A Parent's Guide to Physical Education Programs in Schools

by SPARK


physical education

American children aren’t getting the physical activity they need. Only a third of children are physically active on a daily basis, even though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends 60 minutes of physical activity per day.

Taking action during the summer break can set your kids up for quality physical education when the school year begins. Read on to discover the questions parents frequently ask to better understand PE programs in schools so they can elicit real change.

What’s the Difference Between Physical Activity and Physical Education?

It’s a common mistake to assume the terms “physical activity” and “physical education” refer to the same thing. Though both contribute to a child’s healthy development, the terms are not interchangeable.

Physical activity is a behavior. It refers to any sort of movement of the body. Children may engage in physical activity during gym class, at recess or at home. Physical education, on the other hand, refers to a subject in school that includes physical activity in the curriculum. Physical education classes teach through physical activity. Some skills taught in PE include teamwork, social interaction and motor skills — all while improving students’ fitness.

What Does a Comprehensive Physical Education Program Require?

Implementing a comprehensive physical education program into schools is an approach that allows students to build a strong relationship with physical activity that will encourage them to remain active throughout their lives.

School districts that use a comprehensive physical education program begin with physical activity as the foundation of their program. Through a multi-component approach, the school works to engage the students in physical activity by involving the staff, the students’ family and the community. PE class isn’t the only time kids should be up and moving. A comprehensive physical education program includes physical activities before, during and after school to help kids reach the recommended 60 minutes of daily physical activity.

How Can I Assess a Physical Education Curriculum?

Before you take action to help improve your child’s physical education program, it helps to first assess where the school’s physical education curriculum stands and how it could be improved.

That’s where the PECAT and HECAT come in. These stand for the Physical Education Curriculum Analysis Tool (PECAT) and the Health Education Curriculum Analysis Tool (HECAT). These tools have been created and provided by the CDC to help individuals see how their school’s physical education curriculum stacks up against the National Physical Education Standards.

How Can I Advocate Better Physical Education at My Child’s School?

After assessing the PE curriculum at your child’s school, you may want to get involved with changes to the program. We suggest doing so in three steps, by advocating, ensuring and insisting.

Start by making sure your voice is heard. Talk with school officials and become a part of your school’s parent-teacher organization. Rally together other parents who feel strongly about your cause. Advocate for daily physical education taught by a PE teacher with the proper credentials.

Second, ensure teachers are working with the parents and administration to build a curriculum that aligns with these physical education goals. Meet with your child’s PE teacher to discuss your concerns and ideas, and then bring the solution to other teachers who can help their students enjoy physical activity in the classroom.

Finally, insist that teachers in every grade have access to the resources they need to achieve these goals. That means they need professional development opportunities and training programs that will teach them the content and strategies to execute their part in an effective comprehensive PE program.

By getting involved this summer, you can help build a better and more well-rounded PE program ready for when your child returns to school in the fall.

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