Archive for the ‘PE’ Category


SPARK celebrates 25! Reflection from Dr. Jim Sallis

Monday, July 21st, 2014

SPARK celebrates 25!

By Jim Sallis

It’s exhilarating to celebrate the 25th year of SPARK. In 1989 we had big ambitions for our new NIH grant. We wanted to define what health-related physical education is, comprehensively evaluate a program that we designed to meet that vision, and then encourage schools to adopt the program so kids could be healthier. I could not have imagined where those ideas have led by 2014. I am very proud to be part of the SPARK story, because SPARK has improved the physical activity, health, and quality of life for millions children and adolescents over the past 25 years.

The research teams worked hard on the SPARK and M-SPAN studies that produced the original curricula, training, and support model and materials. But there are numerous successful research programs that never have any impact in people’s lives. What makes SPARK different is the staff, led by Paul Rosengard. Paul and the staff not only share the vision of improving children’s health through physical activity, but they have built an organization that brings the joy of SPARK to about 1.5 million young people every day. I use “joy” of SPARK deliberately, because the first data we collected in a pilot study were enjoyment ratings of SPARK PE classes. We were pleased that the fifth graders chose “smiley faces” almost all the time for all the class activities. Delivering fun has been our job at SPARK ever since.

At 25, SPARK as an organization is now an adult. The staff have high level skills and are dedicated to doing a great job at customer service. We have created a national network of trainers, and the feedback from staff development sessions continues to be consistently enthusiastic. We take responsibility for updating, expanding, and improving programs and products. Like most young adults, SPARK is a sophisticated user of technology. Our video group has produced hundreds of videos that help instructors deliver great physical activity programs. All materials are now available online. I am amazed that teachers now can take all of SPARK out on the field with iPads. That is a real revolution in physical education. SPARK is even doing some traveling, growing rapidly in India and China. I’m confident SPARK will continue to evolve and innovate so we can get better at delivering great instruction to teachers and great physical activity to students.

As long as our schools want children to be active and healthier, we will keep delivering the joy of SPARK.

Jim Sallis

http://sallis.ucsd.edu

James F. Sallis, Ph.D.

Distinguished Professor of Family and Preventive Medicine Chief,

Division of Behavioral Medicine. http://behavioralmedicine.ucsd.edu/

University of California, San Diego

SPARK Staff at ATM Dinner

SPARK staff celebrates 25 years at the Annual Trainers Meeting in June 2014

Q: How Can We Help Students Reach 60-a-day?

Monday, May 5th, 2014
A: Comprehensive School Physical Activity Program!

For National Physical Education Week, we’re taking a deeper look into a Comprehensive School Physical Activity Program and resources available to help reach the goal of 60 minutes of MVPA a day.

How much activity and why?
It seems you can’t look through a magazine or watch a news program without hearing about the importance of physical activity (PA) and its role in overall health. There’s nothing better for controlling weight, reducing risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers; not to mention PA’s role in increasing muscle strength and bone density, improving attention in class, and so much more. PA is the “wonder drug” of champions (literally!).

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Department of Health and Human Services, as well as the President’s Council on Fitness, Sport, and Nutrition all recommend 60 minutes of physical activity for children ages 6-17. With that dosage kids will be healthier, happier, leaner, and have a much better chance of living longer. Sixty minutes seems to be the “magic” number and it should consist mostly of aerobic activities in the moderate to vigorous intensity level range (MVPA), such as brisk walking, running, swimming, etc., as well as 3 days/week of muscular strengthening like gymnastics and calisthenics. So, how on earth are today’s busy kids supposed to accumulate 60 minutes of MVPA most days?

Physical Education (PE) is a great start!

Let’s say your school has a fabulous, quality physical education program with daily PE for all students. They have PE for 30+ minutes (for elementary) and 45+ minutes (for MS/HS) each day and they are engaged in MVPA for 50% of class time — always! It’s an ideal program all around. Sounds great, right?  It is – yet it’s also VERY rare.

Are YOUR students reaching the magic dosage of 60 minutes on most days with PE alone? If not, they’ll need to find other physical activity opportunities throughout the day if they’re going to achieve their 60 minute goal.

How might you supplement student Physical Activity (PA)?

Viable options include before and after school programs, recess, activity during other academic classes, on-site intramurals, as well as myriad activities off campus after school. Programs such as these are components of a Comprehensive School Physical Activity Program (CSPAP). They include quality PE as the foundation, as well as PA opportunities before, during, and after school, staff involvement, and family and community engagement.* The whole package helps keep our children active and fit. Like SPARK Principal Thom McKenzie likes to say, “It takes a village to raise an active child.”

Teaming up for PA!

No one person or entity is responsible for our kids’ health. When everyone does their part and students are supported with PA choices in all sorts of environments, they are much more likely to participate and achieve their 60 minutes or more. And every type of activity “counts” towards the 60 (e.g., walking to school, climbing on the jungle gym, having activity breaks during class, dancing in PE, playing tag at recess, running in a running club, playing intramurals after school).You want your kids to have so many opportunities they can’t help but find activities they love to do and to do them often!

What resources are available?

Let’s Move! Active Schools provides free and low-cost resources to help schools incorporate physical activity before, during, and after school for at least 60 minutes a day.  SPARK is an official supporting organization of Let’s Move! Active Schools and encourages schools to sign up to be an Active School.  Learn more here.  

How can SPARK help you and your students reach the 60 minute goal?

Quality Physical Education – Sadly, many PE programs are not active enough – ironic right? Yet studies show students may spend a good chunk of class time waiting their turn for a chance just to touch the equipment (as in relays) or sitting on the sidelines because they got “out” (elimination games) or simply waiting for someone to pass the ball to them (large-group games). PE classes full of these practices often engage students in MVPA for only a short amount of time. SPARK PE (K-2, 3-6, MS, and HS) offers teachers quality PE programs that in turn provide students many opportunities to participate and practice skills. Research shows SPARK PE engages students in MVPA at least 50% of class time, addresses National Standards, aligns assessment with instruction, and regularly promotes out-of-class physical activity. Students become more active and more skilled when they have SPARK PE. When taught daily, students can receive nearly half of their recommended minutes of PA with SPARK PE alone!

During academic classes – Because students often sit for hours at a time during classes, activity breaks are a must! They help not only by adding minutes of PA, but they have been shown to enhance academic performance. The SPARKabc’s program provides numerous activities to be used as breaks during classroom time as well as activities which integrate academic topics to help “anchor” learning and make it more active and fun. SPARK provides sample SPARKabc’s lessons to give you a taste of what our ASAP movement breaks and academically focused activities look like. They’re easy to teach, easy to learn, fun and effective. SPARK PE (K-2 and 3-6) programs also include multiple limited space activities that classroom teachers can use as activity breaks throughout the day.

During Recess – Recess has potential to be either very active or very sedentary. Depending upon students’ preferences, they might choose to play an active soccer or basketball game or to sit and chat with a friend while eating their snacks. Even if they join what appears to be an active game, they may spend most of their time waiting in line for their turn at wall ball, tetherball, kickback, 2-touch, etc. Frankly, they may get most of their activity jumping up and down cheering for the kids who are playing! Both SPARK K-2 and 3-6 PE programs include Recess Activities sections with ideas for inclusive, enjoyable, and ACTIVE games. SPARKabc’s also provides resources for recess staff looking to improve activity opportunities for all elementary age students. Here’s a sample recess activity that can be played as is, or modified to match your students and setting. Try it and tell us what you think!

Before and After School – Students who attend before and/or after school programs can receive a large percentage of their daily MVPA during structured and/or non-structured activities. Again, as in recess, activities need to be structured in such a way to increase activity levels and to have positive effects. There are many issues to consider with running a quality program that addresses a wide range of ages, group-sizes and skill levels, commonly have a lack of equipment and limited space, as well as high staff-to-student ratios. SPARK’s After School program (which actually targets all out-of-school PA programs, not just those done after school) has been found effective in increasing PA for children and adolescents ages 5-14. It has hundreds of suggestions for addressing many of the concerns typically encountered in these types of programs.

At the end of the day, students CAN reach the goal of 60 minutes or more of MVPA. It’s a matter of structuring your environment to encourage PA. By providing safe places to play, programs that promote movement throughout the day, equipment to complement those programs, and trained staff to lead them, your students will have met or exceeded the 60 min. goal for now, as well as learned the skills to continue to do so for a lifetime!

*(Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Comprehensive School Physical Activity Programs: A Guide for Schools. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; 2013)

Learn More:

Comprehensive School Physical Activity Programs: A Guide for Schools

Let’s Move! Active Schools

Free SPARK webinar!

Comprehensive School Physical Activity Programs

Resources for Integrating Physical Activity Throughout the School Day

May 7, 2014 @ 3pm Pacific (6pm Eastern) – Register Here

SPARK’s Common Core Survival Guide (Part 1)

Thursday, March 20th, 2014

SPARK’s Common Core Survival Guide (Part 1)

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.

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 Family Habits for Every Month of the Year

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

True positive change is often not drastic or sweeping. It takes time to modify your family’s lifestyle and create lasting healthy habits. SPARK creates resources for educators to teach kids the importance of physical activity and healthy eating at school, but establishing a healthy routine begins with parents at home.

As you look ahead to the New Year, consider these suggestions to improve the health of your family:

January

Update your gear.

Getting organized is often at the top of the list when we turn the calendar for the New Year. Start by going through your family’s activewear and equipment to toss, recycle, or donate what no longer fits, works, or is used. This leaves room for any new gear you need, like running shoes for growing feet, jump ropes and balls, or even bikes for the family.

February

Get outside.

With the holidays behind us at this point and the cold dreary weather starting to take its toll, your family may want to hibernate inside until spring arrives. But winter inactivity is meant for bears, not humans! Find fun reasons to get outdoors. Winter sports, like skiing or ice skating, are fun for the whole family. Even if you bundle up for a simple daily walk around the neighborhood or play in the snow in the front yard, the fresh air and activity will do everyone some good.

March

Evaluate your family’s sleep habits.

March is the month when an hour of sleep is forever lost as we “spring forward” and set the clocks an hour ahead. But this is a great opportunity to look at the sleep habits of your family, parents included, to ensure that everyone is getting the right amount of rest. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention call sleep deprivation in America an epidemic that tends to accompany other chronic illness. This month, take a few minutes to improve the sleep habits, and therefore overall health, of your family.

April

Go to a ball game.

April marks the start of America’s favorite pastime as fans flock to baseball stadiums across the country. Taking your family out to the ballpark is an excellent way to get some fresh air and witness some inspiring athletic talent. If baseball isn’t your thing, find a basketball game, tennis match, or track and field meet to attend.

For added benefit, let the pros inspire you to play your own game of baseball (or other sport of your choice) in the backyard or park with the kids. Show them that it’s fun to work up a sweat, strategize, and partake in a little friendly competition just like the big-leaguers. Emphasize the importance of positive sportsmanship and team work for a well-rounded learning experience.

May

Join a gym.

Prepare for months of no school by getting set up at a nearby gym that offers classes and an active play area for kids. While kids certainly need some down time in the months away from everyday studies, resist television takeover. If you work during the day, pick out a few evenings to hit up the gym with your kids so everyone can burn off some of that summer energy.

June

Practice proper sun protection.

Actually, wearing the right sunscreen is important every month of the year—even the ones without much sun. Summer usually brings more opportunities for sun exposure, though, so make sure you are always prepared with sunscreen of at least SPF 30. You should also encourage your kids to wear hats out in the sun and do the same yourself.

July

Discuss oral care.

July is Oral Health Month (February is Children’s Dental Health Month), giving you the perfect opportunity to talk to your family about tooth care and decay prevention. Did you know that tooth decay is the top chronic illness in children? It is admittedly tough to make sure kids are really taking proper care of their teeth and entire mouth, particularly if they are resistant. Take some extra time this month to explain the importance of oral health in your family and to establish good habits.

August

Take up biking.

If you live close enough to your workplace or children’s school, make a commitment to walk or ride there instead of taking the car. You do not have to spend a lot to get the right gear. Check local consignment shops and garage sales for bikes that others have outgrown and then get a few weeks of practice in before the school year begins.

September

Do yard work.

Plain and simple, yard work burns calories and brings families together in a united front. Yard work also teaches responsibility and stewardship.

October

Practice moderation.

Halloween is often viewed as a candy and sweet free-for-all but it can also be a great lesson in portion control. Let your kids pick out their candy favorites and then donate the rest to an organization like Operation Gratitude, which sends it to U.S. troops overseas.

November

Run a turkey trot.

Start your Thanksgiving morning off right by entering a family-friendly Turkey Trot road race. These can be as short as a one-mile walk or as long as a half-marathon. Find the distance that accommodates everyone in the family and then bundle up!

December

Give back and raise awareness.

Find a cause that is close to your family’s heart and donate some time to it. Organizations appreciate donations of cash, clothing, and other household items of course, but actually working for the cause helps your kids really see the impact. Whether by sorting canned goods or sweeping out a shelter animal’s crate, find an active way to give back during the holiday season.

Making minor changes over time is the best way to establish healthy family habits and teach your kids about lifelong wellness. Start the year off right with the determination to stay active and you will be healthier overall come January 1, 2015.

Carol M. White: A Lasting Legacy of Physical Education

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014
On October 21, the physical education advocacy community lost a great hero and mentor.
Carol M. White was many things in her life—a teacher, a congressional aide, a wife, a mother. Though White passed at the far-too-young age of 66, her legacy will live on from the important work she did advocating for quality, standards-based physical education programs in schools.
White was instrumental in the passing of the Physical Education for Progress (PEP) Act that was introduced in 1999. Her voice was so strong when it came to the legislation that it was later renamed in her honor to the Carol M. White Physical Education for Progress Act.
PEP: Funding Fit Children
White was always vocal about her belief that physical education (PE) should be a right for all American children and that it was vital to healthy lives and longevity. For PE programs to be given their proper credit and resources, White knew they needed backing on the federal level. As congressional aide, then Chief of Staff, to former Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska, she helped draft legislation that authorized an initial $400 million in grants so that local education organizations could build and maintain physical education programs.
Since the funds were enacted in 2002, over $800 million total in grants have been distributed out to physical education programs across the nation to in public, private and home school settings. The grants are available to K-12 programs and can be used to purchase instructional materials, professional development services, and content-matched equipment in an effort to help districts align their programs to State Physical Education Standards. As a direct result of these funds, millions of children have been introduced to the benefits of enhanced physical education and have experienced more inclusive, active, and enjoyable PE classes.
A Mission about More than Money
The money itself was not the only benefit of the act’s passage. Within the legislation were Congressional findings that raised public awareness on the great need for PE in the lives of American children. Some of those included statements about how:
Physical education improves self-esteem, behavior, independence, and relationships in children.
Physical education gives the overall health of children a boost by improving bone development, cardiovascular stamina, muscular strength, posture, and flexibility.
Physical education encourages healthy lifestyle habits and positive use of free time.
There were also some humbling statistics within the act that ultimately led to its passage as a matter of public health. Based on figures from 1999, those statistics were:
Diseases related to obesity cost the U.S. more than $1 billion annually.
Less than 1 in 4 children get the recommended 20 minutes of vigorous activity in a given day.
Poor diet and sedentary lifestyles cause over 300,000 U.S. deaths every year.
The percentage of overweight children has doubled in the past 30 years.
Children who are exposed to daily physical activity programs remain healthier throughout their adult lives.
Adults of a healthy weight and fitness level have significantly fewer risk factors when it comes to strokes and heart attacks.
Within the act were these words that were undoubtedly influenced by White:
“Every student in our nation’s schools, from kindergarten through grade 12, should have the opportunity to participate in quality physical education. It is the unique role of quality physical education programs to develop the health-related fitness, physical competence, and cognitive understanding about physical activity for all students so that the students can adopt healthy and physically active lifestyles.”
Necessary Funding and a Legacy of Hope
Though she could not predict the recession years that followed her insistence on PEP’s passage, those funds became invaluable to the many schools and programs that needed them to keep physical education initiatives from vanishing due to budget cuts. The money from PEP grants has not just been used for PE program “extras”—in some cases, it has meant the difference between closing a program and keeping it running for children. To White and many other PE advocacy groups, teaching kids healthy habits and how to live active lifestyles was a right, like learning how to read or write—not a fringe component of education.
SPARK is just one of the many organizations that believe in what White stood for when it came to the fight against issues like childhood obesity. Tom Cove, CEO of the Sports and Fitness Industry Association (SFIA), and Jim Baugh, Founder of PHIT America, worked hand in hand with White and continue to fight for PEP funding. SPARK is a proud sponsor of PHIT America and supports the efforts of SFIA and others to keep PEP alive.
In order to counteract the growing sedentary nature of American childhood, White knew that PE had to be an integral part of academics and not viewed as optional learning. Because of people like White speaking up, public awareness about the role of PE has increased. By using her influence in a positive way, White forever impacted the many children who have already benefitted from PEP grants—and the many more to come.
Thank you, Carol M. White. May your lasting contributions to physical education long be realized and remembered.

On October 21, the physical education advocacy community lost a great hero and mentor.

Carol M. White was many things in her life—a teacher, a congressional aide, a wife, a mother. Though White passed at the far-too-young age of 66, her legacy will live on from the important work she did advocating for quality, standards-based physical education programs in schools.

White was instrumental in the passing of the Physical Education for Progress (PEP) Act that was introduced in 1999. Her voice was so strong when it came to the legislation that it was later renamed in her honor to the Carol M. White Physical Education for Progress Act.

PEP: Funding Fit Children

White was always vocal about her belief that physical education (PE) should be a right for all American children and that it was vital to healthy lives and longevity. For PE programs to be given their proper credit and resources, White knew they needed backing on the federal level. As congressional aide, then Chief of Staff, to former Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska, she helped draft legislation that authorized an initial $400 million in grants so that local education organizations could build and maintain physical education programs.

Since the funds were enacted in 2002, over $800 million total in grants have been distributed out to physical education programs across the nation to in public, private and home school settings. The grants are available to K-12 programs and can be used to purchase instructional materials, professional development services, and content-matched equipment in an effort to help districts align their programs to State Physical Education Standards. As a direct result of these funds, millions of children have been introduced to the benefits of enhanced physical education and have experienced more inclusive, active, and enjoyable PE classes.

A Mission about More than Money

The money itself was not the only benefit of the act’s passage. Within the legislation were Congressional findings that raised public awareness on the great need for PE in the lives of American children. Some of those included statements about how:•

  • Physical education improves self-esteem, behavior, independence, and relationships in children.
  • Physical education gives the overall health of children a boost by improving bone development, cardiovascular stamina, muscular strength, posture, and flexibility.
  • Physical education encourages healthy lifestyle habits and positive use of free time.

There were also some humbling statistics within the act that ultimately led to its passage as a matter of public health. Based on figures from 1999, those statistics were:

  • Diseases related to obesity cost the U.S. more than $1 billion annually.
  • Less than 1 in 4 children get the recommended 20 minutes of vigorous activity in a given day.
  • Poor diet and sedentary lifestyles cause over 300,000 U.S. deaths every year.
  • The percentage of overweight children has doubled in the past 30 years.
  • Children who are exposed to daily physical activity programs remain healthier throughout their adult lives.
  • Adults of a healthy weight and fitness level have significantly fewer risk factors when it comes to strokes and heart attacks.

Within the act were these words that were undoubtedly influenced by White:

“Every student in our nation’s schools, from kindergarten through grade 12, should have the opportunity to participate in quality physical education. It is the unique role of quality physical education programs to develop the health-related fitness, physical competence, and cognitive understanding about physical activity for all students so that the students can adopt healthy and physically active lifestyles.”

Necessary Funding and a Legacy of Hope

Though she could not predict the recession years that followed her insistence on PEP’s passage, those funds became invaluable to the many schools and programs that needed them to keep physical education initiatives from vanishing due to budget cuts. The money from PEP grants has not just been used for PE program “extras”—in some cases, it has meant the difference between closing a program and keeping it running for children. To White and many other PE advocacy groups, teaching kids healthy habits and how to live active lifestyles was a right, like learning how to read or write—not a fringe component of education.

SPARK is just one of the many organizations that believe in what White stood for when it came to the fight against issues like childhood obesity. Tom Cove, CEO of the Sports and Fitness Industry Association (SFIA), and Jim Baugh, Founder of PHIT America, worked hand in hand with White and continue to fight for PEP funding. SPARK is a proud sponsor of PHIT America and supports the efforts of SFIA and others to keep PEP alive.

In order to counteract the growing sedentary nature of American childhood, White knew that PE had to be an integral part of academics and not viewed as optional learning. Because of people like White speaking up, public awareness about the role of PE has increased. By using her influence in a positive way, White forever impacted the many children who have already benefitted from PEP grants—and the many more to come.

Thank you, Carol M. White. May your lasting contributions to physical education long be realized and remembered.

 

Help support the PEP grant!  Click Here to send a letter to your representative to support PEP funding. 

 

——

Holiday-Themed Tag Games

Monday, December 9th, 2013

Here are four fun holiday-themed tag games submitted by teachers across the country – these games will get your kids moving and put everyone in the holiday spirit!

  • Grinch Tag
    • Santa’s helpers vs. the Grinch. Holiday hustle has new meaning!
    • Grades K-2

 

  • Turtle Dove Tag
    • Limited space movement break with a hungry Turtle Dove.
    • Grades K-3

 

 

  • Tree Topple Tag
    • Chop down your opponent trees before they chop yours!
    • Grades K-8

 

For more December holiday games, login to www.sparkfamily.org and click on December Games in the Quick Links section.

Not a SPARKfamily member?  Click Here to learn how to join.

Why Should You Be a PE Advocate?

Friday, July 5th, 2013

Physical education (PE) is an integral part of ensuring a healthy future, not just for our kids but for the country as a whole. PE isn’t just about requiring kids to pull on some gym clothes and work up a sweat for an hour during the school day. It’s a key component to total well-being, healthy development, and a successful future. And not to mention that increased physical activity has proven to improve learning and lead to higher test scores in the classroom.

Read on to find out just why (and how!) you should be an advocate for PE in our schools.Increasing Participation- Spark PE

Benefits of PE

Take a gander at just a few PE benefits to see why physical education affects a lot more than just physical fitness.

  • Sayonara, sedentary lifestyle. Kids are already required to sit for hours during the school day, and that’s not including time spent before and after school sitting around—watching TV, hanging out, and even sleeping. The effects of a sedentary lifestyle include increased risk of being overweight or obese, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, and diabetes. These are expensive health issues that set kids up for a variety of other problems into their adulthood. PE gives kids a chance to move around.
  • Increased attention span/academic performance. Physical activity helps to foster better academic performance. For one, having an outlet to release physical energy helps kids to focus better while in the class room. Physiologically, physical activity increases oxygen to the brain, increases brain neurotransmitters, and increases neurotrophins that aid in the survival of neurons in areas responsible for learning, memory, and higher thinking. PE has been shown to increase test scores, academic engagement, and brain development.
  • Confidence and social skills. On a physiological level, exercise increases neurotransmitters responsible for putting us in a good mood. Over time, exercise increases confidence by helping kids to feel better about their bodies. Practicing a skill and improving (shooting a 3-pointer, running a fast mile, even jump-roping 20 times in a row instead of 15) gives kids a confidence boost and reminds them that with hard work and consistent practice, they can achieve anything. Regular physical activity has been shown to decrease risky behaviors like partaking in drinking and drugs, too.
  • Lifelong health. Physical education isn’t just about getting in that physical activity for a few hours per week. Quality physical education programs teach kids how to stay healthy for life.

These are only a few reasons we should all care deeply about whether or not our kids are getting the PE they deserve. But what can you do to help?

How to be a PE Advocate

Being a PE advocate means speaking up and making sure your child’s PE program is adequate. How can you do this?

  1. Arm yourself with the right tools. Check out the PE Advocacy Resources to familiarize yourself with the facts & myths about PE in schools as well as gain an understanding of what resources are at your disposal.
  2. Talk to the PE teachers. Ask how often PE occurs, and for how long. Ask to see their teaching plan for the year. Make sure their program aligns with national standards. Ask about how students are evaluated based on these standards.
  3. Talk to the principal. Make sure the principal and other school officials know how important PE is to you and your children. Let him or her know that you support quality PE taught by a professional with credentials, that you support evidence-based PE curriculum that has been developed with research, that you think adequate budget dollars must go to PE, that you believe PE teachers should have access to new and improved resources and tools, that you want PE grades to be factored into overall GPA.
  4. Talk to the school board. Attend school board meetings, and make sure your voice is heard. Get the community involved. Speak for what you believe in; what you believe is best for your children and children everywhere.

Being an advocate is being a supporter. Being a supporter for quality, evidence-based physical education means supporting a healthy childhood, adolescence, and adulthood for your kids and the kids of your neighbors and friends. And that means supporting a healthier future for all of us.

Talk to your kids, their teachers, and school leaders today to make sure PE is a priority. Every parent wants nothing more than the lasting health and well-being of their children, and PE is a great place to start.

Check out SPARK’s other advocacy resources for help.

How Common Core Can Be Implemented in P.E.

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013

The Common Core standards were introduced to schools throughout the nation in 2010 and have quickly been adopted by 45 states. Designed as a robust, nationwide set of school standards, the Common Core program builds off the state standards already in place. The standards prepare students for college and the workforce by providing them with various skills that enforce writing, thinking critically, and solving real-world problems.  How Common Core Can Be Implemented in P.E.

The program focuses primarily on math and English language arts, which extend to all school subjects, including physical education. Let’s take a look at how you can integrate Common Core standards in your P.E. class.

Reading

A prominent focus in the Common Core standards is developing verbal and reading skills. Fortunately, you’ve been doing this the entire time without even knowing it. Simply providing verbal cues and instructions each day is a good starting point, but you can push it further with these simple ideas:

  • Station cards: During an activity that involves moving between several different stations, create station cards that offer in-depth written instructions for what to do next for critical thinking/comprehension practice.
  • Read-alouds: Also known as shared reading, read-alouds give students a chance to hear fluent reading. Provide hand-outs and read out loud while your students follow along. They can then keep the hand-outs to peruse later or to reinforce your verbal instructions.
  • Bulletin boards: Provide a bulletin board that gives your students instructions, tasks that must be accomplished, or provides a lesson that they must apply during class. Create a PE word wall that displays important vocabulary—movement words, health terms, names of muscle groups—that will be used throughout the day’s lesson.
  • Supplemental texts: Post or hand out supplemental materials about the sport or skill you’re currently covering. For instance, if you are on your baseball unit, post a short history of baseball, the basic rules, fun facts, and profiles of athletes.

Writing

Proficient writing has become one of the most important skills in the modern day. Some ways you can integrate writing into your P.E. curriculum:

  • Setting goals: Have students write down their goals before an activity or at the start of the week. At the end of the activity or the week, have kids provide a post-assessment of what they accomplished and what they could have done better.
  • Health and fitness journals: An extension of the above, you can have each student compile an in-depth journal that records their fitness goals for the entire year and includes a daily breakdown of the foods they ate and the physical activities they performed.
  • Create a new game: Split kids into groups and have them write out the rules and directions for a new game. They can then provide a quick demonstration of the new game, and you can choose from the best to play during the next class period.
  • Educational brochures: Kids can create informational brochures on various subjects, like the importance of physical activity, nutrition, or how to maintain a healthy heart. You can then make copies and distribute them or post them on your bulletin board.
  • Home fitness projects: These projects extend the lessons kids learn in class to their lives at home. Have them write out ideas for living healthy outside of school.
  • Create a class website or blog: Put kids in charge of certain elements of the blog or website and encourage students to contribute to the blog by writing short posts and comments. This is also a great way to build students’ technological proficiency.

Math

Math comprises a whole range of skills that go far beyond solving equations on a chalkboard.

  • Graphs: Students should create graphs and charts that show their results for a given activity. For example, when students run timed laps, you can have them chart out their times and see their progress over the course of a month.
  • Skip counting: Normally, when your students warm up or do stretches, they count by ones. Switch things up by having kids skip count progressively. For example, they can do ten jumping jacks counting by ones (1, 2, 3, 4…), then do toe touches for ten seconds but counting by twos (2, 4, 6, 8…). This is a great way to combine physical activity with multiples.
  • Pedometers: Pedometers can be used for all kinds of fun math-related activities. Kids can wear pedometers during class to see how many steps they’ve taken and then challenge themselves to take more steps during the next class. They can add the numbers together to see how many total steps they took.

While the mere mention of standards can bring on the snores, there are tons of ways to integrate the Common Core standards into your physical education curriculum. Check out this webinar recording for more ideas for different grade levels. Get creative and have fun!

Benefits of Music and Dance in PE Class

Thursday, June 6th, 2013

Music is a timeless element that has been around since humans first created rhythms from the beating of sticks and stones. It is powerful, drawing deep emotions and memories buried in the thick of things, but most of all, music is a stimulant for the mind, body, and soul. Once the music starts, you don’t even realize that your body is moving and reacting to the melody and beat.

Physical education teachers have implemented music and dance into their curricula in a number of creative, fun ways to get kids moving and active. Let’s take a look at a few benefits of music and dance in P.E. class.

1. Dance comes in numerous styles/genres.Benefits of Music and Dance in PE Class

When you teach your kids to play basketball, there’s only one way to play. Same goes for football, soccer, and almost any other sport or activity. Dance comes in countless genres and styles, from ballroom to modern and beyond. With such a variegated collection of genres, it’s easy for each student to find something he or she enjoys, whether it’s stomp, ballet, waltz, hip-hop, or tap.

Even better, you can easily combine styles. Teach your kids several genres and, at the end, have groups put together unique routines that combine elements from all the dances they have learned. Consider recording the routines and using them to promote dance and activity to other kids. This not only gives them that extra bit of motivation but gives them an end result to strive for and look forward to.

2. Music motivates movement.

Music naturally stimulates parts of the brain responsible for unconscious movement, which explains the head bobbing, shoulder shrugging, and toe tapping that you don’t even think about when you hear your favorite tune on the radio. Younger students should have no problem getting down on the dance floor, but even the most self-conscious of teens should have no problem moving with the groove. Even without formal instruction on any specific dance style, you should notice a distinct change in the mood and atmosphere that encourages students to continue moving.

This comes in handy when you feel that students are straying off task. Just crank up the tunes to get their attention back to the activity at hand. For an even greater motivator, you can have the kids recommend songs—school appropriate, of course.

3. Music is a great timer.

Music is a great way to keep time when you don’t have a clock. As suggested in this trainer tip video, when students are using weight machines, you can create minute-long chunks of music followed by fifteen to twenty seconds of silence to give students a chance to reset the equipment and move to the next station, doing away with clocks, alarms, or a stopwatch and whistle. You can apply the same idea to running laps, warming up, or stretching.

4. Music enhances performance.

Music naturally blocks the voice in your head that tells you to quit when you get tired. This dissociation effect has been shown to reduce perceived effort and increase endurance, essentially tricking people into performing intense exercises for longer periods of time.

As mentioned above, music has a positive affect on mood. Music makes students happier by presenting a more welcoming, positive atmosphere that motivates students to push themselves and work harder.

5. Dance is a lifetime sport.

The great thing about dance, as noted in this trainer tip video, is that it is a lifetime sport. It’s a timeless activity that is perfect for all age groups, from kindergarteners to octogenarians. It works out your coordination, rhythm, flexibility, and various muscle groups throughout the body. Unlike contact sports and many other activities, dancing is low impact if you do it right, so it’s easy on the joints. It’s also easy to vary the difficulty or intensity of any dance to fit students’ skill levels and preferences.

Even if students don’t pursue a career in dance, it’s something that carries over throughout various social functions—weddings, proms, nights on the town—so it doesn’t hurt to learn a few basic dance steps.
Dance and music are deeply ingrained in society. Find some fun, creative ways to incorporate both into your PE classes.