Archive for the ‘Physical Education’ Category


The Best Apps for Keeping Kids Active

Wednesday, May 6th, 2015

The Best Apps for Keeping Kids Active

It’s safe to say that the world around us is becoming increasingly mobile and tech-oriented. People of every age are falling in love with their smartphones, tablets, and laptops, which can result in a more lethargic lifestyle and shortened attention spans. Having a healthy approach to life prevents your children from packing on the pounds during adolescence and also gives them the tools they need to set up a life of choices catered to their enhanced wellbeing. According to a study published by the New England Journal of Medicine, the fate of a child’s weight can be determined by the time they turn five.

We all know that raising a healthy child is important, but that task can become more trying when you can’t pry them away from their smartphones. Perhaps the best way to deal with the issue is to use technology to your advantage.

Although too much screen time can be unhealthy for your children, innovative new concepts are emerging to help parents prompt their kids into physical activity. Health, nutrition, and fitness applications provide an education into how the body works, what makes it run better, and more, while feeding your child’s technology addiction.

Following are some of our favorite apps for keeping kids active.

Super Stretch Yoga HD

Super Stretch Yoga HD is a free application for the Apple iPad that works to teach children fun and easy yoga moves that they can try out themselves. Instead of simply watching cartoons on their iPad, your child can start trying out poses modeled by children of their own age, letting them stretch out their limbs and show off their skills. The application includes a total of twelve different yoga poses for your child to perfect, each with its own description and accompanying video.

Yoga is a great hobby to get your child interested in physical wellbeing and fitness. Not only does it improve strength and flexibility, but it’s also likely to be something that they continue to enjoy as they grow to later life. The videos included with this application offer reassurance to keep beginners trying time and after time, as well as advice on the best time of day to try out certain poses. You can even play the videos on your television with an Apple TV.

Strava

Are you the kind of parent that regularly walks their child to school or goes for small adventures on the weekend? Strava is an application that allows you to map your walks, bike rides, and hikes and time each journey, so you can show your children how much they’ve accomplished in a certain scope of time.

Typically, this application doesn’t market directly to children, but it is a great way to make walking to school and traveling to new places more fun. The further you go and the more you do, the more of an excuse your child has to be proud of themselves. You even get little notifications when you create a new personal best in your time, allowing you and your little one to celebrate each milestone together.

Iron Kids

Iron Kids is an application lovingly developed by the American Academy of Pediatrics to help children eight years and up get more exercise as they grow. In 2013, the Iron Kids application won it’s very own Web Health Award for providing young athletes with everything they need to safely and effectively improve their fitness, balance, and strength.

The app centers around nine exercises that involve the lower body, upper body, and core. Videos are included to help your kids understand how they can do the exercises and how those exercises benefit them.

Smash Your Food HD

An interactive and informative game intended to teach your children important real-life skills, such as how to read nutrition labels and what they should be eating, Smash Your Food HD is an impressive application for kids. Your child will enter their age and how much exercise they regularly get so that the app can calculate how much salt, sugar, and oil they should be consuming.

With the nutritional labels given for common fast foods as a guide, your kids will then need to estimate how much oil, sugar and salt is in each item. After they’ve submitted their answers, they’ll be able to find out whether the food they’re looking at is healthy for them. Finally, your young ones will get the opportunity to smash the food to pieces, watching a can of soda rip apart or a jelly donut burst!

Fitness Kids

Fitness Kids is an application designed by experts in the fields of pedagogy, physical education, and health. Packed with interesting exercises for children between the ages of 6 and eight, this app teaches children each movement through the use of colorful, engaging videos.

What makes Fitness Kids a little different from other applications is that it offers funky music and colorful backgrounds for a stimulating experience, and the exercises themselves are fun to do. Your kids will keep coming back for more as they figure out their favorite movements, such as the Conga or the Crab. Your children can also engage in competition with their friends, and their skill levels will improve as they continue to progress.

Keep Moving!

Getting your child to give up on technology might be an impossible task, but using that technology to your advantage could provide a safe and easy way to invest in their health. Think about how much time your child currently spends in front of a computer screen and ask yourself if you’d feel better knowing that they were playing a game designed to get them learning and moving.

The earlier your child starts to get in shape, the more chance they have of reducing their risk of certain illnesses. Kids who are frequently active experience:

  • A lower chance of becoming overweight
  • Stronger bones and muscles
  • Reduced risk of type 2 diabetes
  • Potentially lower cholesterol and blood pressure levels
  • Leaner physiques
  • Improved confidence

On top of this, the more active a child is, the better he or she will sleep, deal with emotional challenges, and manage physical strain.

Let us know if you’ve discovered any great applications tailored to children that get your young ones moving more often.

Resources:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/brad-spirrison/kids-health-fitness-apps_b_3580013.html
http://www.parents.com/fun/sports/exercise/10-benefits-of-physical-activity/
http://www.pcadvisor.co.uk/features/digital-home/3520917/how-much-screen-time-is-healthy-for-children/
http://www.naturalnews.com/043761_weight_fate_childhood_obesity_healthy_eating.html
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/super-stretch-yoga-hd/id456108738?mt=8
http://www.parents.com/fun/sports/exercise/the-benefits-of-yoga-for-kids/
http://www.strava.com/
https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/iron-kids/id552037626?mt=8
http://www.foodnme.com/smash-your-food/
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/fitnesskids/id534467673?mt=8

10 Ways to Promote Safe Biking for National Bike Month

Friday, May 1st, 2015

bike riding

Around the country, bicyclers have been supporting National Bike Month every May since 1956. Sponsored by the League of American Bicyclists, May gives experienced and novice cyclists a chance to participate in bicycling events, try out biking for the first time, and promote safe bicycling practices. Want to participate in the fun? Here are 10 ways you can promote safe biking during National Bike Month.

Know and Follow Bike Safety Rules

Before you start having too much fun, you’ll want to review what safe biking actually entails. BikeLeague.org shares a list of safety tips and advice on how to maintain your bike. A few tips from their list to keep in mind include:

  • Keep your tires inflated to the pressure listed on your tire.
  • Inspect your brakes frequently to ensure they work properly.
  • In addition to always wearing a helmet, make sure your helmet fits properly.
  • If riding at night, be sure to wear bright and reflective colors.
  • When riding on a trail, stay to the right, pass on the left, and ensure you use a signal—such as a horn or your voice—to let other riders know when you’re about to pass.

Once you’ve reviewed these safety rules, be sure you’re following them at all times. Not only will it set an example for young riders, but it will ensure your safety along with the safety of others around you.

Help Educate Fellow Bikers and Non-Bikers About Rules and Etiquette

Now that you’re aware of common bike safety rules, you can share your knowledge with others. As you gear up for riding this May, make sure anyone else riding with you understands these safety rules. For instance, it might be a no-brainer to wear a helmet, but some riders—especially those who don’t bike often—may not know to call out “On your left” when passing other riders.

It’s also worth discussing these rules and etiquette with non-bicyclers as well. While they may never go riding, they’re likely to encounter other riders, and it’s worth knowing what “On your left” means before a biker passes you.

Print Out Promotional Materials to Share With Friends

If you’re not sure how you can help this National Bike Month, it’s as simple as printing out promotional materials and sharing them with family and friends or on promotional bulletin boards. These materials can cover anything from promoting biking events to sharing infographics covering safe biking practices. If you’re not sure where to get this material, check out BikeLeague.org’s promotional materials for National Bike Month.

Wear a Helmet

It’s one thing to know you should wear a helmet. It’s another to actually put it on. The Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute reports that bicycle helmet use can reduce head injury risk by 85 percent. While it may seem like you don’t need one since you don’t reach high speeds while biking, accidents between cars and bicyclists are a real possibility.

As the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute reports, “During the past few years, no more than 17 percent of fatally injured bicyclists were wearing helmets.” This again highlights the importance of helmet use among riders of all ages.

Use Reflectors

PedBikeInfo.org reports that the most common source of injury for bikers is being hit by a car. On average, 69 percent of biker fatalities are in urban areas where there’s a lot of traffic. One way to add an extra layer of safety to your biking practices is to use reflectors. This will help drivers see you more clearly, especially at times of low visibility.

Most bicycles already come with reflectors, but it’s worth testing them out to ensure they function properly. You can also add reflector tape to your pedals and other areas of your bike to ensure a higher level of visibility. You might also consider an electric flashing reflector that will help drivers see you from a distance at night and in fog.

Keep Your Bike in Shape

Not only do you need to protect your body with a helmet and biking gear, but you’ll also want to protect your bicycle. A worn out bike can lead to faulty brakes, broken chains, and other problems that can cause wipeouts and crashes. A few tips to keep in mind:

  • Keep bolts, bearings, and chains greased.
  • Test your tire pressure frequently, and pump your tires if needed.
  • Before taking off, test your brakes. Replace your pads once there’s about a ¼ of the pad left.
  • Store your bike in a clean, dry place during the off-season to reduce rust and wear.

If all else fails, take your bicycle into a bike mechanic regularly to ensure everything is in working order. Check out more maintenance tips at REI.com.

Reach Out to Your Government for Better Biking Conditions

If there are a lot of people in your town who bike, it’s important that they’re biking under safe conditions. Oftentimes riders are left to share the road with cars, which can lead to accidents. Other times, sidewalks aren’t wide enough for bikers and pedestrians to share.

If you really want to make a difference this National Bike Month, talk with your local government about creating better biking conditions in your town, such as by adding a bike lane in areas of high traffic. Petitioning for bike lanes close to schools is a good way to encourage students to ride their bikes to school while providing a safe environment to do so.

Volunteer at a National Bike Month Event

National Bike Month is packed with fun events for bikers of all ages. May 15, for instance, is National Bike to Work Day this year, and May 6 is National Bike to School Day. Even if you can’t find a National Bike Month event in your area, you can always plan one yourself! BikeLeague.org shares a guide to helping you plan an event in your neighborhood. Some ideas include bike safety workshops, training classes, and bike races.

Host a Safety Assembly at Your Local School

Whether you’re a student looking to spread the word of safe bicycling or a concerned parent or teacher, you can reach a lot of potential cyclers by hosting a bicycling safety assembly at your school. See if you can get your local district to agree to a presentation. Share statistics, videos, and stories with students, and try to get both teachers and students actively involved.

Participate in a Ride Smart Class

The League of American Bicyclists has been focused on education since the 70s. Their Ride Smart class teaches bikers more about riding, and it helps connect them with other cyclists in their area. Take a look at BikeLeague.org’s map to find a Ride Smart class in your area.

We’re avid cyclists at SPARK PE and believe that safety is a priority for any physical activity. While bikers should be promoting safety practices all year round, National Bike Month helps raise awareness of these issues, and you can leverage this nationwide event to get the word out. What will you do this May to promote safe cycling practices?

Sources:

http://bikeleague.org/bikemonth

http://www.helmets.org/stats.htm

http://www.pedbikeinfo.org/data/factsheet_crash.cfm

http://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/bike-maintenance.html

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

SPARK Teams Up with ICAN Foundation

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014

SPARK Teams Up with ICAN Foundation to Rush Past Childhood Obesity with New Orleans Saints Running Back Pierre Thomas

Partnership aims to decrease “screen-time” and increase physical activity both during school and after school with quality PE programming and community events

SPARK™, provider of the world’s most-researched physical education programs, is partnering with ICAN Foundation to make an immediate impact on the lives of students in Illinois, Louisiana and Mississippi. SPARK and ICAN Foundation will work together to help schools and community centers raise funds or apply for and win grants in order to implement SPARK’s high-quality physical education curricula or afterschool program.

SHAPE America recommends that school-aged children receive at least 60-minutes of physical activity per day. This is hard to achieve if students spend most of the eight-hour school day sitting behind desks. SPARK fights this sedentary school model by making classroom instruction, PE classes and after school programs more physically active. Similarly, the increased amount of time youth spend using electronics is impeding on physical activity after school and on the weekends. Through its community programs and initiatives, ICAN Foundation is helping create more active lifestyles to demonstrate how being active can be fun and rewarding.

“After learning about the similarities of our organizations and the fact that SPARK is the number-one research-based health organization in our country, I knew a partnership was necessary,” said Pierre Thomas, New Orleans Saints running back and founder of ICAN Foundation. “This will be a great opportunity for everyone involved, especially the students.”

“Working with ICAN Foundation is the perfect marriage of ideas for SPARK,” said Paul Rosengard, executive director of SPARK. “With the foundation’s deep community connections in Illinois, Louisiana and Mississippi, and SPARK’s 25 years of experience in schools nationwide, we make a great team. With a joint goal of increasing the amount of physical activity youth receive every day, we know that together we can make an impact on those communities.”

How Can You Help?
Together, ICAN and SPARK will implement research-based programing to help combat childhood obesity in Illinois, Louisiana and Mississippi. Your support, partnership, or donation can assist us in our efforts. Please contact us to learn more and support the effort to combat childhood obesity.

Dr. Kymm Ballard
SPARK Partnership Development Manager
(336) 263-3646
kymm.ballard@sparkpe.org

Vincent Calabrese
ICAN Foundation
(312) 285-9384
calabresevm@gmail.com

About ICAN Foundation
ICAN Foundation was founded by Pierre Thomas, New Orleans Saints running back, in response to the ongoing problem with childhood obesity. ICAN Foundation was established to prevent and educate the children and their parents about the seriousness of childhood obesity in the United States. www.believeican.org

About SPARK
SPARK is a collection of research-based Physical Education, After School, Early Childhood, and Coordinated School Health programs for educators serving Pre-K through 12th grade students. Since 1989, SPARK has provided curriculum materials, teacher training, and consultation to over 100,000 teachers and youth leaders, representing many thousands of schools, organizations, and agencies worldwide. SPARK also helps educators find physical education grants. For more information on SPARK, visit www.sparkpe.org or email spark@sparkpe.org or call 1-800-SPARK-PE.

ICAN Foundation-1

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

10 Tips for Teaching Dance

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

10 Tips for Teaching Dance

By BJ Williston

SPARK K-12 Trainer & Curriculum Developer

I was lucky to have been exposed to a wide variety of types of dance as a kid. Living in Hawaii, my first experience was taking hula lessons with my older sisters. I may have been the only redhead in the halau (or hula school) but I loved the feeling of moving to the beat and changing as much as my more native-looking friends. In school, our PE teacher taught us square dance, Polynesian cultural dances, and later dances to the hit songs of the day. I am certainly dating myself when I say we danced to Three Dog Night’s “Joy to the World” and The Jackson Five’s rendition of “Rockin’ Robin”.

In middle school we choreographed our own routines and performed in front of the class. The groups were teacher-assigned which meant a mixed bag of students cooperating to complete the task. I have great memories of that assignment. By high school I was taking jazz and modern dance classes outside of school and joined a dance company which performed around the island. We rehearsed several nights a week and the experience helped build my confidence and gave me a greater insight into the life of a dancer.

At the time I didn’t realize how fortunate I was to have been given such a well-rounded dance education. Looking back on it, I owe a lot to my PE teachers who cared enough to expose me to dance at such an early age.

Why teach dance?

My guess is that most teachers inherently know that dance is an important part of every child’s education. Aside from bringing pleasure, dance can increase health-related fitness as well as improve balance, coordination, and balance. Dance brings us more in touch with diverse cultures and may be used as a tool to teach or reinforce cultural awareness. Learning a dance helps memory and sequencing skills. In addition, dance can be a form of self-expression and creativity. Many dances promote social skills like cooperation and teamwork. Dance is typically a non-competitive activity that most students enjoy. So, the real question should be why not teach dance?

As I’m sure you know there are some PE teachers who don’t teach dance. They have all sorts of excuses for leaving dance out of the curriculum. If you are one of these teachers, this blog is for you. Let me put your worries at ease as SPARK can help you overcome just about any barrier you may have for not teaching dance. Below are a few of the barriers and ten tips to help overcome them:

I’m not a “dancer”

No one is expecting you to be an expert in everything. Most PE Specialists are more comfortable teaching certain activities over others. You may be the Invasion Games Expert or the Aquatics Guru or the Racquets and Paddles King/Queen. But just because you are not an “expert” in an area does not mean you can’t teach it. Here are a few ideas for teaching dance when you yourself are just learning:

1. Start small: Look for dances in the SPARK program that have just a few steps like the Conga, The Bunny Hop, The Pata Pata, etc. Get your feet wet with these to build your confidence and see how your students take to dance.

2. Build on that: Each time you teach a dance, use that dance as a warm-up for your next few lessons to reinforce learning. Allow students to add their own twist to dances as they get more comfortable. Revisit your dances throughout the year and keep building their repertoire.

3. Use the Jigsaw Method: Many of SPARK’s dances are broken into 3-4 discernable parts. For example a dance with Verses, Chorus, and Instrumental parts with 3-5 steps in each. Students begin in Jigsaw Groups, then # off according to how many parts there are. They then move to Learning Groups where they are all learn the same steps and become an expert in those steps. When ready, they return to their Jigsaw Group and each student teaches the part they learned. Like a jigsaw puzzle, they put it together to form one full dance. This method encourages students to work cooperatively, promotes reading, and allows students to interpret the dance steps in order to teach them.

4. Get a little help from SPARKfamily: All of the K-12 PE and After School dances are now available on SPARKfamily.org in a new section called SPARKdance.  SPARKdance provides the instructional materials, music, and videos for each dance.  There are two videos per dance – an Instructional and an All Together version. Use the Instructional video to go through each dance step-by-step. Then use the All Together video to help lead the group through the dance with no stops. This frees you to move around the area to help students in need.

5. Turn over the reins: Use PACE dances to allow students to learn at their own pace with a partner or small group. SPARK also has a “Create a Dance” activity in most program levels. These activities should be used after other dances have been taught so students can build on what they have learned.

6. Find an expert: Whether it is another teacher at your school, a parent volunteer, a student teacher, community member, or even one of your students, there are “expert” dancers all around! Invite someone to be a guest teacher a few days each month. Once students learn the dance, get a few students who are comfortable leading, turn on the music, and dance away! Again, this frees you to move throughout and provide feedback to your class.

I don’t have the right music

There are all sorts of resources out there to help you with music. Try some of these:

7. SPARK provides an mp3 version of each of the songs for all of our dances on SPARKfamily.org. SPARK also has CDs with all of the music from each program. Click Here to download the order form.

8. iTunes allows you to purchase songs one at a time for $0.99 or $1.29. Be sure to listen to them for content appropriateness!

9. Some companies, such as Kidzbop® put out kid-friendly versions of the most popular songs of the day.

10. Stay tuned for the SPARKdance DVD set (including instructional materials, music, and videos) in September 2014!

We don’t have a dance room

Very few schools do, so don’t let that slow you down. A gym is perfectly fine for dance. If you don’t have a gym, a blacktop or even grass works just fine. Basically, kids can dance anywhere! It certainly helps to have a good sound system so you and the students can hear the music well.

Now, don’t let your students go one more week without getting them moving to music. It’s the right thing to do! Have fun!

Ready to get started? Join the #SPARKdance contest May 27, 2014 – June 30, 2014 for a chance to win an iPad Mini! Click Here to learn more.

10 Tips for Teaching Dance

Common Core Survival Guide (CCR in PE: Mission Possible)

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014

Common Core Survival Guide (CCR in PE: Mission Possible)

What is “College and Career Readiness” (CCR) and how do we as physical educators walk this talk?

In 2012, the Educational Policy Improvement Center published an article by Dr. David T. Conley, PhD offering, “A Complete Definition of College and Career Readiness.” Having researched several explanations and definitions of this concept I found Dr. Conley’s work to be on target and relevant to physical education.

Within his definition Dr. Conley identifies Four Keys to College and Career Readiness.

  • THINK: Key Cognitive Strategies
  • KNOW: Key Content Knowledge
  • GO: Key Transition Knowledge and Skills
  • ACT: Key Learning Skills and Techniques

In this blog entry we’ll look at two of these keys as they relate to CCR in PE, saving the other two for a future post.

First, Key Cognitive Strategies, “are the ways of thinking necessary for college-level work” (Conley, 2012). Students must be able to identify and formulate problems or challenges in order to conduct focused research, interpret the results and then communicate findings with appropriate accuracy.

In SPARK High School PE we guide students through this process with Jigsaw learning and teaching experiences. In teams, students are given a set of skills and strategies needed for successful participation in a unit. Next, they split up with each of the team members becoming the “expert” in one specific skill or concept. After the research is complete and students have become competent or proficient in their specific area, the groups come back together and communicate to (i.e., teach) their teammates what they’ve learned. In this way, students are provided an authentic context for practicing a way of thinking which aligns to CCR.

Second, Key Content Knowledge as it applies to the technical area of physical education includes key skills and knowledge, the ways in which individuals interact with those skills and knowledge, their value to the learner, and the ability to reflect on how personal attitude and effort can contribute to successful mastery of specific knowledge or skill sets.

This CCR Key provides an opportunity to take a quick look at the new National Standards and Grade-Level Outcomes for PE. Standard 3 and its outcomes at the high school level (S3.H1.L1) jumps right into the center of this CCR Key, “(The learner) discusses the benefits of a physically active lifestyle as it relates to college or career productivity” (SHAPE, 2014). This discussion requires key content knowledge learned throughout the scope and sequence of a quality PE program. Specifically, what are the various benefits of physical activity? It also prompts reflection on how this knowledge directly relates to future productivity. The next progressive step is to ask students who have acquired this knowledge, “what does this understanding mean with regard to your own personal commitment to physical activity and wellness?”

At SPARK we’re all about keeping MVPA levels high in physical education classes. We don’t advocate sacrificing physical activity in an attempt to increase student learning. In fact, evidence suggests our teaching strategies promote BOTH. However, discussions like the one described above are critical to the core outcomes of our content area and therefore must be built in to our lesson structure. If we don’t provide focused discussion in physical education classes, then where will these important talks take place?  Chances are they won’t happen at all.

That’s a very brief look at the first two keys to College and Career Readiness. We’ll look at the final two in the next Common Core Survival Guide blog post.

Click Here to read Part 1 of the SPARK Common Core Survival Guide Blog Series

Click Here to read Part 2 of the SPARK Common Core Survival Guide Blog Series

Happy 25th Anniversary to SPARK!

Monday, May 19th, 2014

How can SPARK be 25 when I’m only 39??

But it’s true!  In June, 1989 a couple of “relatively young” Professors from San Diego State University, Drs. Jim Sallis and Thom McKenzie, received a large award from NIH (National Institutes of Health) to create, implement, and evaluate an elementary school physical education program that could maximize health and behavior related outcomes, and eventually (if successful) become a nationwide model.  Project SPARK (Sports, Play, and Active Recreation for Kids) was born 25 years ago.

As they say, the rest is history.  Today, after many more research and special projects from Early Childhood through University levels, SPARK is referred to as, “The most researched and field-tested physical education program in the world.”

While the data tells an impressive story about significant student outcomes in physical activity, fitness, motor/sport skills, academic achievement, enjoyment of PE, activity levels away from school, program sustainability and more, there are a few lesser known stories from the early years of SPARK.

Did you know?

  • Jim Sallis thought of the name SPARK and the acronym
  • The first SPARK logo was orange and black (scary!) and the colors were voted on by kids in the study
  • One of the original consultants on the first SPARK study was Dr. Bob Pangrazi.  And Bob came back and spent a couple weeks in San Diego with us during our M-SPAN (Middle School Physical Activity and Nutrition – funded by NIH) project that ran from 1996-2000.
  • Kecia Carrasco was Jim and Thom’s first hire, and Kecia is still with SPARK today, 25 years later!
  • BJ Williston worked on the pilot study from 1989-1990 and after a hiatus to work on other studies/projects, she came back to SPARK again about 10 years ago and is now a Lead Trainer.
  • I met my wife Wendy in 1990 when the intervention began and we were married in 1991.  She was one of the elementary classroom teachers at a school we were working with.
  • SPARK won the Governor’s Commendation Award from California Governor Pete Wilson in September 1993
  • The SPARK dissemination effort began in 1994 (20 years ago) and Poway Unified School District was the first to purchase SPARK
  • SPARK’s Director of Dissemination, Leticia Gonzalez, joined SPARK as a part-time employee after her freshman year at San Diego State and has never left!
  • We used to have two cartoon characters in the pages of our manuals – SPARKle and SPARKy!  They were pretty cute, some of us were sad when they grew up…
  • SPARK’s first “beyond the 50 U.S. states experience” was Saipan in 1995.  I led workshops for the elementary physical education teachers on the island and it was a great experience.  Ironically, we’re sending trainers back there again this month.
  • Jim pronounced me – decreed actually — Godfather of SPARK in 1995.  I have a plaque to prove it!  So, if you want a favor, you’ll need some cannoli…

Over more than two decades, all of us at SPARK have appreciated the opportunity to provide innovative instructional materials, effective teacher training, excellent follow up support, and content-matched equipment to thousands of physical educators and physical activity leaders across the globe.

Thank YOU.

Cheers to another 25 years!

Paul RosengardSpark yellow logo color

1993 Governors Award

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

Advocating for Physical Education and Student Health

Friday, March 14th, 2014

Republicans and Democrats don’t agree on much these days, but that doesn’t stop hundreds of people from going on “The Hill” to advocate for quality physical education.  And, it seems to be working!  Advocacy has helped provide federal funding for physical education and other important public health initiatives.

Two major organizations advocating for physical education are the Sport and Fitness Industry Association (SFIA) and AAHPERD (soon to be called SHAPE America).

The SFIA National Health through Fitness Day brings together approximately 150 leaders and 15-20 sports celebrities such as Herschel Walker, Mia Hamm, Abby Wambach, Peyton Manning, and Tim Brown, to fight for the Carol M. White Physical Education Act (PEP).  Many physical educators and sporting goods companies have no idea how hard this group works to provide the only federal funding for physical education.  Until you have been in a back room with Gary Player and hear the level of conversations with a Speaker of the House, it is hard to imagine all of the work, money and time that goes into keeping PEP grants funded and safe.

Last week, SPARK was on the Hill with SFIA and the celebrities showcasing quality physical education with local DC Public School (a SPARK district) students.  We are proud to be sponsors and participants of this important advocacy day.  And, if you haven’t seen the video of Herschel Walker doing a SPARK dance with the students yet, click here. This video has had over 1,600 views on Facebook! You can view more photos of the event on the SPARK Facebook page.

SPARK is in DC again this week for National Speak Out! Day hosted by AAHPERD. National Speak Out! Day provides a venue that encourages all of its members to be strong advocates for the profession and for children.  AAHPERD members, sponsors, and associates storm the Hill to meet with their district or state representatives and share with them firsthand what is going on in their home towns.  They share personal experiences, unintended consequences, successes, and possible solutions.  Members advocate for PEP funding and other critical educational issues like educating the whole child.  Educating legislators on quality physical education is essential to making an impact on the national policy landscape.

We all have to do our part to help policy makers understand the benefits of quality, daily physical education taught by credentialed specialists.  We need YOU (teachers, administrators, parents, wellness professionals, etc.) to advocate on the Hill and/or your local governing bodies (School Board and State Legislators). Won’t you join us?

Here are some helpful hints:

  • Make them smart, before you make them mad: Share the full truth, even if some of it is bad.  You can advocate year-round by sharing issues on student health (obesity) in your district.  Share the facts and results from your testing, especially now with student growth evaluations.  You don’t always have to ask for something to advocate, as a matter of fact, true advocacy is not asking, but educating! We want decision makers to know the facts about your program and school district to help them make decisions.  This gains their trust.
  • Make friends before you need them: Provide success stories from your school and share them with your representatives.  Send letters about your school that showcase the positive things you are doing with students.  SPARK salutes all of these organizations and others who work hard on behalf of quality physical education programs and their teachers.
  • Support your friends: Help friends who are advocating on your behalf.  Especially AAHPERD and SFIA in their efforts on the national level, however, there are many others including state and local supporters you have and may not know.  Seek them out and support them.  Visit their websites and send letters.

SPARK is excited to actively support initiatives that support quality, daily physical education taught by credentialed specialists.  Here are a few relevant examples.

1. Recently, publicity around the First Lady’s Lets Move! initiative has sparked enough interest that Let’s Move! Active Schools was created.  This brought together organizations across sectors to increase physical activity in schools.  SPARK signed on and is a supporting organization for Lets Move! Active Schools. We are excited and motivated to have pledged at least 800 schools to sign up and increase physical activity during school!

2. SPARK attended both SFIA and AAHPERD days on the Hill again this year, and plan to go every year!  We sponsor and assist in demonstrations to showcase quality physical education.  We speak to Legislators about what quality physical education looks like and how important it is.  We provide success stories and call on them throughout the year through sign on letters and other advocacy efforts they provide.

3. SPARK feels so strongly about this, we created an Advocacy section on our website (under Resources).  This page will assist you by providing videos, tools, links, and ideas on how to advocate for physical education and wellness programs.  Please visit our advocacy page at http://www.sparkpe.org/physical-education-resources/advocacy/

SPARK is much more than our researched-based programs.  SPARK is proud to invest money, staff and time to advocate for policies that support quality, daily physical education for all!

So, won’t you join us in advocating for physical education and student health?

Support PEP Button


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