Archive for the ‘Physical Activity’ Category


Tabata 201

Monday, August 7th, 2017

young woman using a skipping rope

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

In our last blog, Tabata 101, we discussed the Tabata Protocol. Today we will extend the conversation, focusing on how to teach Tabata in a physical education setting.

Imagination Station

Imagine a PE class that operates like a wellness center (see this blog for more details)… one where motivated students choose from and enjoy participating in a variety of fitness stations (weight training, yoga, Tabata, fitness walking, cycling, etc.), where each station is led by certified student-instructors, focused on helping their peers develop personal fitness skills, knowledge and confidence. Read on to make this dream your reality…

Tabata Refresher

Tabata is a high intensity interval training (HIIT) program designed to get maximum fitness benefits in a short duration workout, making it a great option when you are pressed for time or want to add variety to a training program. Accordingly, Tabata can be a meaningful part of a well-rounded HS PE program.

Tabata in SPARK High School PE

In the SPARK HS PE program, Tabata is part of a larger unit called Group Fitness. As such, Tabata, like all other group fitness “mini-units,” consists of two progressive instructional activities:

  1. Basic Training

Here students master fundamental safety protocols and movement techniques associated with the unit content. In SPARK Tabata, students use the Content Cards to experiment with and master basic exercises. This may take multiple lessons as the teacher leads students through the mastery process. Tabata Basic Training focuses on SHAPE Standards 1, 2 and 3.

  1. Create a Workout

Here students create a series of personalized Tabata workouts by applying fundamentals mastered in basic training. As part of the process, students practice, refine and then lead classmates through their created workouts. In SPARK Tabata, students are challenged to create nine 4-minute Tabata workouts (3 workouts with 2 exercises, 3 with 4 exercises and 3 with 8 exercises). Tabata Create a Workout focuses on SHAPE Standards 4 and 5.

Tabata Teaching Tips

  • Encourage students to give Tabata a chance to help them improve aerobic and muscle fitness.
  • Focus students on safety, performance cues and personal fitness goals.
  • Modify activities to ensure safety, individual success and motivation.

Get Equipped

Share Your Knowledge

What are your experiences teaching Tabata? What advice would you give to someone who has never taught Tabata, but wants to? Post a response below and let us know!

Current SPARKfamily members with High School access can find the new Tabata unit under High School Web-Based Units. If you are not a current SPARKfamily member, you will receive 3-year access to the digital content when you purchase a SPARK High School curriculum set.

Tabata 101

Tuesday, August 1st, 2017

People exercising with dumbbell at gym

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

Tabata 101 is the first installment of a two-part blog series highlighting the latest web-unit addition to the SPARK High School PE Group Fitness Unit.

Tabata… a HIIT for getting fit.

Tabata is a High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) program designed to get maximum fitness benefits in a short duration workout, making it a great option when you are pressed for time or want a change from more traditional workout programs.

The Protocol

A single Tabata workout is 4 minutes in duration and consists of two parts: work and rest.

  1. Work: 20 seconds of full effort
  2. Rest: 10 seconds recovery
  3. Repeat: Complete workout/rest cycle 8 times
  4. Exercises: 1, 2, 4 or 8 exercises can be included per workout

An Example

  1. Push-up (20 sec), Rest (10 sec)
  1. Jumping Jacks (20 sec), Rest (10 sec)
  1. Air Squat (20 sec), Rest (10 sec)
  1. Jump Rope (20 sec), Rest (10 sec)
  1. Repeat 1-4 (4 min)

A Bit-a Tabata History

  • Who: The Tabata protocol was developed by researcher Izumi Tabata.
  • How: His landmark study compared the following training programs:
    • Traditional aerobic training: 5X/Week @ 60 min/workout
    • HIIT: 20 sec work, 10 sec rest repeated 8X
  • Results: HIIT and traditional trainings equally improved aerobic endurance. Tabata also improved anaerobic capacity while the traditional did not.
  • Summary: Tabata is an effective training protocol for improving aerobic and anaerobic fitness.

Try Tabata

Follow the guidelines below and give Tabata a try.

  • Bod Squad: Use body-weight exercises to reduce the need for specialized equipment.
  • Experiment: Try Tabata at a lower intensity to get comfortable with the protocol.
  • Choose Wisely: Select exercises you can perform safely and that match your fitness goals.
  • Modify: Alter exercises to match your current fitness level and progress as your fitness improves.
  • Stack It: When ready, try multiple Tabatas back-to-back with a brief rest (1-3 min) between each.
  • Warm-Up & Down: Use a dynamic, full body warm-up before and warm down afterwards.
  • Tech Support: Use a Tabata app to: select exercises, and add music to and/or time your workout.

Share Your Tabata Thoughts!

Stay tuned to for our next Tabata blog. In the meantime, we’re interested to know… What are your experiences engaging in Tabata? What advice would you give to someone who has never engaged in Tabata? Post a response below and let us know!

Current SPARKfamily members with High School access can find the new Tabata unit under High School Web-Based Units. If you are not a current SPARKfamily member, you will receive 3-year access to the digital content when you purchase a SPARK High School curriculum set.

4 Fun Lesson Plans to Keep Kids Active During Physical Activity Month

Monday, May 15th, 2017

 

Kids learning from teacher while sitting in a circle

Today, many schools are reducing their opportunities for physical activity, limiting recess, restricting physical education lessons, and keeping youngsters anchored to their desks for hours each day. Although this might seem like the easiest way to ensure a constant focus on academics, research indicates that physical activity and cognition go hand in hand.

May is officially recognized as National Physical Fitness and Sports Month. That makes now the perfect time for schools across the country to begin re-assessing their options for encouraging activity inside and outside of the classroom.

In the past, we at SPARK have drawn attention to the fact that students at every level desperately need movement to thrive in any school setting. Read on to discover some of our simple and effective lesson plans for instant and ongoing classroom physical activity you can start using today.

1. STEM Fitness Training

“STEM” Fitness Training lesson plans focus on fun facts about science, technology, engineering and math, while encouraging physical movement. Using a combination of markers, STEM Fitness Training cards and up-tempo music, teachers can encourage their students to actively pursue a deeper understanding of crucial topics as they get their blood pumping.

STEM Fitness Training involves quick cues, challenges and in-depth discussions between students as they move through aerobic fitness segments that support the mind/body connection. Try using SPARKabc’s Instructional Materials, which include three years of access to SPARKabc’s materials, along with STEM integration solutions, task cards and teaching resources.

2. Social Studies Fitness Relay

The Social Studies Fitness Relay lesson plan looks at the eight basic locomotor skills and helps develop peripheral vision in students. Using markers, the Social Study Fitness Relay state list and state cards, teachers can encourage children to expand their minds and enhance their understanding of crucial topics, while building a healthy vision.

As students spend more time staring at screens with their eyes fixed in distant vision mode, peripheral vision enhancement can help strengthen their eye muscles and improve reading comfort. The instructional materials set contains all the resources educators need to introduce Social Studies Fitness Relay solutions into their classrooms.

3. Nutrition Mix-Up

The Nutrition Mix-Up lesson plan teaches children about the five crucial “MyPlate” food groups, while promoting physical activity. The objective is for each student to identify themselves as a different food. They will then move quickly from one spot to another when the teacher calls their group.

Nutrition Mix-up is a fun and simple lesson solution that helps teachers emphasize the important connections between exercise and diet. The goal is to improve the positive relationships that children have with movement and healthy food, as well as to highlight the impact these elements have on their development and cognition. The Healthy Kids Challenge Wellness Solutions Toolkit can be an incredible supplement to the Nutrition Mix-Up, or any other nutrition-focused lesson plan.

4. Active as Soon as Possible Activities

A full lesson doesn’t need to center around physical activity in order to get students moving. Sometimes teachers will be able to recognize that their students are losing focus or becoming restless. And that’s where Active as Soon as Possible (ASAP) plans come into play. You can incorporate ASAP activities into the lesson plan around the times when children begin to become most lethargic. Each teacher should be able to pinpoint the perfect timing for their class.

Activities such as Invisible Jump Rope and Go Bananas! shake children out of their mid-day slump and get their hearts pumping. The rush of activity ensures an oxygen boost to the brain, which promotes energy and concentration. SPARK musical collections and instructional materials can help craft exciting ASAP activities to engage and revitalize students.

Planning for Physical Activity

As research continues to show the importance of physical activity in relation to brain function, it’s easy to see why teachers should incorporate more movement into their lesson plans. With physical activity lesson plans, educators can ensure that health and fitness don’t take a back seat to education. Instead, academics and activity can blend seamlessly together in an environment that encourages healthier development and better learning for children of all ages.

5 Ways to Promote Physical Activity Month at Your School

Monday, May 8th, 2017

Young kids in gym uniform follow gym instructor

Today, most parents and educators alike know that children need at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise each day. While encouraging children to spend an hour being active might not seem like much of a challenge, the truth is that we’re living in a world where youngsters are spending more time glued to television screens and rooted to classroom desks.

Around 3 out of 4 children are getting less than an hour of physical activity each day. This problem can link back to a reduced number of physical education classes, diminished recess opportunities, and the fact that children are spending around 30 hours per week on “screen time.”

May is “National Physical Fitness and Sports Month,” which makes it the perfect time for schools to start prioritizing activity and introducing the benefits of regular movement to their students. Here are 5 ways you can celebrate the advantages of an active lifestyle at your school to help develop a culture of fitness for the future.

1. Introduce In-Lesson Physical Activity

Today, school administrators across the United States are restricting opportunities for physical activity in classrooms. In an effort to push more focus on academic achievement, recess has fallen to minutes per day, and physical education classes are becoming increasingly less frequent.

Unfortunately, research suggests that P.E. and recess aren’t just crucial for fighting obesity and other common weight-related health problems, they’re also essential for boosting cognitive development. Regular physical activity promotes greater circulation and blood flow throughout the body, helps to enhance focus, and assists children in performing better academically. One way for teachers to overcome this issue is to build physical activity into their lesson plans.

During National Physical Fitness and Sports Month, educators can begin introducing STEM Fitness Training and Social Studies Fitness Relays, designed to get children up and moving while they learn. These solutions can make lessons more fun and engaging, while combining academic achievement with physical fitness.

2. Celebrate Fitness with Special Events

All children love a chance to celebrate something – even physical activity. That’s why National Physical Fitness and Sports Month is a great time to get them involved with special days and community events. On May 10, children from around the country can join families and community partners by walking or biking to school. Schools across the U.S. can register their 2017 event to enter into free prize draws for helmets and bikes.

Alongside a “bike or walk to school” day, you can also encourage parents and students in your school to help you come up with additional events and fundraisers. From a jog-a-thon to a hula hooping money-raising event, the whole community can get involved with exercise-friendly fun. What’s more, these fundraising opportunities will give you a chance to build the cash you need to invest in new materials that can help put fitness first.

3. Invest in New Materials

Sometimes, improving the active culture in a school environment is all about making sure you have the right resources. There are various low-cost and high-reward materials available that are already aligned to national and state physical education standards.

Digital programs, music, and even simple task cards can help teachers start developing new curriculums and lesson plans for a more active future. During National Physical Fitness and Sports Month, schools could examine the resources they already have by reaching out to fitness experts in the community and the school. A little investment and some research could open the door to dozens of new and healthy educational programs.

4. Get Creative

We’ve already established that teachers don’t need to restrict physical activity to P.E. lessons and recess. The time between lessons can be used to ensure physical activity throughout the whole day, without detracting from instructional periods. For instance, you could:

  • Use fitness activities to get students moving during advisory or homeroom periods.
  • Play uplifting music to promote movement during breaks.
  • Make exercise programs available during lunch periods, as well as before and after school.

5. Encourage Students to Take Charge

Finally, remember that National Physical Fitness and Sports Month is the perfect time for teachers and parents to encourage students to take charge of their own healthy habits. If educators can help children understand the benefits of regular movement and offer interesting ways for them to get active, they’ll be more likely to try it.

Students Taking Charge” is the Action for Healthy Kids framework that allows high school students to find ways to create and lead their own projects for nutrition and physical activity initiatives with help from adults and teachers. Student teams can build their own programs from scratch and transform the way they look at fitness with groups and activities that appeal to them.

In a world where it’s becoming more difficult to engage students in physical activity, allowing them to take control of their fitness is the perfect way to promote positive habits. Don’t miss out on all the advantages of promoting National Physical Fitness and Sports Month at your school.

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!

 

 

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.

Keep Kids Heart-Healthy with These Fun Activities

Tuesday, March 7th, 2017

Heart

Physical inactivity is bad for your heart. Specifically, it’s a risk factor for developing coronary artery diseases, it increases the risk of stroke and can lead to obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and low HDL cholesterol (that’s the good kind).

Encouraging your kids to be heart-healthy will help them fight these issues before they happen, and ideally should be part of their school curriculum. By working to establish healthy routines early on, kids are more likely to continue them through their lives.

What Defines a Heart-Healthy Activity for Kids?

 

Most activities that encourage children to move and exercise can be considered heart-healthy. The American Heart Association suggests that kids participate in at least 60 minutes of regular physical activity per day. Examples of activities that would quality include jogging, swimming, dancing, skiing, and kickboxing, as well as many other team sports.

So how does one get kids excited about heart-healthy activities?

Heart-Healthy Activities for Kids

 

Make It Fun

It’s not hard to encourage heart-healthy activities for kids if they happen to be activities that they already enjoy. A few examples:

  • Biking
  • Jumping rope
  • Hopscotch
  • Playing on the playground and running around with friends

Of course, the key here is to make sure that kids get at least 60 minutes total of moderate to vigorous activity. Since kids might lose interest after just a few minutes, it’s important to supplement these fun activities with a little bit of structure.

SPARK Lesson Plans

With structure in mind, and making sure that kids get in the minimum amount of activity each day for heart-healthiness, we’ve created a number of lesson plans to help make this happen. Here are some easy ways to plan heart-healthy activities for kids:

Aerobic Bowling

For this activity, you’ll need 2 spot markers, 2 bowling pins (or lightweight cones), and 1 utility ball for each group of four students.

The object of this game is to teach underhand rolling skills, and to encourage kids to get as many points as possible before hearing a predetermined signal. The bowler rolls the ball to try and knock the pins over. He/she then runs after the ball, and sets up the cones for the next bowler, while the ball retriever retrieves the ball and runs it to the new bowler. Everyone gets a chance to play each role.

Hearty Hoopla

For this activity, you’ll need 4 hoops and 1 beanbag. You create a large activity area with a hoop in each corner. Four groups will participate, with one in each corner.

The object of this game is to collect beanbags from other hoops to bring to your group’s hoop. Movement is determined by a signal, and the group with the most beanbags scores a point for that round.

Hospital Tag

Who doesn’t like a game of tag?

For this activity, you’ll need 4 cones that create the boundary for a large activity area.

The object of this game is to tag as many others as possible, while avoiding being tagged yourself. Upon hearing, “Hospital Tag!” you tag people using a 2-finger tag. If you get tagged, you have to put a bandage (your hand) on your “boo-boo.” The next time you’re tagged, you have to put your other hand on your new “boo-boo.” Finally, if you get tagged a third time, move outside the boundaries to the “hospital,” complete a wellness task, and hop back into the game.

Do your students regularly engage in any of these heart-healthy activities for kids? Or is there something we missed that you’d add to this list? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

 

How to Include Dance in Your Lesson Plan

Thursday, March 2nd, 2017

Children dancing

Just as with most sports, dance has many benefits beyond the physical. It has been shown to improve a child’s social and emotional skills, with teachers reporting that dance made their students more accepting of one another and respectful of their body and that of others. Dance is also a good means of fitness for children who may shy away from team sports, where coaches and competition can be a bit much to handle for younger students.  

With these benefits in mind, dance could be the perfect activity to incorporate into your next lesson plan.

Selecting the Style

 

From conga lines to square dancing to Irish jigs, there are so many types of dance you can use to inspire your lesson plan. The dance that works best for you will consider a number of factors, including the size of activity space and the age of your students.

For kindergarten to grade two, the best style of dance is one composed of simple movements. The teacher makes a series of individual body movements, such as touching his nose, then swaying his hips, then jumping in the air. Children are asked to mimic those movements while maintaining their personal space, an excellent way to teach simple choreography, coordination, and balance. Most movement is on the spot, so modeling can be done in a regular classroom or gym.

For primary school children, dances such as tap and jazz will build the strength and flexibility of students’ legs and feet, as well as introduce them to different types of music. Once students get older and are able to better memorize routines, ballroom, Latin, and faster jigs are ways to challenge students. These dances will require a larger activity space, such as a gymnasium.

Whatever the age of your students, make sure all lessons include a proper warmup and cool down!

Consider the Learning Objectives

 

It could be that you want to incorporate dance into your lesson plan because of its myriad of health and wellness benefits. While this may be true, have you considered the other learning objectives dance can help achieve?

Increased Coordination and Rhythm

Partner dances that incorporate extra movement are effective in increasing coordination and rhythm. For early primary students, dances like the Hawaiian Roller Coaster Ride involve movements performed by individual children and performed with one another. Once the music is played, children are asked to time their claps and knuckle taps to the music, which will teach them to listen to the natural rhythm of a song.

Encouraging Creativity

Dance is an artistic expression of creativity. This is the case with any form of dance, but free-form interpretive is the best style to get students to move as they feel. While there are definitely nuances to contemporary interpretive dance, younger students can participate in this type of dance by simply moving along to a piece of music. Try an interpretive “free dance” session at the end of your class — let kids do what they want, and be amazed by the results!

Cultural Education

Almost every style of dance has its underpinnings in some historical and cultural context. For middle school and high school students, dance is an excellent way to complement history lessons, giving teens a less conventional look at the social and cultural side of a certain period.

For more inspiration and helpful instructional videos that will guide you every (dance) step of the way, pick up your SPARK dance DVD today!

Just Dance: Improving a Child’s Emotional and Social Skills Through Dance

Thursday, February 23rd, 2017

Dance class

There’s a reason why it feels so good when you have an uninhibited dance party in your bedroom. As well as being a great way to release tension — not to mention have a lot of fun — there are studies showing that dance is also an excellent way to foster the emotional and social growth of children.

Dancing combines all the benefits of physical activity with those of educating children about music and the arts. From an emotional and social standpoint, dance classes for kids between the ages of kindergarten and grade 12 are proven to have an impact when it comes to acceptance of others, respect, teamwork, and cooperation.

This could be because dance gives children the opportunity to express themselves freely and creatively, which allows an outlet for emotional and physical release. While children are still developing full cognitive abilities, it could be that they choose to send messages through dance rather than having to articulate their thoughts in speech.

Dance creates a social environment where kids need to cooperate with and trust one another to complete the moves and avoid stepping on toes. At a very young age, it also instills a greater respect for one’s body, and the bodies of others. Socially, it teaches children how to hold one another appropriately, how to be aware of someone else’s movement, and how to understand the physical abilities and limits of one’s own body.

Dance teaches the aforementioned skills in a language children understand: movement. Kids learn by doing, and there’s nothing better than moving through a dance routine to synthesize the lessons learned.

Bringing Dance to Schools

A survey conducted in 2014-2015 showed that 66% of LA-based schools that incorporated dancing reported seeing its students become more accepting of one another. This acceptance is important, especially in schools with at-risk students or communities where children come from diverse racial backgrounds. Dance, like music, is a universal language, and one that is relevant to every culture around the world. As research collected by NDEO states, dance can help at-risk students deal with more complex emotional and social conflicts, such as violence and race. By creating dance exercises that mirror the movements of different students, the head dancer is able to feel like a leader, and understands that they’re being accepted and respected by their peers.

As a bonus, participation in the arts is also shown to have a positive academic influence on children. A study on this topic found that students who took part in the arts performed better on standardized tests, had higher SAT and math scores, and were more focused in class. Dance can also have much needed health benefits at a time when 18% of American children aged 6 to 11 are obese and only 1 in 3 children are physically active on a daily basis.

If you’re wondering where to get started with bringing dance to your school, look no further than the SPARKdance DVD. Ideal for K-12 students, the DVD includes more than 20 dances and lesson guides so the benefits of the activity are within every educator’s grasp. There is also a Dance Decoded workshop for teachers who want to take their school’s physical education program to the next level.

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