Archive for October, 2015

Lightning Safety

Thursday, October 29th, 2015


Every year, lightning strikes cause severe damage and even kill people, livestock, and wildlife. Lightning is also a threat to buildings, power lines, and vehicles, to name a few. It can cause wildfires and even reroute major airlines. As lightning occurs over land much more often than over the ocean, it’s of concern to those in areas where environmental factors brew a high number of yearly storms. In the United States, lightning is the second most common storm-related killer. Astonishingly, more than two dozen people die from lightning strikes each year.


Some states are more prone to lightning, such as Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, South and North Carolina, and Texas. From 1959 to 2011, the United States suffered a sobering 3974 deaths by lightning. Lightning is a concern for educational institutions in every state, and there is a liability that is attached to lightning safety, of which everyone from administration to coaches should take note. Lightning safety affects all outdoor activities overseen by educational organizations, including: football, track, soccer, marching band practice, field days, and recess. Lightning safety should also be a consideration for any school interested in keeping their students safe.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has specific rules and recommendations on lightning safety during sports events, which include:

  • Have a lightning safety plan on hand and educating all staff members on how to follow the plan and access it for reference.

  • Designate a single individual to be in charge on monitoring weather patterns and deciding when to pull students from outside areas in the event of a lightning threat.

  • Monitor weather reports and the National Weather Service to remain aware of impending storms that could pose a risk of lightning strikes.

  • Educate all staff and students on the safest structures in the area and understand the time it takes to evacuate all students and staff to safer areas.

  • Remain aware of lightning risk indicators such as lightning flashes, darkening skies, and thunder claps.

Lightning experts recommend that outdoor playing fields be evacuated by the time there are 30 seconds or less observed between a lightning flash and a thunder clap, or by the time the leading edge of the storm is within six miles of the field or outdoor venue. Once the last sound of thunder and the last flash of lightning are at least six miles away, students may return to play.

For overall lightning safety in schools, you can follow these guidelines:

  • Determine the closest safe structures in advance of any activity. Safe structures include the nearest school building, a complete enclosure, or a fully enclosed metal vehicle with windows tightly closed.

  • When thunder is heard, or a cloud-to-ground lightning bolt is seen, the thunderstorm is close enough to strike your location with lightning. Suspend outdoor activities and seek shelter immediately.

  • Select a distinctive, recognizable method to announce or signal the lightning warning and clear-the-area order, such as blasts of a whistle, public address announcement and a shouted command.

  • Estimate the amount of time required to safely evacuate, at a comfortable pace, to the designated shelter(s). Remember that lightning may strike as many as 10 miles from the rain that may accompany a thunderstorm. Given the different distances to shelter, the number of people present, and the variation in mobility of the people seeking shelter, suspend activities at the first sound of thunder or upon seeing a cloud-to-ground lightning strike.

  • Inform students and school personnel when a thunderstorm watch is in effect. Tell them that play will be suspended as lightning approaches, what the clear-the-area signal is, where to go for safe shelter, and what routes to take as they evacuate the area. Prior to outdoor competitions, this should include a formal announcement over the public address system.

  • Designate one person who is responsible for monitoring the weather forecasts, watching for lightning and listening for thunder. The use of a lightning detector is recommended. This person should have the authority to order that the clear-the-area signal be given or be in constant contact with the person who does have the authority.

  • Wait a minimum of 30 minutes from the last nearby lightning strike before resuming activities. Any subsequent thunder or lightning after the 30-minute count has started resets the clock and another 30- minute count begins.

Lightning detectors can help educators predict lightning strikes and effectively adhere to lightning safety protocols. These detectors can indicate how far away the lightning strike is in miles, as well as the storm intensity and direction tracking to help schools keep their students safe. These detectors often include vibrating or audible warning functions that can help preoccupied coaches and staff stay aware. To calculate the distance of lightning in the absence of a lightning detector, educators can use the “Flash to Bang” method.  Once lightning is observed, count the number of seconds until the associated thunder is heard. Divide that number of seconds by five, and the result is the number of miles away that lightning strike occurred.

Athletic activities are often outdoor events, and can draw quite a crowd of coaches, parents, students, fans, trainers, and administrators. Lightning safety is not always top-of-mind, but it is a concern that all schools and coaches should take seriously. Lightning safety rules are the responsibility of the organization providing the venue for activities that may put students at risk. With the inclusion of a lightning safety plan, an educated staff and student body, and a lightning detector, schools can adhere to the lightning safety mandates of their state and reduce their liability in the event that a lightning bolt touches down close to home.

Shop online for lightning detectors:

StrikeAlert HD Personal Lightning Detector

Strike Alert Adjustable Lightning Detector

Asthma and Childhood Obesity [INFOGRAPHIC]

Tuesday, October 20th, 2015

Many of us are aware that childhood obesity puts our children at a higher risk of type 2 diabetes and heart complications – but did you know that childhood obesity is linked to asthma as well?

Fact: Childhood obesity increases a child’s risk of asthma development by 52%.

While research has not been able to determine a direct cause-and-effect relationship between obesity and asthma, there is a definite correlation. Let’s take a look at some of the unhealthy lifestyle habits of today’s children.

asthma and childhood obesity

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Asthma and Obesity on the Rise

Both childhood obesity and asthma are leading public health problems.

1980 to 1994

  • Childhood obesity increased 100%
  • Self-reported asthma in children increased 75%

1980 to 2000

  • Childhood obesity increased 300%
  • Self-reported asthma in children increased 74%

Today (2015)

  • 8.3% of children have asthma
  • 35% of children are obese

Research hasn’t found one direct link between childhood obesity and asthma, but there are plenty of associating factors.

Overlapping Facts & Factors

Unhealthy Diet

  • Only 2% of U.S. children eat healthy according to standards defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
  • Our portions sizes today are 2 to 5 times bigger than they were in years past.
    • Children are eating more, not realizing they are consuming unnecessary calories.
    • 1/5 of teens drink about a meal’s worth of sugar in sugary beverages throughout the day.
      • Soft Drink Trends
        • Before 1950 – 6.5 oz. cans
        • 1950s – 12 oz. cans
        • 1990s – 20 oz. plastic bottles
        • 2010s – 42 oz. contoured plastic bottles
        • Snacking used to be once per day.
          • Now 1 in 5 children have 6 snacks per day.
          • Children consume 31% more calories compared to 40 years ago.
          • There are less healthy food options in lower-income areas.
          • Healthy food is often more expensive.
          • 10.9% of individuals with asthma are living below the poverty level.


  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per day (for children and adolescents).
    • 75% of today’s youth do not meet this standard.
    • 1 in every 4 children does not participate in a single physical activity throughout the day.
    • Children spend 4 to 5 hours per day being still (on average): watching TV, using the computer, or playing video games.
    • Excess weight makes it harder to breath (resulting in asthma) especially when exerting oneself – yet avoidance of physical activity often leads to unhealthy weight gain (resulting in obesity).

The Evolution of Physical Education

Thursday, October 15th, 2015

Physical education is such a strong staple in today’s school curriculum that it’s hard to imagine it was not always a part of the world’s everyday education. But every program has its beginnings, and the state of physical education in America is no exception. Let’s take a look at how the physical education program in today’s school system got its beginnings.

physical education

The 1800s

Physical education was first stamped into the school system in 1820 when gymnastics, hygiene, and care of the human body found its introduction into the curriculum. In 1823, the Round Hill School in Northampton, Massachusetts was the first school in the nation to make it an integral part of their educational program.

But physical education did not become a formal requirement until after the civil war, when many states put the physical education requirement into law. In 1855, the practice was truly born in the United States, beginning with a city school system in Cincinnati, Ohio, which became the first entire schooling system to implement the program. California followed soon after, in 1866, as the first state to pass a law requiring twice a day exercise in public schools.

The 1900s

By the turn of the century, sports and gymnastics were highly prominent in educational institutions. In the following years until World War I, educators could begin to select a profession in physical education. From then until the Great Depression, physical education was standard part of formal education.

By 1950, over 400 United States colleges and universities were offering the physical education major to teachers. The Korean War then proved that Americans were not as physically fit they should be, and a new surge of focus on the physical fitness of the nation was born. This resulted in a more stringent level of standards within U.S. schools, including the formation of the President’s Council on Youth Fitness. Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy placed a keen eye on promoting physical education programs, and employed a Presidential Fitness Test Award to assess physical fitness levels of the nation’s children. This ensured that U.S. students were at least as physically fit as European students. This test, implemented in 1966, was designed to encourage and prepare America’s youth for military service. It included throwing, jumping, a shuttle run, and pull-ups. The award was given to students placing in the top 85th percentile based on national standards.

In later years, physical fitness programs saw cutbacks during times of recession, and in 1980 and 1990 many programs were dropped from educational institutions. Both economic concerns and issues with poor curriculum plagued these years of the 20th century, and as the commitment to physical education declined, additional subjects and electives began to take the place of these classes.

Modern Focus

Since its inception, the changing academic curriculum has seen multiple enhancements to the physical education discipline. Many national and global events have taken part in altering the course of physical education in America and bringing us to our current structure. With physical education classes often being the first to go during budget cuts and curriculum reorganizations, the evolution has been a winding road with constantly redeveloped guidelines.

Physical education is a staple of a comprehensive educational system, and fitness plays a major part in the physical and mental health of all Americans. Today’s educational landscape has allowed this important program to flourish as an integral part of the modern day educational school system. Lately this focus has been renewed, as there is now a national concern over the rising rate of obesity among our youth. Fortunately, programs like the First Lady’s Let’s Move! Program are renewing our dedication and shifting the focus back on physical education within the school systems, nationwide.

PE Takes Shape: Exploring School-Based Physical Education [INFOGRAPHIC]

Tuesday, October 13th, 2015

Physical Education (PE) in schools has seen some interesting changes over the years in response to society, politics, and our understanding of health. Let’s explore some of the most notable ideas, studies, and events that have helped shape PE in the U.S. today.

evolution of pe infographic

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19th Century Physical Education

●     Physical education in schools started in European countries Germany, Sweden, Denmark, and England in the late 1700s

  • At this time, U.S. schooling what still focused exclusively on reading, writing, and arithmetic
  • However, as the U.S. industrialized, it became less common for people to work labor intensive jobs, making it necessary to find alternative means to stay in shape – hence an elevated interest in physical activity

●     In 1825, Charles Beck was hired as the 1st U.S. physical education teacher

●     It wasn’t until after the Civil War that the first legislation passed requiring physical education in California schools (1866)

●     PE in its early stages was recognized as gymnastics and calisthenics

  • It was about overall bodily fitness and finesse
  • Exercise periods were required in schools 2x a day

20th Century Physical Education

●     PE in schools really vamped up around the 1950s, after a series of physical fitness tests were issued in the U.S. and Europe

  • These tests included leg lifts, sit-ups, trunk lifts, and toe touches
  • The results were shocking!

▪       56% of American students failed at least 1 portion of the test

▪       While only 8% of European students failed at least 1 portion of the same test

●     With that, President Eisenhower established the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports as an attempt to battle this now very apparent problem

●     PE moved away from gymnastics and became more focused on games, sports, and dance

●     JFK built off of Eisenhower’s PE initiatives and developed a proposed PE curriculum

  • This curriculum was formed with the help of 19 major U.S. educational and medical organizations
  • For 1 school year (1961-1962) a quarter of a million schoolchildren across 6 states adopted the test program
  • This effort helped shift America’s attitude about fitness and brought about a positive and energetic effort to enhance physical education in schools

21st Century Physical Education

●     From 1991 to 2003 the number of high school students participating in daily PE classes dropped from 42% to 28%, in part because of a nationwide shift in emphasis toward more academic subjects

●     The Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the 2012 Shape of the Nation Report recommended that children ages 6-17 should receive at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity daily

●     PEP (physical education program) was first passed in 2001 with $5 million in grants for school physical education programs

  • After 13 years, a total of nearly $900 million was raised to help schools and communities rebuild quality PE programs
  • In 2014, $78 million was allocated to PEP; however, PEP funding was not granted for 2015
  • There is an effort to restore PEP funding for 2016, and supporters contacting Congress using this site:

●     Today’s innovative and effective PE programs are characterized by:

  • Alignment to National Standards (SHAPE America National Standards) for PE
  • Not using exercise as punishment
  • Never using students as targets (i.e. no dodgeball in PE)
  • Progressive skill building (i.e. teamwork, communication, critical thinking) and skill-based assessments
  • Incorporation of technology (i.e. performance analytics apps, fitness tracking wearables, and more)
  • Fitness tests used as student assessments several times throughout the year measuring improvement and not grades
  • Recreational fitness centers placed in schools for staff and students

How to Teach Social Skills in PE: Grades 3-6

Tuesday, October 6th, 2015

Physical activity environments are natural settings for peer interaction and the development of social skills. By the very nature of game play or active participation, students discover how to work in a group, how they compare with others, how “winning” and “losing” affects them, how to follow rules, and how to strategically problem-solve. In addition, teaching social skills is an important aspect to bullying prevention in physical education and around campus.

A primary objective of SPARK is to create positive movement experiences that last a lifetime. Nurturing a student’s self-perception and self-image is a critical variable when teaching students to value physical activity. Negative experiences in PE class may impact a person well into adulthood.

Teaching social skills is not unlike teaching sport or fitness skills. Students should understand the “learnable pieces,” practice them in authentic situations, receive feedback, and process their learning.

Take the following steps when teaching social skills to students:

1. Define the skill.

Discuss why it is important. For example, help students understand that “Encouragement” is a gift you give to others. It delivers empathy, support, motivation. If you encourage someone, you’ve committed a selfless, powerful act.

2. Teach the skill

Discuss strategies to address it. Use a t-chart to instruct each social skill and obtain student input. Ask students,

“If we heard encouragement during class, what might it sound like?”

Hear their responses, shape and supplement as needed, list on the t-chart.

Then ask, “If we saw encouragement during class, what might it look like?”

Shape and list. Post the completed t-chart where students can see it every day.

An example of a t-chart for the skill “Encouragement” might look like this:


What does it sound like?

What does it look like?

“You can do it!” Thumbs-up
“Don’t give up!” High-five
“Keep trying!” Pat on the back

3. Provide opportunities to practice the skill.

Remind students you will be looking for their ideas, along with the proper mechanics of the respective sports skill. (E.g., “Step toward your target before passing, and don’t forget to encourage your partner if she needs it.”)

4. Process use of the skill. Ask questions such as:

“Did someone encourage you today? How did it feel? Did you have more fun playing with a partner that encouraged you?”

Processing questions can be posed while students stretch during cool-down, gather equipment, transitioning from 1 activity to another, recording scores, etc.

The following teaching cues provide suggestions for facilitating social skills discussions:

3rd Grade Teaching Cues

Responsibility: “What might your personal and group responsibilities be in this class?” (E.g., Listen and follow directions, give your best effort, maintain a positive attitude even if the activity that day isn’t your favorite, etc.)

Helpfulness: “Will you offer to be a partner to someone who needs one? Invite others to join your group? Assist with putting away equipment?”

4th Grade Teaching Cues

Encouragement: “Encouraging others is a sign of personal strength and confidence. See if you can make at least 1 encouraging statement every class.”

Acceptance of Personal Differences: “Can you respect people that may be less skilled than you in an activity? Will you work to build them up instead of put them down?”

5th Grade Teaching Cues

Competition: “Whether your group is ahead or behind when our time ends is not important. How you handle it is. What are appropriate ways to behave when ahead? When behind?”

Positive Disagreement: “It’s easy to lose your cool. It takes courage and self-control to keep it. Can you settle your differences by listening and talking? Use rock, paper, scissors to decide.”

6th Grade Teaching Cues

Shares Ideas: “When we work in groups, do you pitch in and play a supportive role? Do you raise your hand and contribute to discussions? Offer creative ideas to your partner or group?”

Compromise: “If you have a disagreement during class, do you try and find a way to create a win-win solution that all parties can feel good about? Be the first to give a bit, and strive for an agreement that the other person is first to give next time.”

Provided by the SPARK PE 3-6 Program.  Click Here to learn more about SPARK 3-6 PE.


How to Teach Social Skills in PE: Grades K-2

Thursday, October 1st, 2015

A goal of all physical activity providers is to create a physically and emotionally safe and supportive environment; one in which children learn and have opportunities to practice positive social interactions. To achieve this goal, teaching social skills, not just during SPARK PE sessions, but school/program wide, is highly recommended.

There are two social skills per grade level in the SPARK PE K-2 program; a total of 12 from Kindergarten through 5th grade. It is recommended that teachers introduce a new social skill each semester (two per year). However, feel free to repeat and reinforce previously learned skills from any grade level. Teach these social skills in grades K-2 to help your students create a safe environment in PE and on the playground and prevent bullying.

Tips for Teachers

Provided by the SPARK PE K-2 Program.  Click Here to learn more about SPARK K-2 PE.

1. Introduce the social skill

  • Define/discuss the skill (e.g., kindness)
  • Establish the need for the skill in society
  • Introduce the T-Chart by asking group, “What might ‘Kindness’ sound like? What might it look like?” Be ready to offer several responses in each category.
  • List student answers (with yours) on the chart. Post it and monitor their use of “Kindness.”

2. Process (after students have the opportunity to demonstrate they are kind during class)

  • “Who was kind to someone today?”
  • “How do you feel when someone is kind to you?”



  • “We like smiles! Will you share a smile with a friend? When someone is kind to you, how does that make you feel?”


  • “Everyone needs to know they are loved and cared for. How can you show others in our class YOU care about them?”

Grade 1


  • “Will you remember to say please, excuse me, and thank you – share and take turns?”

Showing Appreciation

  • “When someone shares their beanbag, or invites you to join their group, how could you show your appreciation for them?”

Grade 2

Self Control

  • “Will you stay calm in a stressful situation? Can you avoid using bad language?”

Respect for Others/Equipment

  • “Can you treat each person and our PE equipment with great care?”

Sample T-Chart




“Please and thank you” Inviting someone to join you

“Excuse me” Letting a person go first
“I’ll share my ball with you” Passing to everyone