Archive for the ‘Physical Education’ Category


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.

Introducing: Project IGNITE!

Tuesday, September 6th, 2016

Project-IGNITE-blog-image

By: Naomi Hartl, PE Development & Technology Specialist, Sportime featuring SPARK

These two questions are frequently asked in the physical education profession today:

  • “What does effective teaching look like in a physical education class?”
  • “How can I observe model teaching practices in physical education?”

Physical educators are not always given time to observe other teachers within their school or district, and administrators observing classes may not understand what an effective physical education lesson looks like. They may think if students are smiling, moving, and behaving, then the educator is an effective teacher.

While the physical education classroom may “look” different from a general classroom, both require sound instructional practice, which is essential for an effective physical education program. Therefore, a recurring problem is the minimal knowledge about what evidence-based teaching practices look like in physical education.

There are many informative resources available that support effective teaching. These may be in the form of blog posts, resource documents, journal articles, and books. However, there is nothing that is freely and readily available to the public that visually shows us what it looks like.

This is where Project IGNITE! comes in…

Project IGNITE! is a free resource package, brought to you by the SPARK Innovation Team, that includes SPARK Lesson Checklists, an Effective Teaching Resource Document, and the much anticipated Project IGNITE! Video Library.

The purpose of Project IGNITE! is to elevate the profession by providing a platform that shares videos of what effective teaching looks like in a physical education setting. This platform will allow administrators, physical educators, university professors and pre-service teachers to begin to have collaborative conversations about what effective teaching looks like in physical education and begin the shift from a teacher evaluation lens to a professional growth mindset.

The Project IGNITE! Video Library is a crowd-sourced project where educators from across the country contribute by sharing videos of their lessons. All videos submitted will go through a vetting process before being posted on the website. We would like to post video clips that represent multiple levels of what effective teaching looks like in physical education and encourage you to share video clips at every level of your teaching. All videos are stored and posted for free on www.SPARKecademy.org.

Sportime featuring SPARK is actively searching for an elite group of effective physical educators to showcase best practice from their programs and assist others by adding their expertise to our online Video Library.

Ready to learn more?

Join us on for a free webinar on September 14th at 5pm PT, 8pm ET to learn more and join the movement. Click Here to register for the free webinar.

Want to get started? (after September 14th)

Log in or create your free account at SPARKecademy.org, then navigate to the Project IGNITE! Video Library under the Course Catalog. View videos, download resources, and access instructions for uploading your video.

Join us as we revolutionize the profession by sharing what effective teaching looks like in a physical education setting!

Back to School: Creating that Positive Learning Environment

Thursday, September 1st, 2016

Group of little girls and boys in front of blackboard

By: BJ Williston, SPARK Trainer and Curriculum Development Consultant

The beginning of the school year is always a fun time for leading some icebreakers with your students. Icebreakers are meant to “break the ice” that might exist when a group of people, in your case, your students, don’t know each other. They are also helpful when kids do know each other but may be too shy or embarrassed to open up and work to their potential. Icebreakers done well can really help get your school year off to a great start. Here are five tried and true icebreakers that are fun, involve everyone, help students get to know each other better, and help break down barriers that may exist. Enjoy!

  1. 3, 2, 1
  • Find a partner. You have about a minute to come up with three UNIQUE things you have in common. E.g. You both swim on a team. NOT: You are both girls. (Have three pairs share their commonalities and give them time to discuss.)
  • Now, you and your partner join another pair to form a foursome. This time find two UNIQUE things the four of you have in common. (Have three groups share their commonalities and give them time to discuss.)
  • Finally, your group joins another to form a group of eight. Your task is to find one thing you all have in common! (Have three groups share their commonalities and give them time to discuss. Then discuss how they came up with their commonalities and how it helps to know things we have in common with others.)
  1. The Name Game
  • How quickly can we form a circle touching elbows?
  • In the Name Game we will start with me and move clockwise around the circle. When it is your turn, step forward, say your name loud and clear, and the physical activity you like to do best. When you say your activity, also act it out.
  • After each person, the rest of the circle calls out their name and acts out the activity while saying it. E.g. Joan likes to jump rope!
  • Continue around the circle, stopping to review every 5-7 students, until everyone has gone. Then we’ll do one final time around to review.
  1. Workout Buddies
  • Mingle, mingle in our activity area at a walking pace. Stand thumb to thumb with a partner. This is your Thumb Wrestling Buddy. Whenever I call “Thumb Wrestling Buddy!” find this person and begin thumb wrestling. (Explain and demo thumb wrestling. Allow them to practice for 30 seconds or so.) Say goodbye and thank you, then jog away.
  • Stand elbow to elbow with a new partner. This is your Rock, Paper, Scissors Buddy. You will be partners when I call “Rock, Paper, Scissors Buddy!” (Explain and demo rock, paper, scissors. Allow them to practice.) Say goodbye and thank you, then side-slide away.
  • Stand knee to knee with a new partner. This is your Knee Tag Buddy. In Knee Tag the object is to tag your partner’s knees while they try to tag yours. Use only one hand; the other hand wraps around the wrist of the hand you are using. (Allow them to play.) Say goodbye and thank you, and then skip away.
  • Stand back to back with a 4th This is your Secret Handshake Buddy. You will have one minute to create and practice a secret handshake that has five moves. (Allow time to create and practice.)
  • These Workout Buddies will be used for the first few weeks of school. Let’s do a quick review so we remember who our four buddies are and what to do when we meet them! (Call each buddy name and allow time for students to find their specific buddy and begin the activity. Once all have found each other, quickly move to the next buddy.)
  1. Change Three Things
  • Find a partner. You have one minute to look at and memorize what your partner looks like.
  • On “Turn away” both of you turn away from your partner (you’ll be back to back) and change three things about your looks; they can be subtle or obvious. On “Turn back” both of you turn to look at your partner and guess the three things they changed.
  • Turn away! (Give them about a minute to change things around.) Turn back! (Allow time for partners to figure it out.)
  • Now we are going to do it again! This time you will have to get even more creative! (Repeat at least one more time.)
  • (Discuss what it takes to be observant. Also, how were you able to change things and get creative?)
  1. Rock, Paper, Scissors Fan Club
  • Find a partner. On signal, play rock, paper, scissors with this partner. The lucky one raises their hand and looks for another lucky one with their hand raised to play again. The unlucky partner becomes the biggest fan of the lucky partner, cheering their name and following close behind them.
  • Then, after the next game, the lucky one repeats and this time all three of the unlucky partners are part of their fan club, which is now a growing fan club.
  • Continue until there are only two lucky ones left and half the class is cheering one name and half cheering for the other. These two will play one final match.
  • When there is one final lucky one, the whole class cheers for that player!
  • (Because it is based on luck, it is fun to see kids who have never been the center of attention or on the “winning side” of things. It is a nice way to end a class.)

Back to School: PREP, SET, TEACH!

Tuesday, August 16th, 2016

Coach Giving Team Talk To Elementary School Basketball Team

By: BJ Williston, SPARK Trainer and Curriculum Development Consultant

Well, it is that time of year again! You have squandered another perfectly good summer and now you need to get ready for the new school year. If you teach using one of the SPARK Programs, this post will help you prep for a SPARKed-up year.

CREATE A YEARLY PLAN

Not looking forward to spending all your Sunday afternoons planning what to teach each week? Well, the Yearly Plan (YP) is the way to get it all done up front. This isn’t to say there won’t be some adjustments along the way, but it’ll save you many hours throughout the year. Not only that, it also ensures you will cover all the content needed for each grade level.

Each SPARK Program has sample yearly plans which can be used as written or as a guide to create your own that is more aligned with your needs. Things to consider when creating one for your school:

  • Standards and Outcomes: This is most likely your highest priority. If you do a Standards-Based Yearly Plan, try using SPARK’s as a guide. It covers all the outcomes for each of the grade levels showing which assessments to use and which SPARK activities help address those standards. It’s very handy!
  • Facilities and Equipment: Due to the reality of often sharing space and stuff, you will need to keep this in mind when writing the YP. For example, if there is only one track, you won’t want all 7th grade classes doing Track and Field at the same time. In our MS program, we have YPs for 6th, 7th, and 8th grades keeping these issues in mind.
  • Weather: It’s tough to teach flying disc activities when it’s crazy windy, and you wouldn’t want to be doing jump rope on a blacktop when it’s 100° outside. If you use outdoor space much, like we do in California, you’ll need to use the weather as your guide.
  • Team-Teaching: If two or more teachers are team-teaching PE, that needs to be figured out before you write up your YP. For example, if three 5th grade teachers want to “specialize” in one Spotlight on Skills unit for three months it might look like this: Ms. Sanchez teaches Dance, Mr. Anderson teaches Cooperatives, and Ms. Ng teaches Football. The YP shows all three for three months, with students rotating from teacher to teacher each month. Be sure to keep facilities and equipment in mind when selecting units.
  • Unit Plans: As part of a YP, you will need to have Unit Plans to schedule which activities you will teach on which days in order to address the standards and have students reach the outcomes for their grade level. SPARK has sample Unit Plans for each unit/section in each of the programs.

2016-2017 SPARK Calendar:
www.sparkpe.org/wp-content/uploads/SPARK-Calendar-2016-2017-Interactive.pdf

READY YOUR LESSON PLANS

Prior to each week you’ll want to pull out the lessons needed for each day and each class. Many teachers using tablets will create PDFs out of all the lessons needed for each grade level for the whole unit. Others, who like the paper lessons, will pull them out of the manual and put in sheet protectors and on clipboards for each day. Whichever way you go, prepping your lessons on Fridays ensures a smoother week to follow. SPARK has you covered and ready to adjust and challenge students with SPARK It Ups, Extensions, and Game Resets (depending on which program level).

View and download additional sample SPARK lesson plans:
www.sparkpe.org/physical-education/lesson-plans

GET YOUR EQUIPMENT, MATERIALS, AND MUSIC SET

If you didn’t do an inventory at the end of last year, shame on you. Just kidding! However, you should do one now so you know what you have and what you may need to order.

Before each unit, check out the What You Need page found in each unit’s Introductory Pages to ensure you have all required equipment before you teach each unit. If you don’t have the equipment, see if you can substitute something else, or possibly borrow from another school. (“If you loan me a KIN-BALL® and I’ll loan you a parachute!”) If that doesn’t work, either order it or change your plans! Once you have your equipment together, put it all in a cart (or two or three) so it’s ready to go and other teachers know you have dibs!

Check the lesson plans for any instructional materials needed and print them or pull from your SPARKfolio.

Be sure you have your music prepped and ready to go, as well. Make a playlist for each unit so you’ve got it all in one spot. You can use SPARK’s music from one of their CDs and SPARKfamily, and add your own if you like. Students always appreciate new, fresh music (clean versions, of course) they are hearing on the radio.

TEACH!

SPARK always suggests leading off the year with our first mini-units (Building a Foundation, The First 3 Lessons, The First 5 Lessons, and HS PE 101) followed by team-building activities from the Cooperatives Unit (3-6, MS, and HS). These activities help to establish a positive learning environment to set up protocols, learn and reinforce social skills, and promote cooperation and trust among your students. (It never hurts to revisit these throughout the year!) Follow your YP and make adjustments as you go.

By doing some extra prep now, you’ll save yourself a lot of work throughout the year. Who knows, maybe you’ll have time on the weekends to do some playing yourself! Golf, anyone?

Keeping PE Real…Real Fun, Real Engaging & Real Meaningful

Tuesday, August 9th, 2016

Physical Fitness Sports Team for Children

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

What’s Your PE Reality?

Have you ever faced the challenge of getting your students consistently motivated, engaged, and supporting one another? Can you imagine a festive, energized PE class where students, on a daily basis, show up early, give 100% effort, demonstrate leadership and teamwork, genuinely cheer the efforts of their classmates, and learn?

Sound too good to be true? Well, it’s not! Read on to learn more about proven strategies to make this your PE reality…

Authenticating Strategies

The simple, research-verified and teacher-tested strategies outlined below: promote a sense of belonging (affiliation), teamwork, and personal growth; establish the critical, and often misunderstood, cooperation-competition link; focus on fair play and character development; and enhance students’ participation and ownership in the learning-teaching process. While individually impactful, when used collectively these strategies create a genuine, fun, supportive PE environment.

  • Long Term Grouping

Form equitable learning teams early in the unit and keep students on the same team for the entire unit.

Benefit: Creates a context where teams have time to gel, and where loyalty, teamwork and personal growth are fostered.

  • Fair Play/Character Matters

Use a fair play contract that focuses on character traits to deliberately highlight expectations for your classroom.

Benefit: Adhering to fair play principles creates an environment that is supportive and encourages students to be responsible. Fair play extends beyond the PE classroom to all facets of life. Training students for a lifetime of cooperating and competing fairly is a worthy goal and one that must be vigorously pursued in PE.

  • Team Points System

Create a system where teams can earn and accumulate points across the unit for what you believe is important (i.e., fair play, on-task, exemplary actions, etc.). Point totals may be used to crown a unit champion.

Benefit: This system motivates because it accentuates the cooperation-competition link. Students are more task-focused and goal-oriented and teachers experience more efficient classrooms with fewer behavior problems.

  • Student Roles

Develop roles and associated responsibilities to ensure students learn about all aspects of activity including player/participant, official, scorekeeper, etc.

Benefit: Students learn from and enjoy performing non-player roles. Students assume more ownership and teachers are able to accomplish more when students assist. If space and/or equipment are limited, the use of non-player roles provides a way for more students to be meaningfully involved and simultaneously reduces the problems associated with students who would otherwise be idle.

  • Season with a Culminating Event

Title the unit a “season” and segment it into pre-, in- and post-season phases, with a culminating event (think Super Bowl, World Cup, Dance Olympics) to end the unit.

Benefit: The event represents a meaningful destination and a venue for the application of the unit content in an authentic or “real” context. It inspires students to work cooperatively toward successful participation, promotes a spirit of unity within teams, and fosters a sense of healthy competition between teams, especially when paired with the fair play and team points systems.

Next Steps

Make PE real for your students by:

  • Selecting two or more of the authenticating strategies from above to implement.
  • Identifying one class in which to implement the strategies you selected.
  • Reflecting on the implementation and challenging yourself to add strategies and classes as you and your students become increasingly comfortable with real, meaningful, and fun PE!

What other strategies do you use that serve to make PE meaningful for your students? We would love to hear from you in the discussion section below.

USC Students Excited about SPARK Physical Education Curriculum

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2016

By: Dr. Kristy Hilton, Adjunct Professor at the University of Southern California

When I signed on to teach the “Movement for Children” physical education class to current and prospective K-6 teachers at USC earning their Masters of Education degree and/or California Teaching Credential, they were using a quality, often-used textbook in these types of graduate classes. Although an excellent textbook, I knew it would end up on the shelf gathering dust once the student completed the class. I suggested to the Department Chair to switch to the SPARK research-based curriculum for a long career value for these teachers. Now that the faculty has taught it for the past six years, the positive outcomes have been widespread.

Students in these USC “Movement for Children” classes are often overwhelmed with the volume of required academic content to crunch in the framework of a typical teaching day. To then add more content time for teaching physical education, plus their often lack of comfort teaching physical education, and possible lack of supplies and facilities just send them “over the top.”

The SPARK curriculum binder provides the students with standards-based, easy-to-read and execute lesson plans. They also receive access to online videos, assessment, and skill cards.

When the students at USC use SPARK lesson plans to provide their teaching videos, they quickly build their confidence to teach a quality, content-based physical education class. Not only are their physical education classes demonstrating excellent quality, but they inspire their Guiding Practice Teacher to begin teaching physical education, as well.

My students have written many testimonials to me about how the culture of their school with modeling the SPARK physical education program has changed. Some of these schools wrote grants and adopted using SPARK. Here is one of the student testimonials:

“At the end of class at USC, I just wanted to say thank you! SPARK has really changed classroom management for me. My students know that Thursdays are SPARK days, and they are extra good those days in order to earn SPARK time at the end of the day. I honestly feel more confident in teaching physical education even though I was no good at it when I was in school. Dr. Hilton, thank you so much for all of your patience and understanding, kindness, passion, and wisdom!! I know this class was only one credit or unit, but I learned so much about classroom management and instructional strategies. It blows my mind!

Rebekah Hwang – Student
University of Southern California – Los Angeles, CA”

SPARK has not only changed my students’ teaching quality, and the communities they teach, but has changed my perspective of how valuable SPARK is. If the bottom line is for our classroom teachers to incorporate physical education, then SPARK is the biggest bang for the buck.

Click here to learn more about SPARKuniversity resources!

Making Fitness Personal: 4 Steps to Fitness Ownership

Tuesday, July 19th, 2016

IMG_0148

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

Students Motivated?

Ever wonder about the best ways to motivate and make fitness personally meaningful for all students? If so, you’re not alone. To help, we want to share some proven strategies focused on student empowerment and inclusion that, when implemented properly, can help you motivate each student to achieve their personal best and take ownership of their fitness.

Empowerment Strategies

Strategies that offer responsibility, choice and meaning give students greater ownership over their personal wellness. These strategies include:

Meeting Psychological Needs

  • Competence – students can perform activities well and with confidence.
  • Autonomy – students have options and can choose activities in which to engage.
  • Relatedness – students have a partner, small group, or team to encourage and support them.

Authenticating PE

  • Teachers create personally relevant, socially meaningful, highly engaging experiences for students.

Providing Leadership Opportunities

  • Teachers design positions of and chances for responsibility in which students engage.

A Sample 4-Step Empowerment Process

SPARK has designed a 4-step process for High School PE, where students have the option to earn SPARK Fitness Instructor Certification in a variety of content areas. The process is highlighted below and in the SPARK SFI Certification 101.

1. Master – basic movements and/or routines

In this step, the teacher is helping students remediate and refine individual movement competency.

  • Example: students master basic yoga poses or a “fun” salutation routine.

2. Create – a program or routine

At this point students develop a personalized fitness routine and/or program applying knowledge and skills.

  • Example: students select and sequence yoga poses to create a fully personalized yoga routine.

3. Lead – a fitness routine or station

Next, students showcase leadership and personal and social responsibility by guiding others in a fitness activity.

  • Example: students lead classmates through the personal routines created in step 2.

4. Pass Test – to demonstrate knowledge

Lastly, students complete a written assessment to ensure that they know the content well.

  • Example: students take a yoga quiz and must pass with at least 80% to earn the SFI Yoga Certification.

Next Steps

Make fitness personal for your students by:

  • Applying the empowerment strategies outlined above.
  • Implementing the example 4-step empowerment process in your own PE program.

For more ideas and resources for High School Physical Education, check out the SPARK High School Physical Education program.

Fun Physical Activities for Summer

Tuesday, July 12th, 2016

Fun_Physical_Activities_for_Summer

By: BJ Williston, SPARK Trainer and Curriculum Development Consultant

Include physical activity into every family event (e.g. parties, picnics, reunions, vacations, etc.). Choose activities that are fun for everyone; remember these do not need to be competitive or sports-oriented. You may have to invest in a few equipment items to help with this; some examples are flying discs, a smashball set, a soft volleyball and net, a croquet or Bocce ball set, kites, a boogie board, an inflatable dinghy, some bikes, etc. These will obviously depend on your family’s activity preferences, weather, and where you live. Choose activities the whole family enjoys, and do them together. This month we include three activity suggestions plus a SPARK Summer BINGO card to help you stay active throughout the summer. Try them all!

Roll the Dice Fitness

Grade level: K-1

Need: One die

Youngest in the family rolls the die. All players complete the activity below for the # showing.

  1. Hop on one foot 10X
  2. Jump side-to-side 10X
  3. Skip down the hall and back
  4. Sit and reach your hands toward your feet while singing the ABC song
  5. Walk like your favorite animal
  6. Complete five push-ups (from your knees or feet)

Hopscotch

Grade level: 2-3

Need: Chalk, a small rock (or any small tossable) per player, and a cement slab (driveway, sidewalk, etc.)

Create your own hopscotch court on the sidewalk or driveway using the chalk. Make it as long or as short as you like and be sure to include single and double spaces. Second or third grader goes first; he/she tosses the rock to the first spot on the court. Challenge him/her to hop and jump to the end and back, always skipping over any spaces with a rock. Each person in the family takes a turn, starting with youngest on up to the oldest. When it comes back to the second/third grader, he/she now throws to the #2 spot. Continue through to the last spot, alternating players each round.

Disc Golf

Grade level: 4-5

Need: One flying disc per player, an outdoor area (like a park or the beach) with various objects to use as targets.

The object of the game is to reach the “hole” with your disc from the starting point in as few throws as possible. Start by choosing a target for the “hole” (like a tree or fence post) that will be challenging to reach in 2-4 throws. All players begin at the same spot, beginning with the youngest and continuing to the oldest. After all have tossed, they move quickly to their discs and the player farthest from the “hole” throws next. All watch out for incoming discs! Continue until all have reached the target and everyone counts how many throws it took to get there.

Choose another object and begin on next “hole,” and after completing, continue for a total of 9 or 18 “holes.” Afterwards, everyone tallies their total score, adds their age, and that is their final score. Lower scores are the goal.

Try to improve each time you play, and change the course to make it easier or more challenging each time.

Staying Active over Summer Break

Tuesday, July 5th, 2016

Staying_Active_over_Summer_Break

By: BJ Williston, SPARK Trainer and Curriculum Development Consultant

It’s finally summer break! Your kids have been working hard all school year long and now they get to sleep in and veg out all day, right? Well, while they technically could do that, they really shouldn’t! Having so much free time over the summer is a nice break from the constant go, go, go! scheduling that often occurs during the school year. But rather than seeing summer as an opportunity to be more physically active, many see it as a chance to do…nothing. All that hard-earned fitness goes straight out the window. It must be remembered that the recommendation for 60 minutes or more of daily physical activity for children is not just for during the school year; it’s for ALL year! So, while there may not be recess or PE time scheduled into their days, children still need to get outside and get active doing something they enjoy in order to stay healthy and maintain their fitness throughout the year. Here are some tips for making that happen:

Be Supportive

If you need to be at work and your kids are too young to be at home unsupervised, summer camps that promote physical activity are a great way to keep your children active through the summer.

If at least one parent can be at home with the kids, offer to support them by:

  • Allowing your children to get together with friends to make physical activity more fun.
  • Providing toys that encourage their activity like a jump rope, bicycle, balls, flying discs, etc.
  • Providing transportation to and from physical activity venues when you can.
  • Engaging in physical activity with your children. This not only makes it more fun for them, it also gets you active as well!
  • Doing anything you can! Studies show children who feel supported are more likely to be physically active.

Plan Ahead

If your goal is to be active at least 60 minutes each day, you are going to need to schedule time for that. If you don’t, the day fills up with your errands and household chores, and kids end up settling in for hours of sedentary activities like watching TV or playing video games. Remember, though, that you don’t need to be active for 60 minutes all in one bout. In order to break it up, you could plan something in the morning and something in the evening, when it’s cooler.

To mix it up and keep it fresh, try rotating activities each day. Plan each week with your children so everyone gets a say in what you all do. When children are part of the decision-making there’s a bit more buy-in. Here’s a sample of a weekly plan with input from the whole family:

Monday: Take a dog walk in the a.m. and play basketball in the p.m.

Tuesday: Take a bike ride in the a.m. and a hike in the p.m.

Wednesday: Play catch in the a.m. and take a dog walk in the p.m.

Thursday: Go to the playground in the a.m. and swim at the beach or pool in the p.m.

Friday: Take a walk in the a.m. and kick a soccer ball around in the p.m.

Saturday: Go to the beach, a lake, or a park and bring lots of toys for activity!

Sunday: Take a hike

Everything may not go as planned, but do the best you can to keep physical activity a top priority each day and you’ll be giving your kids a better chance to reach their 60 minute goal.

Set Limits

Limit your children’s (and the whole family’s) screen time. The number of minutes is up to you, but the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a limit of 1-2 hours each day. This includes all types of screens including TV, movies, phones, tablets, computers, etc. Kids who are in front of screens more than 2 hours a day have a higher risk of being overweight and may have irregular sleep patterns.

Keeping TV, phones, tablets, and computers out of your children’s rooms is a big help. Those who have them in their room spend an extra 90 minutes glued to them than children without.

When children are watching TV, set a rule that there is no sitting during commercials. It helps to break up their screen time and limit the consecutive minutes seated.

Have Fun!

Keeping your activities fun is a great way to ensure your children will be active now as well as in the future. You want them to associate activity with enjoyment. Getting their input is important, but also exposing them to a variety of activities allows them to get a little taste of everything and find which ones they enjoy the most. Here is a list of some fun ways to be active:

  • Play volleyball with a beach ball or volleyball in the backyard or park.
  • Challenge the kids to a create-your-own obstacle course at the playground.
  • Take a family walk and prompt your kids to balance walk the curb and short walls as you go along.
  • Shoot baskets with an age-appropriate ball and basket.
  • Play a tag game at the park.
  • Take a nature walk at a park or preserve.
  • Play create-your-own golf using flying discs or soccer balls at your local park.
  • Take a family bike ride.
  • Have a nature scavenger hunt looking for things like feathers, rocks, seeds, leaves, etc.
  • Jump rope; either short or long ropes depending on everyone’s skill level.

Whatever you decide to do this summer, be sure to keep it fun and active. Your children will have a healthier, happier summer if you do!

Does Evidence-Based PE Matter? Part 3: Is Evidence-Based PE Easy to Implement?

Tuesday, June 28th, 2016

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Author: Dr. Kymm Ballard, SPARK Executive Director

Click here to read Part 1 of this blog series on Evidence-Based Physical Education, and click here to read Part 2.

What is the current evidence? Is it evidence/research-based or evidence-informed (we believe things are happening but may not be enough formal research to show it, like PE improves academic performance)?

Numerous refereed publications (over 45 to date) have reported SPARK physical education (PE) program effects, including papers showing evidence of achievement and/or significant improvement in the following variables:

  • Physical activity (MVPA)
  • Physical fitness
  • Lesson context and teacher behavior
  • Academic achievement
  • Motor skill development
  • Student enjoyment of the program
  • Adiposity
  • Long-term effects/institutionalization
  • Process measures (parent behavior, teacher acceptance of program)

Click here for our complete list of research & publications.

How feasible is it to implement and sustain?

Though the SPARK lessons are written with the certified teacher in mind, it was proven to be feasible and simple to implement and sustain. Through the SPARK trainings, teachers learn management techniques to increase MVPA as well as strategies for varying lessons based on an individual’s needs. This change in teaching leads to sustainability.

SPARK also has developed an effective Train the Trainer model, leading to a district adopted method of teaching that is a foundation for institutionalization, district empowerment, and leadership. Years of dissemination in the real world have shown that SPARK’s “return on investment” is outstanding when implemented correctly in the recommended doses and with fidelity. There have been papers also published on the sustainability of the program you can find here.

In conclusion, I eventually chose to work with SPARK because I saw the incredible difference it was making in the way teachers were doing their jobs day to day. I had coordinators tell me they had teachers now actually teaching that were previously described as “rolling out the ball.” They attributed this – in part – to the management skills learned during SPARK trainings. This wasn’t all new practice, but it was a way to disseminate best practices and improve the health of our children.

The research stands for itself on SPARK with 4 specific NIH studies and numerous others that utilized SPARK in their studies. There are also over 45 publications and 100’s of articles verifying the research still today. SPARK is being translated currently in several other countries and studied overseas — with one of the newest studies occurring in Iran.

If you want to see a tremendous improvement in your students and teachers and care about implementing an evidence-based physical education program that’s linked to public health objectives, SPARK is a proven choice.

For more on SPARK research and special projects, click here.

* Criteria adapted from Chalkidou, K., Walley, T.,Culyer, A., Littlejohns, P., Hoy, A; Evidence-informed evidence-making; Health Serv Res Policy July 2008 vol. 13 no. 3 167-173.