Archive for the ‘SPARK Blog’ Category


SPARK celebrates 25! Reflection from Dr. Jim Sallis

Monday, July 21st, 2014

SPARK celebrates 25!

By Jim Sallis

It’s exhilarating to celebrate the 25th year of SPARK. In 1989 we had big ambitions for our new NIH grant. We wanted to define what health-related physical education is, comprehensively evaluate a program that we designed to meet that vision, and then encourage schools to adopt the program so kids could be healthier. I could not have imagined where those ideas have led by 2014. I am very proud to be part of the SPARK story, because SPARK has improved the physical activity, health, and quality of life for millions children and adolescents over the past 25 years.

The research teams worked hard on the SPARK and M-SPAN studies that produced the original curricula, training, and support model and materials. But there are numerous successful research programs that never have any impact in people’s lives. What makes SPARK different is the staff, led by Paul Rosengard. Paul and the staff not only share the vision of improving children’s health through physical activity, but they have built an organization that brings the joy of SPARK to about 1.5 million young people every day. I use “joy” of SPARK deliberately, because the first data we collected in a pilot study were enjoyment ratings of SPARK PE classes. We were pleased that the fifth graders chose “smiley faces” almost all the time for all the class activities. Delivering fun has been our job at SPARK ever since.

At 25, SPARK as an organization is now an adult. The staff have high level skills and are dedicated to doing a great job at customer service. We have created a national network of trainers, and the feedback from staff development sessions continues to be consistently enthusiastic. We take responsibility for updating, expanding, and improving programs and products. Like most young adults, SPARK is a sophisticated user of technology. Our video group has produced hundreds of videos that help instructors deliver great physical activity programs. All materials are now available online. I am amazed that teachers now can take all of SPARK out on the field with iPads. That is a real revolution in physical education. SPARK is even doing some traveling, growing rapidly in India and China. I’m confident SPARK will continue to evolve and innovate so we can get better at delivering great instruction to teachers and great physical activity to students.

As long as our schools want children to be active and healthier, we will keep delivering the joy of SPARK.

Jim Sallis

http://sallis.ucsd.edu

James F. Sallis, Ph.D.

Distinguished Professor of Family and Preventive Medicine Chief,

Division of Behavioral Medicine. http://behavioralmedicine.ucsd.edu/

University of California, San Diego

SPARK Staff at ATM Dinner

SPARK staff celebrates 25 years at the Annual Trainers Meeting in June 2014

5 Tips for a Healthy, Well-Rounded Summer Vacation

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014

Summer break is a great time to recharge before the upcoming school year, but can also cause some problems if it isn’t approached with a plan in mind. Research has found that kids gain weight twice as quickly during the summer than the school year, and some academic regression can also take place while on that blissful summer break.

Planning activities such as exercising, to keep your kids physically, mentally and emotionally sharp over summer break will make those months that much more enjoyable for your family, and will really make a positive difference when the school year comes back around.

Here are a few ways to have your most active, fulfilling summer break yet:

  • Hit up the local library. Summer is the best time of the year to visit your neighborhood library and take advantage of its many free resources. In addition to summer reading programs, libraries usually plan special activities for kids who are out of school. Some libraries even offer low-cost or completely free kids’ fitness classes too.
  • Take a daily walk. The cooler weather in the evening coupled with longer hours of sunlight provide the perfect opportunity to get out and explore the neighborhood. Make a habit of heading out into the community as soon as the dinner dishes are washed—and continue it for as long as the weather permits.
  • Train for an event. There is no shortage of active events that take place in the summer months, from 5k road races to family fun days with classics like three-legged and potato sack races. Find an event or two in your area and then prepare by training as a family!
  • Volunteer. Use some of your family free time for good by spending some of it with a local organization. Look for a charity or non-profit with values that are important to your family, and explain the importance of what you are doing to your kids. You can even allow each kid to pick out the charity of their choice and then go as a family to volunteer.
  • Keep learning. The “summer slide” refers to the regression kids experience when they have too much time away from school. Whether you print off worksheets from your computer, enroll them in a science-centric camp or simply read together each day, find simple ways to keep the learning process moving forward in the summer months.

How do you keep your family from falling into unhealthy habits during summer break?

Physical Activity School Score: PASS it on!

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

Physical Activity School Score (PASS)

Why it’s Important that School Programs Provide and Promote Physical Activity

Regular physical activity is extremely important for children’s growth, motor skill and physical fitness development, and current and future health. Being physically active in childhood also provides a solid base for continuing to be physically active in adulthood. The 2008 National Physical Activity Guidelines recommend children engage in at least 60 minutes of moderate and vigorous physical activity daily, with at least three days per week providing muscle and bone strengthening activities. Unfortunately many children do not meet these national physical activity recommendations–especially on school days.

Physical education and recess (at elementary schools) typically provide some opportunities for physical activity at school, but they are often not scheduled frequently enough or facilitated in ways that fully engage all children. Many elementary schools in the USA do not have certified instructors to teach PE, and sometimes schools offer no structured physical education at all. Even in classes taught by PE specialists, research shows that children are sometimes active only about one-third of PE lesson time. As well, not all schools provide recess daily and sometimes children are kept from recess periods for academic or disciplinary reasons. Thus, in addition to the need for quality physical education and recess, other opportunities for physical activity should be made available throughout the day (e.g., classroom activity breaks, before and after school programs, and opportunities to walk, bike, and skate to and from school)

PASS: A Tool to Assess Physical Activity Opportunities at School

Many parents, School Board and PTA members, and school administrators have never been educated about the need for children to engage in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity and they are frequently unaware what quality physical activity programs at schools look like. Meanwhile, numerous research studies have identified specific evidence-based practices that are more likely engage children in physical activity at schools. To help advocate for physical activity programs at schools and provide information about these evidence-based practices to elementary school administrators, teachers and parents, Active Living Research, a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation sponsored us to create an on-line, interactive educational tool. To do so, we developed the Physical Activity School Score (PASS).

PASS is an 8-item questionnaire that allows respondents to assess various aspects of the main sources of physical activity at an elementary school. PASS increases awareness of evidence-based practices by providing feedback immediately after a response is made to each item. Following the last item, respondents are provided with an overall school score, and an opportunity to see how their school compares to other schools on each item and overall. PASS also provides easy links to online information to evidence-based school physical activity practices.

How Well Does Your School Score?

PASS takes about five minutes to complete. We hope that you get in the PASSing zone and try it out to see how well your school scores compared to the research-based criteria. Additionally, we hope you will deliver information about PASS to your friends, school board members, the PTA, and the parents of all he kids you want to help become active.

To learn more about PASS and to evaluate an elementary school near you go to:

http://activelivingresearch.org/physical-activity-school-score-pass

Here you can:

- See how PASS works

- Use PASS to assess an individual elementary school

- Download the “Pass  Background and Technical Manual”

Thom McKenzie, PHD, Professor Emeritus, School of Exercise and Nutritional Sciences, San Diego State University

Monica Lounsbery, PHD, Associate-Vice Provost, University of Nevada, Las Vegas

[INFOGRAPHIC] SPARK 25 Years of Success! Countering Childhood Obesity Since 1989

Monday, June 16th, 2014

For 25 years, SPARK has made it our commitment to reduce childhood obesity. Follow us on our journey back to where it all began. Without you, this wouldn’t be possible, so thank you for all the support you have provided to help us achieve our dreams!

SPARK PEs 25th Anniversary Infographic

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Take a Hike: How to Start Hiking With Your Family

Monday, May 12th, 2014
Hiking can be a great way to spend some quality time with your family, with nature, and with your exercise program, too. Day hikes are the best way to start hiking, and this article will show you how to get out there on that first trail.
Strap on your pack and lace up your shoes—it’s time to take a hike!
Shoes
Day hikes may sound like a walk in the park, and for some trails, you can get away with just your walking or everyday athletic shoes.
For others, you’ll want a pair of sturdy hiking or trail shoes. What to look for:
Ankle support
Arch support
Proper fit—not too small or too big
Breathability
Waterproof materials
Solid traction
Clothes
Think in layers, especially if starting in the early morning. Avoid cotton and go for light, breathable materials that wick away sweat. Wool or performance athletic socks keep your feet comfortable and dry all day.
A hat is an excellent addition to your hike and can prevent sunburns.
Packs
An ordinary, run-of-the-mill backpack off the rack of the discount store certainly works (as long as it’s comfortable). Start with what you have and work up from there. Make sure that the straps don’t rub and irritate arms and shoulders.
For a day hike, common items to keep in the pack include:
Lunch and snacks
Water
Trail map, compass, and other on-trail guides
First aid kit
Sunscreen
Lip balm with sunscreen
Bug spray
Allergy medicine, if necessary
Your phone may or may not be a good thing to bring, depending on service in your hiking area
Camera
Binoculars
Multitool
Journal and pen
Extra socks
Trails
You can find day hike trails at regional, state, and national parks, which are scattered all across the United States. You can also find trails near just about any location using an online service like trails.com or everytrail.com.
The American Hiking Society can help you find trails and hiking events in your area and sponsors National Trails Day each year with many parks, trails, and hiking groups across the country. It’s usually held in early June.
Food and water
A day on the trail is thirsty business and works up quite an appetite, too. For a day hike, you can pack a “sack lunch”—just avoid anything with mayonnaise or other foods prone to spoilage. Sure, you could cool it with a cold pack, but only if you don’t mind the extra weight.
Pack something salty, like nuts or pretzels, as a way of replenishing your body’s salts. Pack some sweet fruit or fresh veggies, too, to help add to your water intake.
Avoid sugary drinks, energy drinks, milk, or caffeinated drinks. That pretty much leaves you with the hiker’s friend, water. You’ll need at least 1 liter per person, two if the weather is hot and dry. Most adults will most likely need two, regardless of the weather. It really depends on the severity or difficulty of the trail, the length of your hike, how strenuously you are hoofing it down the trail, and the temperature of the day. It’s better to err on the side of caution and pack more than you think you might need, rather than be caught thirsty and dry on the trail.
Trail Etiquette
Enjoying the protected spaces in our beautiful country comes with responsibility. There are some common-sense rules all hikers must follow to keep the trail in good condition and be conscientious of others—and that includes the plants and animals.
Leave only footprints and take only pictures and journal notes—not rocks, flowers, or critters. Likewise, pack it in, pack it out—leave no trace that you were there.
Keep to the right. Just as on the road, when approaching another group of hikers, keep to the right side of the trail to allow everyone room to pass. In narrow areas where passing is impossible, the group closest to, or in, the narrow passage has the right-of-way.
Stay together.
Stay on the trail. Never venture off the marked trail very far. Not only can you get lost easier, but the trail is there for a reason. It was put where it is to allow us to enjoy the space without eroding it.
Obey all signs and warnings. Keep your eyes up and stay aware of any signage on the trial.
Day hiking is a rewarding, enjoyable, and healthy experience, especially with your family in tow! One word of caution: Once you hit the trail, you may discover a family activity that is highly addictive.
Go take a hike!

Hiking can be a great way to spend some quality time with your family, with nature, and with your exercise program, too. Day hikes are the best way to start hiking, and this article will show you how to get out there on that first trail.

Strap on your pack and lace up your shoes—it’s time to take a hike!

Shoes

Day hikes may sound like a walk in the park, and for some trails, you can get away with just your walking or everyday athletic shoes.

For others, you’ll want a pair of sturdy hiking or trail shoes. What to look for:

  • Ankle support
  • Arch support
  • Proper fit—not too small or too big
  • Breathability
  • Waterproof materials
  • Solid traction

Clothes

Think in layers, especially if starting in the early morning. Avoid cotton and go for light, breathable materials that wick away sweat. Wool or performance athletic socks keep your feet comfortable and dry all day.

A hat is an excellent addition to your hike and can prevent sunburns.

Packs

An ordinary, run-of-the-mill backpack off the rack of the discount store certainly works (as long as it’s comfortable). Start with what you have and work up from there. Make sure that the straps don’t rub and irritate arms and shoulders.

For a day hike, common items to keep in the pack include:

  • Lunch and snacks
  • Water
  • Trail map, compass, and other on-trail guides
  • First aid kit
  • Sunscreen
  • Lip balm with sunscreen
  • Bug spray
  • Allergy medicine, if necessary
  • Your phone may or may not be a good thing to bring, depending on service in your hiking area
  • Camera
  • Binoculars
  • Multitool
  • Journal and pen
  • Extra socks

Trails

You can find day hike trails at regional, state, and national parks, which are scattered all across the United States. You can also find trails near just about any location using an online service like trails.com or everytrail.com.

The American Hiking Society can help you find trails and hiking events in your area and sponsors National Trails Day each year with many parks, trails, and hiking groups across the country. It’s usually held in early June.

Food and water

A day on the trail is thirsty business and works up quite an appetite, too. For a day hike, you can pack a “sack lunch”—just avoid anything with mayonnaise or other foods prone to spoilage. Sure, you could cool it with a cold pack, but only if you don’t mind the extra weight.

Pack something salty, like nuts or pretzels, as a way of replenishing your body’s salts. Pack some sweet fruit or fresh veggies, too, to help add to your water intake.

Avoid sugary drinks, energy drinks, milk, or caffeinated drinks. That pretty much leaves you with the hiker’s friend, water. You’ll need at least 1 liter per person, two if the weather is hot and dry. Most adults will most likely need two, regardless of the weather. It really depends on the severity or difficulty of the trail, the length of your hike, how strenuously you are hoofing it down the trail, and the temperature of the day. It’s better to err on the side of caution and pack more than you think you might need, rather than be caught thirsty and dry on the trail.

Trail Etiquette

Enjoying the protected spaces in our beautiful country comes with responsibility. There are some common-sense rules all hikers must follow to keep the trail in good condition and be conscientious of others—and that includes the plants and animals.

Leave only footprints and take only pictures and journal notes—not rocks, flowers, or critters. Likewise, pack it in, pack it out—leave no trace that you were there.

Keep to the right. Just as on the road, when approaching another group of hikers, keep to the right side of the trail to allow everyone room to pass. In narrow areas where passing is impossible, the group closest to, or in, the narrow passage has the right-of-way.

Stay together.

Stay on the trail. Never venture off the marked trail very far. Not only can you get lost easier, but the trail is there for a reason. It was put where it is to allow us to enjoy the space without eroding it.

Obey all signs and warnings. Keep your eyes up and stay aware of any signage on the trial.

Day hiking is a rewarding, enjoyable, and healthy experience, especially with your family in tow! One word of caution: Once you hit the trail, you may discover a family activity that is highly addictive.

Go take a hike!

Springtime Family Fun

Monday, May 5th, 2014

Spring is finally here and with it comes many opportunities to enjoy all the season has to offer. Here is our list of favorite kid-approved springtime activities to get you up and moving whether you’re enjoying April showers or May flowers.

Spring in the Great Outdoors
1) Make the ground your canvas – Grab a bucket of chalk and head for the sidewalk. This creative activity is perfect for everyone—toddlers to grandparents! It’s also a great way to temporarily decorate the driveway or stoop for spring.
2) Take a nature walk – Slip on your walking shoes and head out of doors for a taste of spring in all her natural glory. Be on the lookout for spring flowers, nesting birds, bumblebees and butterflies in the garden, rainbows in the sky, and four-leaf clovers in the grass. Nature walks are a fabulous way to spend time together as a family, learn about the beautiful world around you, and improve everyone’s powers of attention and observation.
3) Visit the local farmers’ market – A trip to your local farmers’ market brings the freshest, yummiest produce around right to your reusable shopping bags. Support your local farmers and experience the joys of food and community. It’s healthy all around!
Spring in the Kitchen
1) Fix a spring dinner of salmon, new peas, and baby potatoes – Cooking seasonal, fresh foods helps you make the most of their nutrients and your grocery budget.
2) Enjoy some strawberries – Spring is berry season, and there’s nothing better than a juicy, sweet berry in season. Toss them in a spinach or fruit salad or just munch ‘em whole as a snack. Vitamin C and other antioxidants put a spring in your step.
3) Roast asparagus – The closer your asparagus is to the garden, the better it will be, in all ways. And roasting it is a sure way to bring out its sweetness without losing the crunch. Yum!
An Old-Fashioned Spring
1) Fly a kite – Kite flying is another great activity that can include just about the entire family. Look for a good open space on a nice, breezy day. Try your hand at homemade kites for a day of old-fashioned fun.
2) Plant a garden – The best way to celebrate spring is with dirt under your nails and sweat on your brow. Whether you prefer vegetables or violets, planting a garden is a good way to ensure plenty of time in the outdoors moving and investing in time in overall health—mentally and physically. It can also teach children responsibility and stewardship, as plants need weeding, pruning, watering, harvesting, and other care.
3) Visit a pond – Duck pond, lake, reservoir—it really doesn’t matter, but spring is the best time to visit. Baby ducks and geese, the peeping of newly hatched frogs, song birds and dragonflies flitting about, and perhaps even tadpoles and minnows to watch along the shoreline make these seemingly simple bodies of water wondrous eco systems for all to explore (treading lightly). Make an underwater viewer from a milk carton and a piece of plastic wrap. Pack a picnic lunch and make a day of it.
Soggy Springtime
1) Rainy Day Out – Put on your slicker and boots and head out for a walk the next time a gentle rain starts falling. Jump in puddles, dance in the rain, catch raindrops on your tongue. Don’t let days of endless soggy springtime weather keep you cooped up inside, or from taking your daily walks. Walk in the rain, for your health, for the heck of it, for the sheer delight it can bring.
2) Rainy Day In – Play board games. Plan a marathon of Oscar-winning films. Have an afternoon tea. Spend time reading stories aloud. Put come classical music on. Turn it off and listen to the rain on the roof, on the windows, on the pavement outside. Play dress up, or put on a play for family members (don’t forget to record it for grandpa and grandma). Making the most of rainy days helps every family member learn that there is no such thing as boredom. Each day is what you make of it.
Springtime is the perfect time for spending time with your family. Enjoy the season!

Spring in the Great Outdoors

  1. Make the ground your canvas – Grab a bucket of chalk and head for the sidewalk. This creative activity is perfect for everyone—toddlers to grandparents! It’s also a great way to temporarily decorate the driveway or stoop for spring.
  2. Take a nature walk – Slip on your walking shoes and head out of doors for a taste of spring in all her natural glory. Be on the lookout for spring flowers, nesting birds, bumblebees and butterflies in the garden, rainbows in the sky, and four-leaf clovers in the grass. Nature walks are a fabulous way to spend time together as a family, learn about the beautiful world around you, and improve everyone’s powers of attention and observation.
  3. Visit the local farmers’ market – A trip to your local farmers’ market brings the freshest, yummiest produce around right to your reusable shopping bags. Support your local farmers and experience the joys of food and community. It’s healthy all around!

Spring in the Kitchen

  1. Fix a spring dinner of salmon, new peas, and baby potatoes - Cooking seasonal, fresh foods helps you make the most of their nutrients and your grocery budget.
  2. Enjoy some strawberries - Spring is berry season, and there’s nothing better than a juicy, sweet berry in season. Toss them in a spinach or fruit salad or just munch ‘em whole as a snack. Vitamin C and other antioxidants put a spring in your step.
  3. Roast asparagus – The closer your asparagus is to the garden, the better it will be, in all ways. And roasting it is a sure way to bring out its sweetness without losing the crunch. Yum!

An Old-Fashioned Spring

  1. Fly a kite – Kite flying is another great activity that can include just about the entire family. Look for a good open space on a nice, breezy day. Try your hand at homemade kites for a day of old-fashioned fun.
  2. Plant a garden – The best way to celebrate spring is with dirt under your nails and sweat on your brow. Whether you prefer vegetables or violets, planting a garden is a good way to ensure plenty of time in the outdoors moving and investing in time in overall health—mentally and physically. It can also teach children responsibility and stewardship, as plants need weeding, pruning, watering, harvesting, and other care.
  3. Visit a pond – Duck pond, lake, reservoir—it really doesn’t matter, but spring is the best time to visit. Baby ducks and geese, the peeping of newly hatched frogs, song birds and dragonflies flitting about, and perhaps even tadpoles and minnows to watch along the shoreline make these seemingly simple bodies of water wondrous eco systems for all to explore (treading lightly). Make an underwater viewer from a milk carton and a piece of plastic wrap. Pack a picnic lunch and make a day of it.

Soggy Springtime

  1. Rainy Day Out – Put on your slicker and boots and head out for a walk the next time a gentle rain starts falling. Jump in puddles, dance in the rain, catch raindrops on your tongue. Don’t let days of endless soggy springtime weather keep you cooped up inside, or from taking your daily walks. Walk in the rain, for your health, for the heck of it, for the sheer delight it can bring.
  2. Rainy Day In – Play board games. Plan a marathon of Oscar-winning films. Have an afternoon tea. Spend time reading stories aloud. Put come classical music on. Turn it off and listen to the rain on the roof, on the windows, on the pavement outside. Play dress up, or put on a play for family members (don’t forget to record it for grandpa and grandma). Making the most of rainy days helps every family member learn that there is no such thing as boredom. Each day is what you make of it.

Springtime is the perfect time for spending time with your family. Enjoy the season!

SPARK’s Paul Rosengard Receives Honor Award

Monday, April 7th, 2014

At this year’s annual CAHPERD (California Association of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance) SPARK researcher, co-author and Executive Director Paul Rosengard was presented with the CAHPERD Honor Award for his “Outstanding and noteworthy contributions to the advancement of physical education in California.”

“It was special to receive the award in front of a lot of friends and colleagues” Rosengard said.  “I thanked two my mentors Jim Sallis and Thom McKenzie, as well as everyone on our SPARK team.  I felt very humbled and grateful to the CAHPERD board for supporting my nomination.”

A few years ago, Rosengard received a “Past President’s Award” from CAHPERD when he was singled out by Dr. Robin Reese of Sacramento State University.

“Robin was a brilliant writer and teacher and helped many of us think differently about physical education content and instruction.  You might say she went against the grain — a quality I admire greatly – so I was particularly happy to be acknowledged by her.”

This June, SPARK will celebrate 25 years of research (N.I.H. funded in 1989) and 20 years of dissemination.  Read more about SPARK at www.sparkpe.org

Paul CAHPERD Award

Healthy Body, Healthy Mind – The Benefits of Physical Activity in School (INFOGRAPHIC)

Friday, February 21st, 2014
Cutting PE out of schools is backfiring in a big way, contributing to our rampant childhood obesity epidemic and actually hindering students from top success in academic classes like science, math, and English.
Children should get about an hour of physical activity per day, something that’s vital to their growing bones, joints, fascia, and muscles. But more and more children are spending less time in PE class and outside playing and more time planted in their seats. This doesn’t just present immediate problems to the kids suffering from being overweight or obese; it poses dangerous long-term problems to their health and the progress of our nation too.
SPARK has been dedicated to being an advocate for PE and the fight against childhood obesity since 1989 by providing PE lesson plans, PE resources for teachers, and even a PE grant finder tool. Our infographic below examines why PE is so important, outlining current stats on PE and childhood obesity and the benefits of keeping PE in school.
Will you be an advocate for the health of your children, community, and nation? Join SPARK in the fight against childhood obesity by enjoying and sharing the infographic below.

Cutting PE out of schools is backfiring in a big way, contributing to our rampant childhood obesity epidemic and actually hindering students from top success in academic classes like science, math, and English.

Children should get about an hour of physical activity per day, something that’s vital to their growing bones, joints, fascia, and muscles. But more and more children are spending less time in PE class and outside playing and more time planted in their seats. This doesn’t just present immediate problems to the kids suffering from being overweight or obese; it poses dangerous long-term problems to their health and the progress of our nation too.

SPARK has been dedicated to being an advocate for PE and the fight against childhood obesity since 1989 by providing PE lesson plans, PE resources for teachers, and even a PE grant finder tool. Our infographic below examines why PE is so important, outlining current stats on PE and childhood obesity and the benefits of keeping PE in school.

Will you be an advocate for the health of your children, community, and nation? Join SPARK in the fight against childhood obesity by enjoying and sharing the infographic below.

Healthy Body Healthy Mind

Share This Infographic On Your Site

Healthy Family Habits for Every Month of the Year

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

True positive change is often not drastic or sweeping. It takes time to modify your family’s lifestyle and create lasting healthy habits. SPARK creates resources for educators to teach kids the importance of physical activity and healthy eating at school, but establishing a healthy routine begins with parents at home.

As you look ahead to the New Year, consider these suggestions to improve the health of your family:

January

Update your gear.

Getting organized is often at the top of the list when we turn the calendar for the New Year. Start by going through your family’s activewear and equipment to toss, recycle, or donate what no longer fits, works, or is used. This leaves room for any new gear you need, like running shoes for growing feet, jump ropes and balls, or even bikes for the family.

February

Get outside.

With the holidays behind us at this point and the cold dreary weather starting to take its toll, your family may want to hibernate inside until spring arrives. But winter inactivity is meant for bears, not humans! Find fun reasons to get outdoors. Winter sports, like skiing or ice skating, are fun for the whole family. Even if you bundle up for a simple daily walk around the neighborhood or play in the snow in the front yard, the fresh air and activity will do everyone some good.

March

Evaluate your family’s sleep habits.

March is the month when an hour of sleep is forever lost as we “spring forward” and set the clocks an hour ahead. But this is a great opportunity to look at the sleep habits of your family, parents included, to ensure that everyone is getting the right amount of rest. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention call sleep deprivation in America an epidemic that tends to accompany other chronic illness. This month, take a few minutes to improve the sleep habits, and therefore overall health, of your family.

April

Go to a ball game.

April marks the start of America’s favorite pastime as fans flock to baseball stadiums across the country. Taking your family out to the ballpark is an excellent way to get some fresh air and witness some inspiring athletic talent. If baseball isn’t your thing, find a basketball game, tennis match, or track and field meet to attend.

For added benefit, let the pros inspire you to play your own game of baseball (or other sport of your choice) in the backyard or park with the kids. Show them that it’s fun to work up a sweat, strategize, and partake in a little friendly competition just like the big-leaguers. Emphasize the importance of positive sportsmanship and team work for a well-rounded learning experience.

May

Join a gym.

Prepare for months of no school by getting set up at a nearby gym that offers classes and an active play area for kids. While kids certainly need some down time in the months away from everyday studies, resist television takeover. If you work during the day, pick out a few evenings to hit up the gym with your kids so everyone can burn off some of that summer energy.

June

Practice proper sun protection.

Actually, wearing the right sunscreen is important every month of the year—even the ones without much sun. Summer usually brings more opportunities for sun exposure, though, so make sure you are always prepared with sunscreen of at least SPF 30. You should also encourage your kids to wear hats out in the sun and do the same yourself.

July

Discuss oral care.

July is Oral Health Month (February is Children’s Dental Health Month), giving you the perfect opportunity to talk to your family about tooth care and decay prevention. Did you know that tooth decay is the top chronic illness in children? It is admittedly tough to make sure kids are really taking proper care of their teeth and entire mouth, particularly if they are resistant. Take some extra time this month to explain the importance of oral health in your family and to establish good habits.

August

Take up biking.

If you live close enough to your workplace or children’s school, make a commitment to walk or ride there instead of taking the car. You do not have to spend a lot to get the right gear. Check local consignment shops and garage sales for bikes that others have outgrown and then get a few weeks of practice in before the school year begins.

September

Do yard work.

Plain and simple, yard work burns calories and brings families together in a united front. Yard work also teaches responsibility and stewardship.

October

Practice moderation.

Halloween is often viewed as a candy and sweet free-for-all but it can also be a great lesson in portion control. Let your kids pick out their candy favorites and then donate the rest to an organization like Operation Gratitude, which sends it to U.S. troops overseas.

November

Run a turkey trot.

Start your Thanksgiving morning off right by entering a family-friendly Turkey Trot road race. These can be as short as a one-mile walk or as long as a half-marathon. Find the distance that accommodates everyone in the family and then bundle up!

December

Give back and raise awareness.

Find a cause that is close to your family’s heart and donate some time to it. Organizations appreciate donations of cash, clothing, and other household items of course, but actually working for the cause helps your kids really see the impact. Whether by sorting canned goods or sweeping out a shelter animal’s crate, find an active way to give back during the holiday season.

Making minor changes over time is the best way to establish healthy family habits and teach your kids about lifelong wellness. Start the year off right with the determination to stay active and you will be healthier overall come January 1, 2015.

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. 

 

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