Archive for the ‘Physical Activity’ Category


When Kids are Physically Active at School, #WellnessWins

Friday, April 28th, 2017

RockinghamCo2RockinghamCo1

By Deirdre Moyer, Student Wellness Coordinator, Rockingham County Schools, Rockingham, NC

We’ve all heard the saying, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” What if the same could be true for 60 minutes of physical activity a day?

Through quality physical education, kids learn how to move their bodies fluently and develop the necessary skills to lead an active life. In Rockingham County Schools, more than 12,000 students can count on opportunities to be active each and every day – thanks, in part, to our wellness policy.

A strong district wellness policy is an essential part of creating a healthy school district by establishing policies and practices that empower students and staff to make healthy choices at school. By including physical education and physical activity in our wellness policy, we’re showing parents, community members, teachers and administrators that we’re making it a priority to equip students with the basic skills and knowledge they need to be active throughout their lives.

Our updated wellness policy is on schedule to be approved by the USDA’s June 30 deadline, and features several guidelines for physical activity including:

  • School personnel should strive to provide opportunities for age- and developmentally-appropriate physical activity during the day for all students
  • Schools must provide at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity daily for K-8 grade students, achieved through P.E. class, recess or classroom energizers
  • Principals shall work with teachers to ensure students meet minimum physical activity requirements
  • Students should have ongoing opportunities for physical activity, which cannot be taken away as a form of punishment

The result? We’re seeing first-hand the benefits of enabling students to move more throughout the day. When kids are physically active, they are more attentive in class, perform better on tests and behave better.

Our biggest challenge in implementing a stronger wellness policy has been time; these changes don’t happen overnight. We utilized many resources to reach our wellness goals, including the SPARK curriculum to assist teachers in meeting national and state standards for physical education and activity, and the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s school health experts, who reviewed our policy to ensure it complied with federal standards.

Now, I’m thrilled to share an exciting new resource: the #WellnessWins campaign.

Launched by the Alliance for a Healthier Generation and American Heart Association’s Voices for Healthy Kids initiative, #WellnessWins celebrates wellness policy successes like ours and helps other district leaders take action. WellnessWins.org features tips, resources and a ready-to-use model wellness policy that can help your district meet its health and wellness goals.

Are you ready to make moves with your wellness policy? Visit WellnessWins.org and get started today!

 

 

3 Innovative Physical Education Teaching Techniques

Tuesday, April 18th, 2017

physical education

Physical fitness among young people has now found itself at the forefront of society’s scrutiny. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), obesity among children between the ages of 2 and 19 has more than doubled in recent years, leaving students susceptible to the development of diabetes, complex joint issues and a host of other serious health problems.

Many physical fitness educators have taken it upon themselves to drastically reduce these statistics over the course of the next decade. Although the improvements in technology have somewhat contributed to the dangerously sedentary lifestyles of many young people, it can also be harnessed to reverse these health concerns. With instant access to almost anything at any given time, technology can be used to improve fitness and potentially save lives. It’s just a question of how it’s used.

So how can today’s educators create interactive work environments for their physical education classrooms?

Here are 3 modern solutions to fight the current health concerns facing our youth:

1. Modern Wellness-Tracking Technology

One way that educators can make physical wellness more interactive is by implementing fitness monitors, like the Fitbit or the Nuband, into their classes.

These lightweight, wearable activity trackers provide a wide range of real-time data. They can be used to help students become more aware of their body’s processes as a whole, or simply to learn their peak heart rate levels to achieve maximum physical fitness. Electronic activity trackers record step counts, quality of sleep cycles and a host of other personal metrics to ensure that students stay active throughout their developmental years. The attention to detail creates a feeling of ownership, fostering a sense of responsibility to maintain that state of wellness for the future. It is said that children should remain active for at least 60 minutes a day to meet proper health standards. Fitness trackers can help make sure kids reach this simple but vital goal in their P.E. classes, and also in their daily lives.

2. Music and Dance as Motivation

When it comes to movement in physical education, there is no better motivator than music. With this universal truth in mind, educators have developed new teaching methods based on viral dance crazes, like the Cupid Shuffle and the Konami Dance Dance Revolution music game. Not only does learning choreography together create a sense of camaraderie among classmates and teachers, but it also provides a great workout. Students can improve their coordination, strengthen their social interactions with one another and reduce stress levels during exam time.

What P.E. teacher wouldn’t want a class of smiling, dancing students?

3. Active Gaming Platforms

Technology-based hobbies have become so ingrained in the lifestyles of students that we often forget that they can serve as a valuable tool.

Exergames, or active gaming programs, like Hopsports and Kinect Xbox, invite users into a comfortable and familiar environment, while offering an opportunity for moderate-intensity physical activity. The best part about this exercise source is that it can be continued outside of school. Many students have their own gaming consoles and could take their P.E. class inspiration to a whole new level at home.

It is becoming increasingly important for teachers to use every outlet at their disposal to improve the health of their students. Some physical education teachers have found the key to success is utilizing what young people love the most – and, very often, that’s the new advancements in technology. By creating interactive and entertaining lessons with activity tracking, music, dance and gaming, teachers can improve student wellness practices not only in school, but in the decades to follow.

Tips for a Successful Field Day this Spring

Friday, April 7th, 2017

Parachute

By: BJ Williston, SPARK Trainer and Curriculum Development Consultant

Every spring all over the world, schools are preparing to put on a Field Day for their students. When done well, Field Days can be an active and fun time for everyone. In this blog, I’ll give those in charge of Field Day some tips to make it successful.

Preparation:

  • Plan well in advance (6-8 weeks minimum). You will need to get approval, get the word out, create materials (e.g. T-shirts, etc.) communicate with staff, volunteers, parents and students about the event.
  • It takes a lot of minds and bodies to put together a successful Field Day. Call for parents and teachers to create a committee to bring ideas, additional volunteers, resources for donations, etc.
  • Invite all parents and community members for their input on making it a fun day for all. Be sure everyone who wants to be involved knows about the meetings.
  • Decide what you need volunteers to do before, during, and after the Field Day (e.g. lead activities, escort students to the bathroom, set-up, take-down, deliver water and supplies, etc.). Use a web sign-up to make it easy for them to choose the tasks they are willing to do and the time slots they can be there for. Examples of these are SignUpGenius and SignUp. Best to have two volunteers per activity so they can support one another. Have a paper version in the front office for folks who are unable to use the web options.
  • Come up with a Field Day theme to pull it all together.
  • Plan the activities with the goals of fun and activity in mind. Keep them simple and age-appropriate.
  • When considering activity ideas, be line conscious: Don’t have kids stand in line for long. A field day should be full of fun and action, not standing around watching others.
  • Listen to feedback for past Field Days. Keep the things that worked and ditch those that didn’t.
  • Consider breaking up the day with a K-2 Field Day in the morning and a 3-5 one in the afternoon.
  • Include water games (if your climate allows). Kids go nuts over these and they are typically a smash hit. Plan to have these near the hose.
  • Think of unique activities that are cooperative in nature, rather than competitive. Have a good mix of activity types.
  • Don’t focus on awards for the “winners.” Field Days are more fun when the focus is on participation, not who was 1st, 2nd and 3rd.
  • Be prepared to adapt activities where necessary to enable all students with disabilities to participate and have fun.
  • Schedule the day to include breaks, rotation, activity names, etc.
  • Create a map to show where each activity will be at the school.
  • Ask for volunteers to photograph the activities and to share photos with parents and teachers.
  • Coordinate classes to create signs for each station.
  • Provide ideas for healthy snacks to serve during Field Day. See if you can help find a donor from a local grocery store or restaurant.
  • Include the school’s nurse or health aide to create a first aid station.
  • The day before, remind children of the importance of being well-rested and fed, and to be dressed for action and fun. Them bringing a towel and change of clothes is also a great idea.

The Day of:

  • Have volunteers set up as much as possible the night before.
  • Have a final meeting with all volunteers prior to the start to cover the main goals of the day and details about safety.
  • Have a large group “Welcome” to Field Day and discuss the rotation and the goals of the Field Day. The focus is on fun and safety. Announce the location of the first aid station.
  • A lot can happen that varies from the plan. It’s OK to adapt and go with the flow, if necessary.
  • Provide enough equipment to maximize participation so lines are short or non-existent.
  • Include breaks for volunteers every 90 minutes or so.
  • For students who are physically unable to participate (injuries, etc.), provide them with a safe task to keep them involved.
  • Work to ensure all children are having a good time. You should see lots of smiles!
  • Prompt volunteers to keep their eyes and ears open (no holding cell phones!) and to catch and stop any inappropriate behavior quickly.

Post Field Day:

  • Clean and dry all equipment and store for next year’s Field Day.
  • Send out a survey for volunteers to give feedback on their experience. Which activities worked? Which didn’t? Why?
  • Send thank you notes to those who volunteered and donated their time and goods.

The keys to a fabulous and fun Field Day are preparation and a focus on fun. It should be a safe and enjoyable day for all!

Click here for more tips and a discount on Field Day equipment, and click here to view Sportime featuring SPARK’s Field Day Activity Guide.

Physical Education vs. Physical Activity [INFOGRAPHIC]

Thursday, January 12th, 2017

The two terms are often used interchangeably, but they’re not the same thing! Although they work together like peanut butter and jelly, Physical Education and Physical Activity are two separate things — and it’s important for teachers and parents to understand the difference.

physical activity vs physical education

 

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Physical Activity

— any bodily movement that involves physical exertion

  • A physical activity program gets you up and moving, in some form. This can include recreational sports, fitness classes, after-school programs, and recess.
  • Physical activity is unstructured
    • Kids can make their own choices and create their own rules
    • Helpful for learning social skills and problem solving techniques
  • Just some of the things that count as physical activity…
    • Dancing
    • Walking the dog
    • Doing push-ups
    • Throwing a baseball
    • Playing tag at recess
    • And much more!
  • Physical activity is one part of a physical education program — but physical activity can be found in many areas outside of physical education.
  • Physical activity should be incorporated throughout the day: before and after school, and during recess

Physical Education

— curriculum-based program that teaches students the benefits of physical activity, builds techniques for leading an active lifestyle, and promotes lifelong healthy habits.

  • A physical education program not only gets children moving, but also teaches them why that activity is important, what types of activity benefit your body, and how you can stay active throughout your life.
  • Physical education is structured
    • Students are taught how to play and skills needed to play
    • Students learn the rules for how to play games and participate
    • There is a structured warm-up and cool down
  • Physical education teaches children the importance of being physically active and about the human body and body systems
  • Physical education programs include:
    • A written curriculum, with clear objectives
    • Some form of grading or assessment
    • Standards and Grade-Level Outcomes
    • Physical activity for most of the class time
    • Lessons in ways to lead a healthy lifestyle through physical activity, nutrition, fitness, and social responsibility
  • Physical education incorporates physical activity, along with many other things, to form a complete program.

Do You Need Both?

Yes, you do!

According to SHAPE America, physical activity should make up at least 50% of a physical education program.

Benefits of Physical Activity:

  • Releases endorphins
    • Children who get at least 15 minutes of recess a day behave better in class than students who get less than 15 minutes a day.
  • Strengthens muscles / bone density
    • Children ages 6-17 should get at least 60 minutes of physical activity per day, according to the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services.
  • Reduces risk for diabetes, obesity, depression, and heart disease
  • Enhances cognition
    • Children respond to cognitive tasks faster and with greater accuracy after a session of physical activity.

Benefits of Physical Education:

  • Teaches safe and correct exercise techniques
  • Promotes good nutrition and understanding of the body
  • Encourages lifelong health habits, decreases chances of unhealthy adult lifestyle
    • Overweight teens have a 70% chance of becoming overweight or obese adults.
  • Enhances academic performance
    • Endurance exercise increases oxygen to the brain, strengthens neurotransmitters, and stimulates brain growth — improving your ability to think, learn, and retain information.
    • In physically fit children, the hippocampus (region of the brain affecting learning and memory) is roughly 12% larger than less fit children.
    • In a study of D.C. schools, students received higher standardized math scores when schools provided at least 90 minutes of physical education per week.
  • Builds skills in setting and achieving goals

5 Steps for Parents to Advocate for Better Physical Education

Wednesday, November 9th, 2016

Portrait Of School Gym Team Sitting On Vaulting Horse

By: BJ Williston, SPARK Trainer and Curriculum Development Consultant

You’d have to be living under a rock to miss all the statistics about kids not getting enough physical activity these days. There are many reasons for this: not enough Physical Education (PE) in schools, too much time playing video games or on the computer, less time spent playing outside after school, etc. With such a push to improve academic test scores, many schools are failing to support physical education and physical activity (PA). Even though research has shown time and again that active kids do better in academic tests, they cut recess and PE programs to the bare minimum. The recommended dose is 60 minutes a day, yet most schools aren’t getting even half that. So, what can you, as a parent, do to urge schools to increase both the quantity and the quality of physical education? Be an advocate! Advocating is basically asking for something and then making it happen by changing policies and practices. If you would like to advocate for better PE and more PA at your school, here are five steps that can help:

  1. Educate yourself on the issue. Why is PE important? What are the benefits? What, if any, are the mandates your state has for number of minutes of physical education each week? Does the school have a Wellness Policy? Check out these PE Advocacy Resources on the SPARK website to learn about PE in schools.
  1. Learn more about the PE in your school. Do an assessment of the school’s PE environment and find which areas are in need of work. Learn about all the opportunities children have for physical activity at the school. This may include PE, recess, before and after school activity, and activity breaks during class time. Is PE being taught by a credentialed Physical Education Specialist? A Classroom Teacher? An aide? A volunteer? Is PE addressing state or national standards? Is the program evidence-based? Is it enjoyable? Are assessments used? Which types? Here are some tools you can use to help learn more about the PE program in your school:
  1. Recruit others to help you advocate. A lone voice is not as powerful as a choir. Spread the word using outreach techniques like PTA meetings, newsletters, bulletin boards, school websites, word of mouth, emails, mailings, posters at the school, etc. Use handouts, PowerPoint presentations, and videos that are available online to help get your message across to your fellow parents.
  1. Plan a meeting to inform the principal and other teachers about what you’ve found (e.g. PTA or School Board meeting). Invite members of the school board as well. Take this opportunity to show support for PE and PA at the school. Be sure a lot of parents and students attend the meeting to show support. Let them know how important it is to you and the students at the school. Cover the benefits of PE as well as the importance of quality PE taught by a credentialed PE Specialist using an evidence-based program.
  1. Start an action plan to begin tackling issues that need work. How can you help improve the quality and quantity of PE and PA at the school? Research available programs and decide which meet the needs of your school. Be sure the budget includes funding for PE Specialists, curriculum, equipment, and professional development to help the program get going and stay strong.

Think big, but remember most change happens in baby steps. Good luck advocating!

For additional tools and resources, visit:
http://www.sparkpe.org/physical-education-resources/advocacy/

Adapted Physical Activities for Recess

Thursday, November 3rd, 2016

physical activities

Recess can be the most fun part of a child’s school day, and it’s important for any planned activities to be inclusive for all students.

That’s where adapted physical activities come in. These are activities that have been changed in one way or another to accommodate students who have sensory, motor and/or intellectual disabilities. The tools used in adapted physical activities are also often changed to fit students’ needs, and can include the use of textured sensory balls and padded equipment.

Adapted physical activities aren’t just for students with disabilities, and the right activity can be fun for all students to play together. They key is to have the proper equipment and supervision on hand so that all children participate equally.

Schoolyard Soccer

Soccer is one of the most popular recess sports, and can be easily adapted to allow for inclusion. Some strategies include:

  • Have students walk rather than run;
  • Use a slightly deflated ball, it rolls slower; or adapted equipment that is brightly colored, softer, larger, and/or is textured;
  • Make the playing area smaller and have less students on the field;
  • Ensure a teacher or student is on hand to blow a whistle or call out when a goal has been scored.

The above strategies aren’t dramatic shifts from soccer as we know it, but they do make the game more approachable for students with mobility issues and visual impairments.

Jump Rope

Jump rope can be an excellent way to increase both cardio levels and coordination. It can also be an excellent adapted physical education activity for recess.

One adapted technique is to have students change the way they move the rope. Rather than moving it in circles, try instead having two students hold the rope stationary at a height low to the ground. Students can then jump over the unmoving rope, mastering the movement it takes to jump rope the traditional way. Students without disabilities can be challenged by having the rope raised higher and higher with each subsequent jump. Students holding the rope need to hold it loosely that it comes out of their hands if a jumper trips over the rope, especially for students with limited gross motor skills.

For students who want to jump rope the traditional way, brightly colored ropes or a beaded rope can help increase awareness of when a child needs to successfully jump. The students turning the rope can also call out each time a student’s feet are supposed to leave the ground.

SHAPE America recommends ditching the skipping rope all together. By drawing a target on the ground, students can pretend to jump rope while hopping on and off that specific marker. That allows children to attain the same level of fitness and improve their coordination, without the pressure or frustration of having to keep the rope moving.

For students who can’t jump or children in wheelchairs, jump ropes can be an excellent tool to create a simple obstacle course on a smooth playground surface. Create a series of wavy lines or circles using the rope and have children run, walk, or wheel alongside that course.

Softball

Like soccer, this is another popular recess sport that can be made more inclusive. Recess supervisors should consider the following adaptations:

  • Use a velcro ball and provide those students with gross motor delays a velcro mitt;
  • Limit the pitching distance and have a batting tee on hand for students who have trouble with hand-eye coordination;
  • Reduce the distance between bases and have students without disabilities give tagging leeway for their classmates with a disability;
  • Replace bats with a tennis racquet for students who may have a hard time hitting the ball;
  • Have a bright colored, soft, or beeping ball that is better seen and heard by students with a visual impairment.

Since softball places the focus on one student at a time, it’s an easier activity to adapt for a child’s individual needs, regardless of whether or not they have a disability.

The key to incorporating adapted physical activity into recess is to ensure there’s buy-in from all children. This should be no problem at all if you maintain the tried and true elements of play: movement, laughter, and the opportunity to have fun.

 

Speak Up for Active Latino Kids!

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2016

Young Children With Bikes And Scooters In Park Smiling To Camera

Latino kids and teens don’t get enough physical activity, which is critical for a healthy weight and proper physical and mental growth and development.

But you have an opportunity to speak up for active kids!

Public comments are being sought for the second edition of the U.S. Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, which sets vital activity recommendations for those ages 6 and up.

Add your public comment now: salud.to/activecomment

Not sure what to say?

Use this example comment from Salud America!, a national Latino childhood obesity prevention network based at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio:

Salud America! led a research review (http://www.communitycommons.org/groups/salud-america/big-bets/sa-active-spaces/) that found Latino children in underserved communities often have limited opportunities for physical activity. To be able to stay their healthiest, Latino children and their families need safe places to walk, roll, bike, swim, and play. Safe routes and shared or open use agreements are evidence-based strategies to improve pedestrian and bicyclist safety, as well as increase equitable access to playgrounds, pools, and sports fields in order to increase physical activity among the underserved. This can help Latino children and families access the physical, mental, social, and health benefits of play and contribute to a culture of health in the United States.

Post this comment now: salud.to/activecomment

Learn more about Latinos and active spaces in your community here!

Ice Breakers to Get Kids Moving

Tuesday, October 18th, 2016

ice breaker

Cultivating a comfortable classroom environment for students is crucial to how well they perform. Physical education classes in particular tend to come with a little more anxiety for some kids and a feeling of confidence is the key to their success.

One of the easiest ways to get new students acquainted with your PE classroom is through ice breaking games. Take a look at few you should try to help your class get moving.

Name Memory Game

Help students gain confidence in class and learn each other’s names through this classic – with a physical education twist. Have the class stand in a large circle that includes the teacher. Start by saying your name and doing some sort of physical movement (clap, stomp, jump, or spin around). The person to your left repeats your name and movement, and adds his or her own. The next person repeats both and adds a third. This repeats all the way around the circle, with the teacher going one last time to repeat everyone’s name and movement.

Cacophony

Have students arrange in a circle and hold hands. This game starts with the leader (usually the teacher) making a sound. He or she then squeezes the hand of the person to the left and continues to make the sound. The new person also starts making a sound and squeezes the hand of the next student who does the same. Soon the entire circle is a chorus of chosen sounds. When the hand squeeze returns to the game leader, he or she stops making the sound and squeezes the hand of the next person on the left who also goes silent. This continues until every sound has ceased.

Grab It

This game is best for preschool or early elementary students. Use a bean bag or another small object and pair up students who sit, facing each other, with the object in between them. When the teacher yells “Grab it!” the first person to pick up the object gets a point. Teachers can increase the difficulty by yelling things other than the command, and deducting a point if anyone is fooled.

7 Buzz

This game is best for students in upper elementary or middle school. The group forms a circle and each person takes a turn counting, in sequence, until the number 7 or a multiple of it is called. The person who should speak that number yells “Buzz!” instead and the circle reverses. To make the game even more challenging, use a lower number like 5 or 3.

What Am I Doing?

Divide the number of students in your class by 2 and then have them number off from 1 until the halfway number, and then again. Have the students with matching numbers pair up and stand next to each other in the large circle. Start with the team to the left of the teacher and have them go to the center of the circle. One student will start doing an action, like pretending to mow the lawn, and will ask the other student “What am I doing?” Instead of answering with the real action, the second student will mention a new action. The first person must then do it, while the second then asks “What am I doing?” You can put a limit on the amount of times the pair performs, or just let them go until they lose sync or are laughing too hard to go on. This is an especially good exercise to get new people to meet and interact, instead of sticking with the people they already know.

 

First days are hard – for students and teachers. Ice breakers that incorporate movement can help students loosen up and will help you get to know them a little better too.

Lacrosse 101

Tuesday, September 27th, 2016

SPARK-Lacrosse

By: Dr. Scott Townsend and Dr. Derek Mohr, Appalachian State University

What sport is…

Considered the fastest game on two feet?
The national summer sport of Canada?
Originally derived from a game called Baggataway?

You got it – Lacrosse a.k.a. Lax!

Think you don’t know anything about lacrosse? Think again! Lacrosse is a field-based invasion game that is similar in strategy to sports like soccer or team handball. So while the skills of the sport are unique, the tactics are likely familiar.

Whether you are looking to freshen up your curriculum with new content or teach lacrosse again, the tips and resources below can help you be successful.

The Terrific 10

Here is a list of 10 basic rules of traditional lacrosse:

  1. Teams. 10 players per side; three defenders, three midfielders, three attackers, one goalkeeper.
  2. Games. Four 12-15 minute quarters with a running clock.
  3. Scoring. One point per score.
  4. Starting Play. Game starts with a coin toss to determine defending ends. Teams switch ends after each period.
  5. Restarting Play. After a goal with a face-off.
  6. Out-of-Bounds. Over a sideline: use a thrown-in to restart play. Over an endline: use a throw-in or run-in (possession of a missed shot that crosses an endline is awarded to the team with the player nearest the endline as the ball goes out).
  7. When a team fails to have at least three players in the attack half of field and less than four players in the defensive half; results in a 30 sec. penalty.
  8. Tie Game. Games tied are decided by extra time play, then penalty goal shootouts.
  9. Breaches of rules result in time-out penalties, divided into technical (non-injurious fouls such as holding; 30 sec.) and personal (severe foul such as slashing; 1-3 min.). While penalties are served, teams play shorthanded until the penalty time-out is over.
  10. May stop the ball with any part of their body or stick while inside crease. Consequently, offensive players may not contact or interfere with the goalkeeper in the crease.

Terms of Endearment

Whether watching or playing, knowing the terms below will make you more lacrosse-literate:

  • Clearing: Passing or running the ball from the defensive area to the attack area
  • Crease: Circle around the goal area
  • Extra Player: When a team has a player advantage due to a penalty on their opponent
  • Loose Ball: An uncontrolled ground ball
  • Quick Stick: Catching and passing or shooting in one fluid motion
  • Riding: A quick transition from offense to defense to prevent a clear

So Skillful

While the tactics of lacrosse are similar to other invasion type games, the skills are unique. Some of the most important stick-based skills include:

  • Scooping: Retrieving the ball from the ground quickly
  • Catching: Securing the ball in the pocket in preparation for a pass, shoot, or to run
  • Passing: Moving the ball around the field from player to player
  • Cradling: Maintaining possession of ball without passing, catching, or shooting
  • Dodging: Changing direction and speed to free a player up to either pass or shoot
  • Shooting: Similar to a pass but its intent is to score a goal
  • Stick-Checking: Defensive use of the stick to keep offensive player from scoring or passing

Did You Know?

SPARK is hosting a free lacrosse webinar on October 19, 2016 (click here to register) and has just rolled out a web-exclusive SPARK HS Lacrosse unit located on SPARKfamily.org. Please join us to learn more about this exciting sport and experience the vast array of educational resources SPARK offers to help you implement lacrosse in your PE program.

What are your experiences teaching or playing lacrosse? What advice would you give to someone who has never played the game or a teacher wanting to add this to their curriculum? Post a response below and let us know!

Click here to shop lacrosse equipment & resources.

Big Results in a Short Period of Time

Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

New Research on SPARK Middle School PE program Published!

By: Paul Rosengard, SPARK Godfather

Did you know today’s SPARK’s Middle School Physical Education curriculum and teacher training program evolved from the three largest studies of MS PE ever conducted? It’s true. The three National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded research projects, M-SPAN (Middle School Physical Education and Nutrition), TAAG (Trial of Activity for Adolescent Girls), and The Healthy Study contributed to the exemplary and award-winning program being disseminated today.

While the last of these studies concluded in 2010, middle schools across the country have partnered with local universities to conduct ongoing tests of the SPARK program and better understand its effects on students and teachers.

One such effort titled, “Effect of the SPARK Program on Physical Activity, Cardiorespiratory Endurance, and Motivation in Middle School Students” was recently published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health*. Several significant takeaways from this paper:

Background: This study examined the effect of a 9-week SPARK Middle School Physical Education program on physical activity levels, cardio-fitness, and motivation of 174 sixth through eighth grade students from two urban, private schools in Salt Lake City, Utah. This intervention group (using SPARK MS PE) was compared to other students in the same grades and schools who continued with their usual physical education program (Controls – referred to in the paper as Traditional group).

Measures: To ascertain student activity levels, students wore high-quality, research-validated pedometers. To determine their levels of cardio-fitness, students were administered the PACER test. To assess students’ motivation and enjoyment of the SPARK activities, they completed questionnaires (Sport Enjoyment Scale).

Results: Despite the very short intervention timeline, students participating in SPARK Middle School PE were more active, increased their cardio-fitness scores, and showed they were more motivated by the SPARK lessons and enjoyed them more than their “usual/traditional” PE program.

Here’s one interesting quote from the paper:

“The results from this study indicate that there were increases in-class PA for both the SPARK and Traditional groups from pre-test to post-test. However, the SPARK group had statistically greater increases on in-class PA compared with the Traditional group in younger children. These results support that SPARK, as an established health-related PE program, was significantly more effective in increasing middle school students’ in-class PA levels than the Traditional program in younger children.”

SPARK wishes to thank the authors, the University of Utah, and the participating schools and teachers for their time and subsequent contribution to the scientific knowledge base.

If your school is conducting research using any components of any SPARK program, please let us know via email, spark@sparkpe.org.

Ready to bring SPARK Middle School Physical Education to your school?

  • Click here to download free sample SPARK Middle School PE Lesson Plans
  • Click here to shop for SPARK Middle School PE curriculum sets
  • Click here to request a proposal for the full SPARK Middle School PE program (professional development training, curriculum, and content-alighted equipment)

*Article citation:

Fu, Y., Gao, Z., Hannon, J.C., Burns, R.D., Brusseau, T.A. (2016). Effect of the SPARK Program on Physical Activity, Cardiorespiratory Endurance, and Motivation in Middle-School Students. Journal of Physical Activity and Health 13, 534-542.

Click here to access the research article.