Archive for March, 2014


SPARK’s Common Core Survival Guide (Part 1)

Thursday, March 20th, 2014

CC_Survival_Logo_01.jpg

Meeting CCSS mandates without selling out as a physical educator

By Aaron Hart – SPARK Development Director

@nyaaronhart (on Twitter)

The Common Core wave has been crashing on the shores of physical education for a while now. Regardless of the pros and cons of this movement, many of us are faced with the reality and requirement of alignment. PE specialists have been cautiously studying the standards with a focus on maintaining what we believe is truly important – creating a high MVPA environment in which students develop the skills and knowledge needed to enjoy a lifetime of physical activity.

Over the next 4 months, leading up to my Common Core presentation at the 2014 Physical Education & Wellness Summit, I’ll be sharing bi-weekly tips for physical educators working to meet their district CCSS mandates.

Please keep in mind that every state and district approaches the Common Core in a unique (and often evolving) way. The content provided here offers what we believe to be universal for physical education. However, it’s important to consider the specific implementation requirements and guidelines that your district has adopted.

This week’s tip: Focus on Depth of Physical Education Knowledge.

You may have heard the term “Depth of Knowledge” (DOK) in relation to the Common Core. Like most thing we’re seeing in the Common Core – DOK is nothing new. It was developed in 1997 by an educational researcher named Norman Web and refers to the level of understanding needed to answer a related assessment question/problem. Here you go…

Level 1) Recall and Reproduction

Level 2) Skills and Concepts

Level 3) Short-term Strategic Thinking

Level 4) Extended Thinking

These levels apply across subject area and certainly apply to physical education skills and concepts. The goal is to move students through the levels, providing opportunities for them to demonstrate their understanding. Let’s try an example.

Focusing on CCSS in Literacy, we want our students to be able to:

  • Determine the meaning of domain-specific words and phrases in a text relevant to a grade-appropriate subject area (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.3.4).

What does this mean? It means that it’s important to teach our students the academic language and vocabulary of physical education.

Here’s a perfect vocabulary word to use as an example: Fitness

Let’s move “Fitness” across the DOK levels using National PE Outcomes.

  • DOK Level 1: Discusses benefits of being active and exercising/playing (National PE Standard/Outcome S3.E1 – Grade 1)
  • DOK Level 2: Describes the concept of fitness and provides examples of physical activity to enhance fitness (National PE Standard/Outcome S3.E3 – Grade 3)
  • DOK Level 3: Charts and analyzes physical activity outside physical education class for fitness benefits of activities (National PE Standard/Outcome S3.E1 – Grade 5)
  • DOK Level 4: Identifies barriers related to maintaining a physically active lifestyle and seeks solutions for eliminating identified barriers (National PE Standard/Outcome S3.M1 – Grade 7)

This example helps clarify the developmental progression while aligning a fundamental vocabulary word with both the CCSS as well as National PE Standards. The Grade 7 PE outcome is listed in the Level 4 bullet above. For your reference, here’s the middle school CCSS:

  • Determine the meaning of key terms and other domain-specific words as they are used in a specific technical context relevant to grades 6-8 texts and topics. (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RST.6-8.4)

As we look to develop students into “College and Career Ready” individuals, who are fit and focused for the future, it seems as if “overcoming and eliminating barriers to fitness” is a 21st Century Skill. (Insert the mountain of data showing the relationship between personal health and productivity in the work place.)

To wrap up this entry in SPARK’s Common Core Survival Guide here’s a short PDF packet of resources focused on our topic. Here’s what’s included and why:

  • DOK Level 1: Individual Rope Jumping Activity Plan. Go to the Wrap it Up section of this lesson – the debrief session at the end of lessons is a perfect time to facilitate DOK discussions. (K-2 SPARK PE)
  • DOK Level 2: Partner Fitness Challenge Task Card. Notice the “N” challenge on this chart. It aligns perfectly to Level 2 DOK outcomes and can help your students meet CCSS in Speaking & Listening. (3-6 SPARK PE)
  • DOK Level 3: SPARKfit MVPA Journal. Provides a tool for charting weekly physical activity time. Now, schedule 5 minutes of class time for students to analyze data and plan for improvement. (SPARKfit for Grades 6-12)
  • DOK Level 4: SPARKfit Wellness Challenge. Students work in groups to research, summarize and present the ways in which families (or other social support groups) can help to eliminate barriers to regular physical activity. (SPARKfit for Grades 6-12)

Thanks for reading! Check back in two weeks for more tips and resources.

Recess Implementation Ideas & Resources

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014

Part 2 of 2

BBJ-W-2y BJ Williston

SPARK K-12 Trainer & Curriculum Developer

Click Here to read Part 1 of this article.

After assessing your current recess program with the School Recess Report Card in the SPARK Recess Handbook (included in the SPARKabc’s program), prioritize the components targeted for improvement.  Priority goes to the components with the lowest scores on the report card.

It is then time to implement!

The SPARK Recess Program includes all sorts of components to improve your school’s recess.

Activity Areas

Divide your recess environment into 4 main activity areas:

  1. Playground Structure for unstructured free-play
  2. Group Games Area
  3. Individual and Partner Games/Activities Area
  4. A perimeter area for students to walk/jog around

There should also be space and resources for those students who aren’t able to participate due to illness/injury/etc.

Supervision

It is suggested that adults be the Recess Supervisors responsible for the overall procedures, set-up, and safety.   Student Game Leaders work with the Supervisors to distribute and collect equipment, set up activity areas, and serve as a liaison to communicate student concerns.  Once the program is up and running, students arrive at recess, choose from a variety of activities and follow recess expectations.

Both Supervisors and Game Leaders promote Character Matters, a social skills development program designed to identify, reinforce, and assess character education concepts in physical activity settings like PE and recess.  Concepts such as cooperation, respect, concern, leadership, and fair play are introduced at the beginning of the school year in all SPARK PE programs (K-12) and SPARK After School.

Activities

SPARK’s Recess Program offers a variety of activities for students to choose from. Individual/Partner activities include 2 and 4-Square, Hoop Stations, Jump Rope Stations, and Flying Disc Golf. Group games include 3-Catch and All-Run Kickball.

Maintenance

Recess Supervisors keep the program going by completing monthly Recess Action Plans, maintaining equipment, encouraging enthusiasm among the Student Game Leaders, and staying on top of the needs of the program.  Details for this maintenance are laid out in the Recess Handbook.

SPARKabc’s Recess Program can help your school get it all together to achieve all the benefits a fabulous recess program can bring!

Advocate for Recess

Want to advocate for better recess policies at your school? Take these 5 steps:

  1. Refine your own viewpoint about how children learn best.
  2. Spread the word: share proof about the significance of recess (see attachment for citations).
  3. Lobby for safe and properly maintained play areas in your school, neighborhood, and community.
  4. Get connected to local organizations that support recess.
  5. Stay informed with action alerts from local and national organizations such as the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

For more information on the SPARKabc’s Program and the SPARK Recess Program, go to www.sparkpe.org/abc or contact SPARK at 1-800-SPARK PE (772-7573).

The Importance of Recess

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014

Is it Recess Yet?

Part 1 of 2

BJ-W-2By BJ Williston

SPARK K-12 Trainer & Curriculum Developer

Remember when you were little and someone asked you what your favorite class was?  If you were like me, you emphatically said “Recess!” It’s not that I didn’t like my “real” classes, it’s just that the freedom I got when that bell rang was so sweet I could taste it.

The choices seemed endless.  Sometimes I’d play kickball with a big group and other times I’d play marbles or jacks with a friend or I’d jump rope.  I remember there were several months when I was obsessed with mastering a few tricks on the bars, so that is all I did.  I grew up in Hawaii, and I remember needing help getting down whenever my muumuu got twisted around the bar.  After it rained real hard, we couldn’t wait to chase baby frogs across the field.  It was a smorgasbord of outdoor fun and I got to choose depending on my mood not once but twice a day. It was heaven.

Sadly, today’s elementary school kids don’t have it so good.  Recess has been on the proverbial chopping block in the past decade due to budget cuts and the pinhole focus on academic standardized test scores. The powers that be have decided recess just isn’t important enough to keep.  Well, I for one hope to shout that it is extremely valuable and worth fighting for. I’m not the only one, and more and more folks are causing a fuss to reverse this alarming trend.

Here are just a few of the issues in a nutshell:

  • School-aged children need about 60 minutes of physical activity a day for myriad reasons, including heart health, decreasing risk of overweight/obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and various types of cancer to name just a few.
  • Kids can get this 60 minutes of PA in a multitude of ways including before and after school activities, physical education class, activity during their classroom time, and recess.
  • Only 6 states require PE in all grades K-12.  Almost half of US students don’t receive any PE in an average week.
  • All students don’t have the resources to be involved in before and after school structured physical activity, and many kids don’t live in an environment conducive to unstructured physical activity during their free time.  Neighborhoods are unwalkable, and parks are too few and far between.  For these kids, recess is even more important to get them to the 60 minute goal.
  • Only 9 states require recess be given to elementary school students. Yikes!

We all instinctively know that recess is not just fun, but important for all kids to have on a daily basis. Knowing is one thing, however it sure helps recess’s case that The American Academy of Pediatrics has come out with a strong opinion promoting recess.  They consider recess a necessary break from the demands of school and in their policy statement in January 2013, they concluded that “minimizing or eliminating recess can negatively affect academic achievement, as growing evidence links recess to improved physical health, social skills and cognitive development.” So, there you have it: Recess is important for everyone.

Research conducted on recess and its benefits has found that students with at least 15 minutes of recess daily behaved better than their peers who did not have recess (Baros, Silver, & Stein, 2009).  So, clearly taking it away from children with poor behavior in class is not what the doctor ordered.  The benefits of recess range from increased physical activity to help children reach 60 minutes each day to the social and emotional learning they get from play.

Children learn teamwork, cooperation, empathy, fair play, and how to make adaptations to include all students.  What do they do when they disagree?  Do they need an adult there to help them clear it up? Most of the time, no.  They learn conflict resolution skills to work things out on their own. Skills they can take with them and use in their life outside of school.  Oh, and then there’s the benefit that the powers that be seem to be most interested in: improvements in academic scores.  There are myriad studies correlating fitness and physical activity with higher academic scores.  That’s always a nice feather in the benefits cap.

So, if everyone is saying recess is important, let’s be sure to keep it in schools and to make it the best it can be.  How do you do that?  SPARK can help. SPARK now has a Recess Component as part of the SPARKabc’s Program.  It was written to help school staff get and stay organized, promote health-enhancing PA, and promote positive social interaction in a semi-structured environment.  It’s got the whole package from an evaluation of your ho-hum or worse yet, dangerous and chaotic recess to all the tools you need to make it a recess your school is proud of.

The first step is to assess your current program.  SPARKabc’s Program offers a School Recess Report Card designed to provide you and your committee a starting point for assessing the quantity and quality of your present recess.

The 5 components measured are:

  • Time and Frequency
  • Effectiveness
  • Supervisors
  • Facilities and Equipment
  • Formal Policies

After measuring these (with a committee including representatives from recess supervisors, PE staff, administration, parents, and classroom teachers) prioritize the components targeted for improvement. Priority goes to the components with the lowest scores on the report card.  It is then time to implement!

See Part 2 of this blog for implementation ideas & resources.

Advocating for Physical Education and Student Health

Friday, March 14th, 2014

Republicans and Democrats don’t agree on much these days, but that doesn’t stop hundreds of people from going on “The Hill” to advocate for quality physical education.  And, it seems to be working!  Advocacy has helped provide federal funding for physical education and other important public health initiatives.

Two major organizations advocating for physical education are the Sport and Fitness Industry Association (SFIA) and AAHPERD (soon to be called SHAPE America).

The SFIA National Health through Fitness Day brings together approximately 150 leaders and 15-20 sports celebrities such as Herschel Walker, Mia Hamm, Abby Wambach, Peyton Manning, and Tim Brown, to fight for the Carol M. White Physical Education Act (PEP).  Many physical educators and sporting goods companies have no idea how hard this group works to provide the only federal funding for physical education.  Until you have been in a back room with Gary Player and hear the level of conversations with a Speaker of the House, it is hard to imagine all of the work, money and time that goes into keeping PEP grants funded and safe.

Last week, SPARK was on the Hill with SFIA and the celebrities showcasing quality physical education with local DC Public School (a SPARK district) students.  We are proud to be sponsors and participants of this important advocacy day.  And, if you haven’t seen the video of Herschel Walker doing a SPARK dance with the students yet, click here. This video has had over 1,600 views on Facebook! You can view more photos of the event on the SPARK Facebook page.

SPARK is in DC again this week for National Speak Out! Day hosted by AAHPERD. National Speak Out! Day provides a venue that encourages all of its members to be strong advocates for the profession and for children.  AAHPERD members, sponsors, and associates storm the Hill to meet with their district or state representatives and share with them firsthand what is going on in their home towns.  They share personal experiences, unintended consequences, successes, and possible solutions.  Members advocate for PEP funding and other critical educational issues like educating the whole child.  Educating legislators on quality physical education is essential to making an impact on the national policy landscape.

We all have to do our part to help policy makers understand the benefits of quality, daily physical education taught by credentialed specialists.  We need YOU (teachers, administrators, parents, wellness professionals, etc.) to advocate on the Hill and/or your local governing bodies (School Board and State Legislators). Won’t you join us?

Here are some helpful hints:

  • Make them smart, before you make them mad: Share the full truth, even if some of it is bad.  You can advocate year-round by sharing issues on student health (obesity) in your district.  Share the facts and results from your testing, especially now with student growth evaluations.  You don’t always have to ask for something to advocate, as a matter of fact, true advocacy is not asking, but educating! We want decision makers to know the facts about your program and school district to help them make decisions.  This gains their trust.
  • Make friends before you need them: Provide success stories from your school and share them with your representatives.  Send letters about your school that showcase the positive things you are doing with students.  SPARK salutes all of these organizations and others who work hard on behalf of quality physical education programs and their teachers.
  • Support your friends: Help friends who are advocating on your behalf.  Especially AAHPERD and SFIA in their efforts on the national level, however, there are many others including state and local supporters you have and may not know.  Seek them out and support them.  Visit their websites and send letters.

SPARK is excited to actively support initiatives that support quality, daily physical education taught by credentialed specialists.  Here are a few relevant examples.

1. Recently, publicity around the First Lady’s Lets Move! initiative has sparked enough interest that Let’s Move! Active Schools was created.  This brought together organizations across sectors to increase physical activity in schools.  SPARK signed on and is a supporting organization for Lets Move! Active Schools. We are excited and motivated to have pledged at least 800 schools to sign up and increase physical activity during school!

2. SPARK attended both SFIA and AAHPERD days on the Hill again this year, and plan to go every year!  We sponsor and assist in demonstrations to showcase quality physical education.  We speak to Legislators about what quality physical education looks like and how important it is.  We provide success stories and call on them throughout the year through sign on letters and other advocacy efforts they provide.

3. SPARK feels so strongly about this, we created an Advocacy section on our website (under Resources).  This page will assist you by providing videos, tools, links, and ideas on how to advocate for physical education and wellness programs.  Please visit our advocacy page at http://www.sparkpe.org/physical-education-resources/advocacy/

SPARK is much more than our researched-based programs.  SPARK is proud to invest money, staff and time to advocate for policies that support quality, daily physical education for all!

So, won’t you join us in advocating for physical education and student health?

Support PEP Button


Schooling, Health and Youth Development – What is Necessary?

Thursday, March 13th, 2014

Schooling, Health and Youth Development – What is Necessary?

Provided by ASCD Whole Child Programs · www.ascd.org · www.wholechildeducation.org

Over the past few years, ASCD authors have penned a number of articles about the need for schools, educators and policymakers to focus on the health and well-being of their students. Not just for the sake of their health and well-being (if that shouldn’t be enough on its own) but also to support effective teaching and learning.

Here are just a few selections to read and share:

Physical Activity

Integrating Movement Roundup

Ensuring a high-quality physical education program is important. Equally important is ensuring that students are active across the school day and not just in PE class. Research shows that kids who are physically active are not only healthier, but also likely to perform better academically; and short activity breaks during the school day can improve concentration and behavior and enhance learning

Play and Recess

Playing a Game Is the Voluntary Attempt to Overcome Unnecessary Obstacles

Last month we ran the theme of integrating movement throughout the school day (and outside of physical education classes). Obviously one place where this should be a no-brainer is recess. But it’s been scary seeing how many schools and districts have been cutting back on recess time to either provide enrichment classes or add additional academic study time into the school day.

Investing in Healthy Recess to Nurture the Whole Child

A healthy, positive school environment transcends what goes on in the classroom. In fact, what happens at recess holds a crucial key to developing the whole child. A school that provides time and space for students to run, talk, and play helps ensure every child is healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged. Experience and research tell us that active students learn better, and daily recess is proven to help students focus in the classroom.

Does Better Recess Equal a Better School Day?

In a new study released Tuesday, Mathematica Policy Research and the John W. Gardner Center for Youth and Their Communities at Stanford University rigorously evaluated the Playworks program and found that it improved outcomes in the areas of school climate, conflict resolution and aggression, physical activity, and learning and academic performance.

Nutrition

Reducing the Effects of Child Poverty

In today’s global economic state, many families and children face reduced circumstances. The 2008 economic crisis became a “household crisis” (PDF) when higher costs for basic goods, fewer jobs and reduced wages, diminished assets and reduced access to credit, and reduced access to public goods and services affected families who coped, in part, by eating fewer and less nutritious meals, spending less on education and health care, and pulling children out of school to work or help with younger siblings. These “new poor” join those who were vulnerable prior to the financial shocks and economic downturn.

No Child Should Grow Up Hungry

We are proud to welcome Share Our Strength as a whole child partner. Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign aims to end childhood hunger in the United States. It connects kids in need with nutritious food and teaches their families how to cook healthy, affordable meals. The campaign also engages the public to make ending childhood hunger a national priority.

Mental Health

Best Questions: Mental Health

More than 20 years ago, I spent one school year as the full-time school counselor in an early childhood center in Washington, D.C. Our enrollment was 250 full-day preK and kindergarten students in an old, huge brick building with 20-foot high ceilings and massive center courtyard-like hallways. I spent the year in easily washable clothes and with my hair in a ponytail at all times because, as anyone who has ever worked in early childhood can tell you, fancy clothes and fancy hair don’t mix well with peanut butter and finger paint.

A Health Iceberg

I use these slides often when discussing health. It starts with the tenets, becomes a pyramid, and then ends with what I call a “health iceberg.” Let me show you what I mean.

The common thread through all of these articles is that health and well-being matter and they determine how well we learn, grow and achieve. Health and education are symbiotic. What affects one affects the other. The healthy child learns better just as the educated child leads a healthier life. Similarly, a healthier environment—physically as well as socially-emotionally—provides for more effective teaching and learning.

To learn more about ASCD and Whole Child Education, visit the links below.

www.ascd.org

www.wholechildeducation.org

Healthy & Easy Recipe for National Nutrition Month

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

Healthy, Easy and Kid-Friendly Recipe for National Nutrition Month

Provided by our Nutrition Services partner, Healthy Kids Challenge

This Apple Almond Salad recipe is easy to use when teaching kids about healthy habits, and easy for them to learn some basic kitchen skills, too! At a school or community program (or even at home) use this activity to challenge kids to learn about what they taste. It works with many fruit & veggie-based recipes, but our favorite is this apple-almond salad!

Apple Almond Salad

Prep Time: 10 minutes Serves: 8 servings or 32 (½ cup serving) tasting samples

  • 1 cup non-fat, bottled raspberry vinaigrette
  • 8 small apples, diced
  • 1 cup Craisins® or other dried fruit bits
  • 1 cup chopped almonds
  • 8 cups bagged, pre-cut mixed greens

Directions

1. In advance, rinse and drain the apples and mixed greens.

2. In a large salad bowl, add the ingredients and toss gently.

3. Serve ½ cup tasting samples on small plates with a fork.

4. Clean work area and utensils with warm soapy water. Rinse with clean water.

Per full-size serving (1 3/4 cups): 221 Calories, 5.2g Pro, 5.9g Fat, 24% Calories from Fat

Recipe Source: (Modified) Education.com-Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed 6/11.

Taste and Learn Activity

Materials: MyPlate symbol

1. Fill half of a standard size meal plate with salad and explain it represents the fruits and veggies of the MyPlate symbol.

2. Discuss how eating that amount at meals helps kids get their suggested daily servings of fiber.

3. Ask kids to think of the fruits/veggies they ate yesterday.

4. Did the amount they ate fill half a plate? Have them draw a representation of their plate.

5. Ask kids to create a menu using the recipe and the other MyPlate food groups (grains, protein and dairy).

6. Have them create a grocery list for their menu.

At home, parents can empower kids to get involved too!

  • Allow kids to help create the grocery list
  • Parents and kids go grocery shopping together
  • Kids make the meal with parents and eat together

Download parent tip sheets to reinforce the messaging here:

Fruits & Veggies – Every Day the Tasty Way “Fruits & Veggies, Cool Foods”

Fruits & Veggies – Enjoy the Taste, Herbs & Spices Add Pizazz to Fruits & Veggies

Visit the Healthy Kids Challenge blog for more “Taste and Learn” Recipes, including the Turkey Veggie Wrap and a Yummy Fruit Combo!