Archive for April, 2012

National Association for Health and Fitness Forum Meeting 2012

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

I had the pleasure of presenting/attending this gathering in Las Vegas, March 27-30th.  The group meets every other year and partners with ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine) which has their own Health and Fitness Summit immediately following.

What a enjoyable and memorable event!  It was really nice to attend a meeting of less than 1,000 (or many more) people for a change.  And to be in the same room with others who are passionate about health and wellness.  Coach Stacey Fowler served as the moderator and her anecdotes were consistently inspirational and stimulating.  Amy Forrest helped with facilitation and ensured the timing was right and schedule ran like a Swiss clock.  President Diane Hart was gracious and welcoming to everyone.  This is quite a team folks!  Also want to mention that activity breaks were integrated into the schedule — walking the talk.

Others that attended and presented ranged from Jim Whitehead who is the Executive V.P. and CEO of ACSM; Tom McMillen, the former college and NBA star, Congressperson, and now serving as Board Chairman for the National Foundation on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition (NFFSN — note the fairly new name?) — which supports the President’s Council and the First Lady’s Let’s Move initiative.  Jacqui Epping from CDC got everyone caught up with changes and programs there, and Rich Killingsworth, the Executive Director of the NFFSN gave an outstanding presentation around our shared roles and responsiblities in providing and supporting public health programs.  Others in the group included Phil Haberstro, Shellie Pfohl, Linda Brissenden, Brett Fischer, Jacqui Shumway, Shawna Dosser, Nicole Williams, Edna Munoz – Lash, just to name a few of many superstars.

All in all, a terrific professional growth opportunity that was enjoyable and efficacious.  Congrats and thanks to the hosts!

If you’d like to learn more about the National Association for Health and Fitness:

-Paul Rosengard

Physical Education (PE) Apps for Teachers

Friday, April 20th, 2012

Today, more and more teachers are looking for ways to integrate their smart phones and iPads (and other tablets) with their physical education and health courses. Below is a list of apps that we’ve found helpful for Physical Educators.

Click Here to view a recording of our webinar, Apps for PE Teachers: “Don’t be a Sap, Know Your Apps!”. The webinar goes into more detail of how each app can be used in the classroom to engage students and maximize outcomes.

Coach’s Eye

  • Videos students performing a skill. Then, play it back in slow-mo, backward, or frame by frame. You can draw and record a playback with verbal comments. Overall, a really great app for skill assessment allowing instant feedback for students. Link

Team Shake

  • Team Shake is the technological and environmentally friendly way to choose teams. Instead of a hat and scraps of paper, the user enters his friends’ names in his iPhone and gives it a shake. The screen will then display a random set of color-coded teams. These teams can immediately be used for game play or saved via email. Team Shake is great for making teams for board games and sporting events. It’s also a very useful tool for teachers who need to create groups for projects! – Link


  • This stopwatch shows time on a digital display as well as on an analog clock face. The analog clock face is easy to collect information from during timing of a physical activity task or test. After the timing has finished, it is most convenient to read the precise time from the digital display. –Link

Giant Scoreboard

  • A generic scoreboard, featuring: Timer/Countdown (editable); Team names (editable); Giant digits, visible from 50ft; Fits any sport; Simple, accurate and reliable. -Link

Nutrition Tips

  • This app gives you hundreds of interesting and useful nutrition tips and nutritional health facts — concisely written for quick and easy review.
  • Referenced from,, and the Food and Nutrition Information Center, some of the most prominent leaders in food & human nutrition information! –Link

Pocket First Aid & CPR from the American Heart Association

  • Pocket First Aid & CPR from the American Heart Association helps save a life in Haiti. Read the incredible story of Dan Woolley, who survived 65 hours under rubble using this application. As seen on CNN, NBC Nightly News, Fox News, London Daily Mail, NPR, and many more. – Link

iFitness HD

  • An exercise companion app. Provides over 330 exercise images and full text descriptions. Allows tracking of progress for multiple users. Users create customized workouts.Link

Pocket Body

  • A fully searchable interactive atlas of the human body.Link

Pocket Heart (iPad App)

  • Interactive educational App to show how the human heart works in 3D. A great learning tool for cardiac anatomy and physiology.Link

Teacher’s Assistant

  • Teachers can keep track of student actions, behavior, infractions, and achievements in the classroom. This improves communicate quickly and easily with parents and administrators by documenting student classroom habits and behaviors and sending reports via email or making a call right from an iPhone. –Link

Easy Assessment

  • Easy Assessment is the app teachers, trainers and coaches have been waiting for. A simple way to capture and assess performance in any context or situation. Experience a new level of efficiency. –Link

Timer Tools

  • You get a suite of timers that are super easy to use. Timers include: Countdown, Stop Watch, Turn Timer, Seconds Up, Seconds Down, and Interval Timer. Access and set any timer with just a few clicks. –Link

Teacher’s Roll Call

  • Teacher’s Roll Call helps classroom instructors at any level track student attendance. The app is designed to make data entry and management quick and efficient so you have more time to focus on actual teaching. –Link

Class Cards

  • After entering the names of your students  this app will display a randomly generated list of students.  The list will not only show you the name of the student to call upon but will also show the names of the next four students to call upon. –Link


  • This is a great portable program to help you create brackets for tournaments. Able to customize team names for up to 32 teams. –Link


  • A unique interval timer that utilizes your music to inform you when it’s time to rest and time to work. Perfect for teachers, coaches, trainers and those looking to improve their fitness. Simply set the work and rest duration, along with the number of sets to begin your workout. –Link


  • Numbers is the spreadsheet application for iPad. This App is needed to utilize SPARK iPad Rubrics. –Link


  • Educreations turns your iPad into a recordable whiteboard. Diagram a sports plays through voice recording, realistic digital ink, photo imports, and simple sharing through email, Facebook or Twitter. –Link


  • Fotobabble lets you capture moments in real-time and share with your audience via email, Facebook or Twitter. Fotobabble is faster than video, easier than typing, and more engaging descriptive than sending a picture alone. –Link

Snap Guide

  • Snapguide is a simple way to share and view step-by-step how to guides. Students can show skill progression or demonstrate the rules of a game by creating their own guides and share through email, Twitter, Facebook and more. –Link

Whiteboard VGA

  • Whiteboard offers real-time collaborative teaching tool. Connect with any iPad, iPhone, iPod touch, or Mac over Wi-Fi, to draw pictures and customize a demonstration.  Allows you to import your own pictures to display. –Link

Beep Test

  • The beep test (also known as the pacer test and shuttle run test) is a standard fitness test used by professionals to test cardiovascular fitness. The beep test involves running back and forth between two markers  at an increasing pace as indicated by audio beeps. Your fitness level will then be calculated based on how long you can keep the pace. –Link


  • Cardiograph is an application, which measures your heart rate. You can save your results for future reference, and even keep track of multiple people with individual profiles. –Link


  • This app provides tools for teachers and students to improve their health by tracking their progress through the calorie counter and body tracker as well as view diagrams and videos of exercises and workouts. –Link


  • Pedometer will work as you walk, run, jog or do your treadmill. The special algorithm – the same as used in hardware pedometers – is implemented in the application. –Link

Coin Toss

  • Simulates a coin toss by sliding your finger from the bottom to the top, and watching the coin spin and decide your fate. –Link

How Does Physical Activity Affect Academic Performance?

Thursday, April 19th, 2012

Phospholipid bilayers? Pythagorean Theorem? The Lusitania? Kennedy Who?

And so it goes. Students in every grade level at schools across the country are struggling in class. It’s not because they’re underachievers, or they’re not smart, or they don’t care. It’s because we’re working against them. The longer children and teens are forced to sit and grow roots in their chairs, the harder it will be for them to bloom.

Physical EducationThere is myriad research that proves that students need adequate amounts of physical activity throughout the school day—not only do they prevent obesity and obesity-related issues, but they perform better academically also.

Just ask the CDC, Columbia University, the New York City Health Department and Department of Education, the Universities of Illinois, West Virginia, and California.

They’ve all published research that stands behind the need for physical education in the school system.

The CDC states, “…physical activity can have an impact on cognitive skills and attitudes and academic behavior, all of which are important components of improved academic performance. These include enhanced concentration and attention as well as improved classroom behavior.”

And there’s more. Active Living Research says, “In some cases, more time in physical education leads to improved grades and standardized test scores.” In schools that are under government mandates to bridge the achievement gap (and when those mandates encourage “teaching to the test”), physical education can actually help improve the students’ scores.

Unfortunately, many schools cut physical education and PE funding with the belief that more rigid classroom time would somehow stimulate students to learn more. It’s an incorrect belief, and there’s scientific evidence to prove it.

Exercise directly impacts the behavior and development of the brain. “It is likely that the effects of physical activity on cognition would be particularly important in the highly plastic developing brains of youth,” according to a 2010 essay penned by Charles Basch of Columbia University.

He summarized how exercise may affect executive functioning:

  • Increased oxygen flow to the brain
  • Increased brain neurotransmitters
  • “[Increased] brain-derived neurotrophins that support neuronal differentiation and survival in the developing brain.” Neurotrophins assure the survival of neurons in areas responsible for learning, memory, and higher thinking.

Physical activity has benefits beyond improved grades, too. Basch extrapolates current research and connects physical activity to absenteeism, drop-out rates, and social connectedness.

“Drop-out rates were lower for youth who consistently participated in interscholastic sports,” he writes, though he cautions that forcing kids to join sports won’t solve the drop-out problem that plagues many inner city schools, it simply may foster an environment of connectedness that could keep at-risk students attending school.

That’s the core of it all; that’s why we’re here. We want our students to get a quality education, even though their life situation or choices often make it difficult. But every child, regardless of financial background, should have equal access to excellent education.

It’s not good enough to push them through the school system and let them fend for themselves in the real world. We must use their formative years to give them the tools they can use to survive and provide for their own families. When they have children, they’ll be able to pass on knowledge we gave them. We’re creating a positive future for generations to come.

So what can school districts do to inject more activity and movement into the school day?

First, administrators must let go of the dated idea that PE must take a backseat.

“There is currently no evidence indicating that this strategy is, in fact, effective in increasing standardized test scores,” according to the Columbia University essay. “In fact, a growing body of evidence shows that increased time for physical education and other school-based physical activity programs is associated with either a neutral or positive impact on academic outcomes.”

By the way, Columbia University is ranked among the leaders in the top-tier of best research universities in the U.S.

The evidence is clear. Physical activity should have a place in the curriculum of every school that’s serious about teaching its kids.

The National Association for Sport and Physical Education recommends 60 minutes a day for children and adolescents. Schools should provide 150 minutes per week of instructional physical education for elementary school children, and 225 minutes per week for middle and high school students throughout the school year.

Adequate PE curriculum can help children achieve these numbers, in turn creating healthy bodies and eager-to-learn minds. Adequate physical education doesn’t stop there; it sets children up for a healthy adulthood, perpetuating a cycle of well-being for generations to come.

What’s the missing link between reducing obesity and increasing America’s ability to compete in a tough global economy? Physical education.

Want to learn more about the link between Academics and Physical Activity? Click Here to access a collection of Articles/Publications/Webinars on the subject.

Physical activity vs. PE: What’s the difference?

Monday, April 16th, 2012

Physical activity and physical education are two terms that are often mistakenly used interchangeably. While there are inherent similarities and overlapping, there’s one point that needs to be made clear—physical education and physical activity are not synonymous.

Physical ActivityFor example, say there are two children. Both get adequate physical activity—playing at recess, at home, and on the weekends. Only one of them has been fortunate enough to receive physical education throughout elementary, middle, and high school. Fast forward to the future. Chances are that the child who took PE is the one who has brought health into their adulthood.

Physical Activity

Recess is fantastic. It’s a time for kids to run around and around with only their imaginations, a few swings and a basketball hoop. It’s what makes being a kid so great. This kind of fun counts for physical activity, not education.

When kids are at home and head out to play freeze tag or red light green light, or when they head to dance practice, or when they chase lightning bugs around the yard, it also accounts for physical activity. It’s important. It releases endorphins, builds muscle and bone density, and improves coordination.

But physical activity does not complete the picture of good health for our children. Physical education contains physical activity, but it also contains a lot of other things that set up children for long-term health of the body, mind, and spirit.

Physical Education

According to the 2010 Shape of the Nation report conducted by the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) and the American Heart Association, “Physical education is based on a sequence of learning … [which] also includes health, nutrition, social responsibility, and the value of fitness throughout one’s life.”

Unfortunately, the past few years have been unkind to those gym and health classes (collectively, PE) that were cut as a result of schools “teaching to the test.” Math, science, and reading took precedent over PE time, which doesn’t quite fit in to decreased budgets.

The Shape of the Nation report continues: “Providing time for unstructured physical activity is not the same as providing instructional time for meeting the goals of quality physical education.”

Besides, as students grow and head into high school, the “unstructured physical activity” they get during free periods might consist of walking to the nearest convenience store or idly wandering about the hallways.

This just won’t do, especially as students are studying for tests that will decide where they head next, be it vocational school, college or into the workforce or military.

It won’t do in younger students either, when they’re learning material that gives them basic skills and knowledge everyone should know: simple math, critical reading and spelling, and the science of our world.

Why? Physical education provides physical activity, which studies show helps to improve academic performance. Physical education also provides knowledge—the knowledge every human being needs to stay healthy throughout their lifetime.

So what is physical education exactly?

The education aspect comes into play when teachers combine motion with minds. For example, middle school challenges can involve running to different locations to put together a puzzle, or to seek out objects on a map. Also, education can focus on specific skills and coordination, like how to throw a flying disc or use a hockey stick. High schools will learn the value of nutrition and pair that will circuit training. They’ll learn how to set goals and how to stay active in achieving those goals.

Research is the basis for each of these strategies. These examples and others are proven to work, not only to improve the health knowledge of students, but to improve their ability to comprehend other subjects as well.

The American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (AAHPERD) is an association dedicated to the health and well-being of America’s youth. The Alliance’s members (NASPE, for one) are a wealth of information about the importance of physical education, the research behind the information, and why it’s important in the first place.

It’s this heralded research that SPARK is based upon.

SPARK aligns itself with the standards set by NASPE, author of the Shape of the Nation report. SPARK takes those standards and adds the processes that make the standards attainable.

Renowned institutions such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Academy of Sciences as well a plethora of science and teaching journals have cited SPARK’s physical education curriculum, and the HSC Foundation has even named SPARK as the only program it recommends for both PE and physical activity.

And that’s what this is all about. SPARK has the difference between physical education and physical activity down to a science—literally.

School districts with struggling attendance, lagging productivity and underwhelming test scores must look at the research. Recess is not enough.

Many of these schools are under federal and state government mandates to perform well in math, science and reading. If they don’t, teachers could see pink slips and students could be subjected to a longer school day or year.

However, the government also provides help.

The Department of Health and Human Services is an excellent source of funding for a school to institute a physical education program that is proven to be effective in raising academic performance.

More educated movement, better test scores.

And it’s not just the test scores that will improve. The health and well-being of the students, their abilities, their outlook, their potential — all of it will improve.

Aren’t our children worth it?

Hawaii’s Fun 5: SPARK After School “Island Style”

Friday, April 13th, 2012

At SPARK, we’ve been really fortunate to work with many terrific educators and researchers over the years.  Our friends in Hawaii – Claudio Nigg and Paula Adams – are no exception.  They took the lead on a physical activity and nutrition project they called “Fun 5,” and did an exemplary job of modifying SPARK After School to meet the needs of children in beautiful Hawaii.

Fun 5 provided participating after school environments with SPARK curriculum, youth leader training, follow up support, and content-matched equipment.  A Train the Trainer model was included to foster sustainability and institutionalization of SPARK concepts and methods.

“It’s has been great to be part of the Fun 5 team since its inception in 2003,” reflected Claudio. “We are privileged to have so many wonderful SPARK trainers in our islands, some of them with the program for almost a decade.”

Paula added, “working together with different partners makes Fun 5 a really community project. Fun 5 exists thanks to those organizations making the everyday life implementation of the program a success.”

Claudio, Paula and their colleagues published a paper recently on their work (click here to see a pdf) Here are a few highlights from it:

Lessons Learned:

  1. Engaging, participatory and fun trainings – Gotta have em’!
  2. Make life easier for the staff – Don’t make them work more, but figure out how they can have more fun while they’re working
  3. Cultivate relationships – Find champions within partner organizations – and recognize them!
  4. Build local capacity – Home grown pride and ownership of the process — and outcomes
  5. Early champions – Strive to recruit key players and contributors early on and others will follow
  6. Effective program – Choosing SPARK provided credibilty and helped garner support

Selected Outcomes from Fun 5 Include:

  • Exceeded dissemination expectations, demonstrating high quality annually despite large increases in reach
  • Decreased youth time standing, sitting, and lying down by 21%
  • Increased youth time in MVPA – 140% over the 4 years!

SPARK wants to acknowledge the great efforts made by Claudio, Paula, and all the Fun 5 trainers and implementers throughout the islands!  Also, special appreciation goes to the following organizations for helping make Fun 5 an effective and efficacious project:

  • HMSA (Hawaii Medical Services Association
  • Kaho’omiki
  • Hawaii Department of Education
  • YMCA
  • Kamaaina Kids
  • Dream Co.
  • YCS
  • University of Hawaii
  • Kapiolani Community College
  • Maui Nutrition and Physical Activity Coalition
  • The National Afterschool Alliance
  • Hawaii 5210 Let’s go!