Archive for the ‘Physical Education’ Category


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

How to Use SPARK Integrations

Friday, February 7th, 2014

If you are a SPARK physical activity or physical education program user, you’ve most likely heard about our fabulous, but not-yet-famous SPARK Integrations on the back side of each activity plan. Found next to the Extensions and just above the Tips and Pointers, these little nuggets are a not-so-hidden gem that can be used to help integrate other subject areas into your PA/PE program, or to infuse some wellness messages or physical activity elsewhere throughout the day. Each program has their own unique topics appropriate for the participants of that program.

  • Early Childhood integrations are all of the Academic persuasion and include Art, Literacy, Mathematics, Music, Nutrition, and Science.
  • After School integrations reinforce learning from the activity, increase MVPA (Moderate to Vigorous Physical Activity) at home, and coincide with the Think Abouts used at the end of the activity. They are all Home Plays, meaning they give information to kids to use in their home life and include Move More, Character Matters, Fitness Focus, and Food Facts integrations.
  • K-2 Physical Education features Academic, Home, and Wellness integrations.
  • 3-6 Physical Education includes Academic, Home, Wellness, and Fun Fact integrations.
  • Middle School Physical Education has Home, Wellness, Global, and Multicultural integrations.
  • High Schools Physical Education includes Home, Wellness, Global/Multicultural, and Sport Literacy integrations.

Please explain these!

Academic integrations link PE to the classroom and back. These range in subject matter from literacy to math to science. These are one of the many ways SPARK helps to address the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts and Mathematics (Examples: 3-6 Flying Disc: Corner to Corner Give and Go and EC Super Stunts: Animal Movements 1)

Home and Move More integrations promote physical activity at home with friends or family members. (Example: AS Cool Cooperatives: Kin-Ball Cooperative Golf)

Wellness integrations provide tips on nutrition, safety, health, etc. (Example: K-2 Catching and Throwing: Switcheroo)

Fun Facts are only found in the 3-6, but these are some doozies! They include an interesting short story or tall tale that you and your students will get a kick out of and share with others. They are connected to the activity by name or theme, but not necessarily by a straight line. (Example: 3-6 Soccer: Soccer Golf)

Multicultural connect activities to diverse cultures found locally and regionally. (Example: MS Dance: Create a Poco Loco)

Global connect activities and/or units to history, customs, and practices of countries around the world. (Example: MS Golf: Bocce Golf)

Sport Literacy integrations provide useful skill, strategy, or game regulation specifics that pertain to each unit. (Example: HS Badminton: Win the Point)

Character Matters help develop social skills and positive character traits like fair play, initiative, trust, etc. (Example: AS Cool Cooperatives: Hog Call)

Fitness Focus and Food Facts: I don’t think I need to describe these other than to let you know they are great! (Examples: link to AS Great Games: Builders/Bulldozers and AS Super Sports: Mini-Basketball

 

Sounds cool, but how am I going to use them?

Teachers of physical education and physical activity (PE Specialists, Classroom Teachers, Activity Leaders, Early Childhood Leaders, etc.) use the integrations in a variety of ways. Here are a few ideas:

Read during Warm-ups: As students/participants are warming up (e.g. during Perimeter Move) read the Integration aloud to set the stage for the activity to follow. This works best with the types of integrations that give information about that activity, like the Wellness, Multicultural and Global, Fun Fact, and Character Matters integrations.

As an Extension of the Activity: Many of the integrations are actually hidden extensions in that they change the way the activity is played and the focus has now been placed on something math, literacy, or science-related. These Academic Integrations (found in EC, K-2, and 3-6) can be used during the middle of the lesson as an extension to integrate these academic subjects INTO Physical Education. These vary from a quick science fact about aerobic capacity to a math extension that changes the focus of the game to utilize mathematical skills. (E.g. 3-6 Jump Rope: Jumping Color Tag)  When using any of these, it’s wise to check with the classroom teacher to see if the level of academics is appropriate for his/her class and to prepare for teaching the extension instead of the activity as written on the front page.

Read during Cool-down:  While students are cooling down (e.g. stretching) read the integration and discuss using pair/share. For example, after playing Durango Boot (AS Flying Disc) read the Character Matters integration and ask students to discuss the how competition motivated them in the game with a partner. Call upon 3 pairs to share what was discussed. This tends to work best with Home Plays, Move Mores (in AS), Character Matters (as a reflection on behavior during class) and Sport Literacy (to review rules/concepts learned during the lesson.)

Put on Bulletin Boards: Print copies of the integrations. (For MS they can be found on SPARKfamily.org under each unit’s instructional media in the Planning section, just below Unit Plans but all other programs they are on each activity’s backside.) Post the integrations for each week’s lessons so students can read throughout the week as they pass by. This use works best with all types of integrations except those providing an extension to the activity by changing the focus to something academic. Ask students questions about them during roll-call or warm-up to assess their learning. Reinforce students who respond appropriately.

Share with Classroom Teachers: It’s all great to integrate other topics into PE to help address Common Core State Standards, but what about a little reciprocity? To help integrate PE concepts into academic classes, share integrations with your classroom teachers. If you are a classroom teacher, they could be used as short physical activity breaks and an infusion of wellness facts throughout the day. The types of integrations that work best here are those pertaining to Wellness and any Home Play activities.

Use with the Little Ones: If you are a leader of a pre-school/early childhood program, there are a variety of ways you can use the integrations. They serve as academic enrichment tools for before, during and after a SPARK lesson. Use the Music integrations during circle time and the Art integrations during center time. E.g. “We made an umbrella with our parachute today. Can you draw an umbrella?”  (Example: EC Parachute Play: Umbrella)

An example of a Science integration is a discussion about baby animals in a SPARK activity called Guppies. Math integrations may include the concepts of shapes, counting, and grouping. Many of the Literacy integrations suggested in SPARK can be easily added to circle time because they prompt children to act out a story using a skill learned during movement time. All of the books suggested in the Literacy Integrations coordinate with the lessons and relate to one or more of the following themes: colors, language arts, mathematics, movement skills and knowledge, nutrition, personal development, science, self-image, and social development. (Example: EC Building Blocks: Creative Words and Movements)

The Early Childhood program also includes Family Fun activities (in the bottom left corner on the backside of activity plans) which serve as a type of Home Play to promote physical activity at home with their families.

 

Please share how you use them!

Have you been using integrations in these or other ways? If so, please share with us at SPARK. Email your ideas at spark@sparkpe.org. We’d love to share your best practices with the SPARK family!

Parent Tips: Helping Your Child Overcome PE Anxiety

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014

If your child experiences anxiety about PE class, you can make a huge difference—not just in their PE experience, but in their life as well—by helping them through it. Not only will your child learn to overcome fears and gain self-confidence, but they’ll get the all the benefits of PE too. After all, physical education is an important aspect of any child’s life, teaching them long-term healthy lifestyle habits, reducing sedentary time, increasing academic performance, and teaching other valuable lessons like teamwork, persistence, and goal setting.

Your child is not alone—many kids experience anxiety about PE for many different reasons, and the best thing to do is help them overcome their fears to grow and learn. Keep reading to learn how you can help your child feel confident when it’s time to go to physical education class.

Determine the Reasoning

Whether you begin to notice your child’s grades slip in PE or he even voices the fact that he does not like physical education class, it is important to first determine the reason why this is the case. Getting to the bottom of your child’s source of anxiety or animosity towards physical education class can help you to come up with the proper solutions.

There are many common causes of PE anxiety in children and teens. Some of the most common include:

  • Lack of confidence in physical ability
  • Fear of being picked last for teams
  • Self-consciousness about one’s body
  • Being bullied in school

If you are unsure of your child’s reasoning for disliking physical education class, have an honest and open conversation. It is important to be as open and non-judgmental as possible so that your child will have a better chance of opening up to you.

Speak with the PE Teacher

Once you are sure of your child’s reasons for having anxiety over PE class, it may be a good idea to schedule a conference with his or her physical education teacher. The teacher may be able to tell you things about your child’s performance that you were unaware of. For example, perhaps your child voiced to you that he does not like PE because he hates running. To your surprise, the physical education teacher may tell you that your child is one of the best runners in the class but fails to reach his full potential because he is worried about being made fun of or looked at differently because of his abilities.

Furthermore, speaking with the physical education teacher can be a great way to alert the teacher to problems he or she may not be aware of. Perhaps the teacher does not know that the child has PE anxiety. By working with the teacher as a team, you may be able to form a game plan together to make your child feel more comfortable and perform better in PE. After all, your child’s physical education teacher ultimately wants your child to perform well in the class.

Work on Stress-Relief Techniques

Consider working with your child to develop some techniques for relieving stress and calming down when feeling anxious about PE. Practice taking deep breaths with your child, explaining how taking even just three deep, cleansing breaths can help them on the spot when those anxieties pop up.

Help Your Child Find a Niche

If your child has anxiety because of a perceived lack of athletic ability, start by explaining that they don’t need to be excellent at sports to fit in at school. Help your child understand that they aren’t alone by describing uncomfortable moments you had in PE—being picked last for a team, not being able to get the hang of a sport, etc.

To help him or her gain confidence, however, do what you can to help your child find physical activities that he or she truly enjoys. Whether it is playing a game of soccer, going for a jog, or signing up for karate or dance class, making sure that your child has at least one physical activity that he or she truly enjoys is important. Not only will this help them feel more confident at school, but it teaches the value and joy of exercise.

On that note, it is also important to make sure that your child has plenty of time to explore different physical activities. If his or her schedule is jam-packed with music lessons, homework, church, and other activities, take a step back and re-assess your child’s schedule. He or she may be feeling understandably overwhelmed. Make sure that your child still has time to be a kid and have fun while getting a workout in the process.

Boost Your Child’s Confidence

The reality is that most children tend to overthink social situations, especially ones in which they are worried about being embarrassed. This is especially true in PE class. So what if your child cannot do the most sit-ups in the class? More than likely, nobody else is counting expect for the teacher.

Teach your child that it doesn’t matter if they are the best, worst, or somewhere in between at a sport or skill—the only thing that matters is giving it a good try. Confidence isn’t about knowing you’re the best. It’s about knowing that you can give something your best shot—or even just a shot at all.

Lead by example. Be open and willing to put yourself in positions that test your own confidence. Show your child that you don’t take yourself too seriously—that you are free to be yourself in any situation, whether people might be watching or not.

Practice Together

If your child feels anxiety about certain sports or skills, take time to help them improve—even if you aren’t so great at it yourself. In fact, this can be better because you will be learning together and showing your child that it’s okay to be a beginner.

Having someone to learn and practice with—especially a parent—can make a world of difference.

Overall, many children face PE anxiety; it is especially common among middle school and high school aged children, but it can happen at any time. It is important that you are proactive in helping your child tackle his or her anxiety for maximum success in physical education class. By finding out what the root of your child’s anxiety is, consulting with his or her teacher, and working one-on-one with your child to develop stress-handling techniques and self-confidence, you can get your child on the path to success in no time.

Carol M. White: A Lasting Legacy of Physical Education

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

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

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

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

PEP: Funding Fit Children

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

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

A Mission about More than Money

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

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

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

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

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

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

Necessary Funding and a Legacy of Hope

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

——

SPARK Holiday Gift to YOU: 10% PE Equipment Discount & FREE Shipping!

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013

Use Promo code 049HOLIDAY13 to receive a 10% discount and FREE Shipping on SPARK PE equipment from December 10th - December 31st, 2013.  Click Here to start shopping!

Promo Details:

  • Must order online through SPARKstore (Click Here for the SPARKstore)
  • Valid: 12/10/13 – 12/31/13
  • EP 10% discount off 9/8 items
  • LP 32.5% discount off 9/8 items
  • Free shipping on 9/7 items
  • Cannot be combined with any other discounts
  • Free shipping does not apply to furniture, curriculum products, or other large ship items.  Items must ship parcel only to qualify for free shipping.  Available in continental U.S. only.  Online orders only

Questions?  Contact us at 1-800-SPARK PE or spark@sparkpe.org

Fluff-Balls---90mm

Why Should You Be a PE Advocate?

Friday, July 5th, 2013

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

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

Benefits of PE

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

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

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

How to be a PE Advocate

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

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

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

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

Check out SPARK’s other advocacy resources for help.

How Common Core Can Be Implemented in P.E.

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013

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

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

Reading

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

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

Writing

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

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

Math

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

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

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

Benefits of Music and Dance in PE Class

Thursday, June 6th, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

2. Music motivates movement.

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

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

3. Music is a great timer.

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

4. Music enhances performance.

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

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

5. Dance is a lifetime sport.

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

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

3 Great Middle School Lesson Plans to Try This Month

Friday, February 8th, 2013

Need some ideas for engaging and enjoyable activities? Here we’ve listed three great middle school lesson plans to try this month.  SPARK Middle School Physical Education (MS PE) was designed to be more inclusive, active, and fun than traditional PE classes. Aligned with NASPE National Standards, each one of these lessons are easy to learn, and easy to teach. Enjoy!

2-Minute Drill

This classic football activity is a good one to start with since so many students are familiar with the game already. Here’s the setup:

  • Form groups of three students and one football.
    • Pick one quarterback, one center, and one receiver.
  • Use your feet to make a 10-step by 15-step grid with cones at the corners.

The point here is to practice snapping the ball to the quarterback, running a passing play, and scoring a touchdown. Students should be fast and score as many as they can in two minutes. Here are the rules:

  • Students line up on any side of their grid: center in snapping position, quarterback behind and receiver to the side.
  • QB yells “Hike!”, the center snaps the ball and the receiver runs out for the catch.
  • A touchdown is scored when the ball is caught beyond the opposite gridline.
  • If a touchdown, the QB and center run to the receiver and start over from the new goal line. If no touchdown is scored, the receiver runs back to the QB and center to try again.

This activity focuses on specific sports skills, aerobic capacity, cooperation, accepting challenges, and teamwork. You can increase or decrease the size of the grid to accommodate the ability of your students. As students improve, add another receiver and defender to the mix!

Click Here to download the complete lesson plan.

Daytona 2000

Now here’s one that will get their motors running! (As long as their motors are their feet, of course.) The object here is for a team of two to accumulate 2,000 steps while running laps around a course one minute at a time. Here’s how to set it up:

  • Designate two elliptical courses with cones, one inside the other. The outer path should be 25 by 50 steps, and the inner course 20 by 45 steps.
  • Give each student a pedometer (or one to each team if there are not enough).
  • Play music for one minute at a time to designate when partners switch.

You only need four cones for each track; that way you can have your students count how many cones they pass before it’s time to switch. Here’s how the game works:

• One partner begins on the outer track, jogging at a continuous pace for one minute. The other partner walks on the interior track in the opposite direction.
• At the one-minute mark (designated by your music), the partners continue around their track until they meet, they high five, and then switch.
• 2,000 steps is the goal, but can your students do more?
• Add difficulty by having students dribble a soccer ball or basketball while they jog!

The features of this fast-paced activity include aerobic capacity, interval training, and accepting challenges. Students even learn to motivate each other!

Click Here to download the complete lesson plan.

Sepak Takraw

If the name of this game sounds foreign to you, that’s because it is! Sepak is Malay for “kick,” and takraw is Thai for “woven ball.” The object is for students to hit the ball over a net using only their feet and legs. It’s very similar to volleyball, only no hands are allowed. Set it up like this:

• Six students are assigned to a grid that is 8 by 8 paces in the area.
• Create two teams of three, with a net between the teams made of jump rope and cones.
• Teams of three form triangles in their square, with one person at the net and two in the back row.

Yes, students can let the ball hit the ground, but only once between passes. Students must use their feet to hit the ball to the other side of the net in three or fewer passes. Here are some more rules:

  • Only the serving team can score. Teams serve by having one player lob the ball to the center player, who kicks it over the net to the other team.
  • The serving team earns a point when the defending team does one of these things:
    • Kicks the ball out of bounds
    • Takes more than 3 hits to return the ball
    • Touches the ball with a hand or arm
    • Traps or catches ball with feet or body
    • Lets the ball bounce more than once between kicks
  • If the serving team scores, they continue serving. If the defending team wins the volley, no teams score points.
    • When the defending team scores, they get to serve.
    • The players on both teams rotate.
  • Don’t forget to encourage communication between teammates! If your classroom is highly skilled, or you want more players per team, expand the court and put more students in play.

This difficult but rewarding activity promotes learning transferable foot skills and game strategy, increases aerobic capacity, and teaches cooperation and appreciation of diversity.

Click Here to download the complete lesson plan.

Now that you’re equipped with three more lesson plans, it’s time to get out and play!