the high fat calories are no longer offset by the benefits of these nutrients. While a small serving of whole milk can be beneficial, most situations call for its skinnier sibling, skim milk.

Specialists across the country have weighed in on the causes of these startling statistics over the last few weeks. The majority of nutritionists and dieticians have come to a few similar conclusions.

Everyone is a role model, and we aren’t doing a very good job.


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Parents, teachers, celebrities and food companies are all responsible for the dire state of our youth. While legislation now regulates many schools’ vending machine products, parents, teachers, and coaches can be doing much more. Creating a meal out of microwavable pizza doesn’t set a good example for kids. Children look to adults for guidance, and they tend to form habits that only get worse during the freedom of their impressionable teen years.

Kids just need to get up and move!


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If 40% of the older generation’s caloric intake as kids was made up of these empty calories, our bodies would not have noticed nearly as much as today’s kids’ bodies do. Those were the days of walking to school and playing outside until dark. Nowadays, many children do not even get the minimum recommended activity per day – and that’s only an hour. While we cannot explicitly blame video games and television for obesity, they are definitely culprits for their lack of activity.

It’s not just calories that matter – it’s the type of calories.


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For decades, people of all ages, shapes, and sizes have fallen victim to fad diets, misconstrued healthy options, and excessive portion sizes. One issue is that people think that the only thing to avoid is excess calories, and in some cases, that might help you lose weight. Although eating only pizza, soda, and ice cream in a day may fall within your daily caloric need, the nutritional value is completely absent. People forget that eating right is not supposed to be about being skinny or looking good; it should be about being healthy and leading a healthy lifestyle.

Many sources cite teenagers’ addiction to cheap, flavorful, and satisfying junk food as a main culprit. Others claim that mere negligence by parents and school officials is to blame. Either way, these startling statistics paint a very grim future for our youngest generation. Find ways to feed your children nutritious calories, lead by example, and get up and move!

For more information on SPARK’s Nutrition Education program (and our exclusive nutrition partner Healthy Kids Challenge), please Click Here.

The Top 10 Reasons to Use HECAT: Promoting Healthy Eating

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

With the rise in childhood obesity, there has been an increased focus on nutrition education.  The 2010 Carol M. White PEP Grant requires nutrition education and improvements in nutrition policies.  The importance of connecting nutrition education and physical activity is clear. Without healthy eating and physical activity, healthy balance isn’t possible.  Traditionally, health education assessment has focused on testing knowledge through written exams.  While this has been useful in testing knowledge, we know knowledge doesn’t directly correlate with health behaviors!  Now, with the Centers for Disease Control Health Education Curriculum Assessment Tool (HECAT): Module Healthy Eating, it is no longer necessary to be in a quandary about nutrition education components.  Here are the top 10 reasons HECAT:  Promoting Healthy Eating takes the mystery out of nutrition education.

1.    Assurance: The concepts, sub-skills and skill examples were developed through a rigorous CDC process guided by research evidence and expert opinion.  Healthy Kids Challenge Director, Vickie James, RD, LD was one of the experts!

2.    Parent-Community-Teacher Justification: It provides clear justification to address why a nutrition education curriculum was adopted and what it contains.  A curriculum aligned with HECAT makes teaching easier, as well as effective.

3.    Healthy Behaviors Identified: Thirteen healthy eating behavior outcomes make content needs very tangible.

4.    Clear Learning Targets: Besides knowledge content, it gives standards to indicate what the student should be able to do (the skills needed).  For example, students will be able to describe foods and beverages that should be limited and analyze influences on their choices, set goals and make healthier choices.

5.    Grade Group Specific: It takes the guesswork out of age appropriateness.  Content and skills are specific for each grade group, pre-K-2; 3-5; 6-8; and 9-12.  For example, while pre-K-2 will be able to choose a variety of healthy snacks, the older grade groups will be able to plan and prepare a healthy snack.

6.    Academic Gains: Eating breakfast every day is one of the healthy behavior outcomes.  Studies indicate students who eat breakfast learn better.  One study even connects iron fortified cereals and math scores.  Besides, breakfast eaters have an easier time maintaining healthy weights.

7.    Resource Friendly: Eating more fruits and veggie is a national goal and another of the healthy eating behaviors.  Many recent grants and resources are directed at this behavior outcome.

8.    Self Esteem and Peer Support: There have been reports of bullying not only about overweight but also because of food allergies.  A curriculum meeting HECAT standards incorporates lessons about how to provide support to peers for making healthy choices; and how to refuse foods that cause allergic reactions or that are less nutritious.

9.    Change Facilitator: Change can be hard.  Healthy eating standards are aligned with changes happening in the school cafeteria, vending, classrooms and other places food is offered.  A curriculum meeting HECAT standards helps students have a good understanding of the concepts behind the changes and provides opportunities for positive discussion.

10.  Achieve Effective PEP and Wellness Policy Outcomes: Nutrition education is a critical PEP and Wellness Policy component.  A curriculum meeting HECAT standards, not only fulfills this requirement, but it provides a reliable way to measure the true goal of healthier schools, which is students with healthier eating behaviors!

The good news is that such a curriculum does exist!  Healthy Kids Challenge is excited to announce the release of new nutrition education curricula, Balance My Day!  Make it a New Year’s resolution to check out Balance My Day, available January 1, 2011.  There is curriculum specific for three grade groups, K-2; 3-5; and 6-8.  Balance My Day is aligned with HECAT: Module Healthy Eating standards and is very teacher friendly.  The Healthy Kids Challenge goal is to make teaching and learning simple and fun.