Archive for the ‘SPARK Blog’ Category


What are The Components of a Successful Physical Education Lesson Plan?

Thursday, August 27th, 2015

A requirement for a successful physical education program is a strong foundation. The physical education lesson plan that you choose to include in your curriculum is one of the most important tools in your arsenal to help provide a well-rounded, engaging, and effective class. Choices for layout, focus, and supplies abound, but most all of them include a few primary factors.

physical education

Every great physical education curriculum brings in elements such as strength training, collaboration, cardio, and of course the element of fun.  Let’s take a look at how to get all of these elements into a lesson plan for each age group, and how to use national standards to help you do so.

Foundations for Each Age Bracket

Lesson plans can vary greatly depending on the audience. Students in each chapter of their education require work on different skill sets, and their interests diverge as well. Let’s take a look at some of the foundational items for elementary, middle school, and high school lesson plans.

Elementary

  • Focus on motor skills and coordination, and keep activities short and engaging

  • Promote personal responsibility, rules, and safety

  • Use collaboration and tandem exercises to increase confidence

Middle School

  • Focus on social confidence through cooperative group games

  • Promote individual confidence through goal-based activities

  • Begin introducing the foundations of strength training and an exercise routines

High School

  • Encourage students to find their interests through trial and error

  • Teach personal physical responsibility and how to incorporate exercise into daily life

  • Enhance foundations of strength training, stretching, and cardiovascular workouts

  • Promote the importance of sports that they can incorporate into their lives both today and well into the future

Supplies are also an important supporting tool in the creation of a great lesson plan. Balls, balance beam, mats, bean bags, hula hoops, climbing ropes, jump ropes, cones, and free weights can all help support and bring variety to any good curriculum. For programs needing financial assistance in buying physical education supplies, grants are available across the country.

Using the PECAT and HECAT

The Physical Education Curriculum Analysis Tool (PECAT based upon the NASPE national physical education standards, and the Health Education Curriculum Analysis Tool (HECAT), created by the CDC, can help you and your school district conduct a comprehensive self-assessment of your curriculum, ensuring that it is well-positioned for your particular students. The PECAT assesses:

  • How closely your curriculum aligns with national standards for high quality physical education programs

  • How well your content and student assessment corresponds to national standards for physical education for your grade level

  • How to identify revisions needed in district or individual school program curricula

Building Off Of Existing Resources

With a quick internet search, physical education lesson plans can be found from far and wide. But depending on your particular group of students and their accompanying school activities, it’s important to ensure that your plan is up to regulatory standards, and also dovetails neatly into after-school sports as well as the rest of the school curriculum.

Launched by the National Institutes of Health, SPARK PE provides new and innovative approaches to PE content, with lesson plans that have been tested in real world settings. Comprehensive lesson plans have been carefully created under the support of 20 years of ongoing research and field testing. Through the SPARK PE site you can find sample activity lesson plans for early childhood, the classroom, elementary, middle, and high school PE classes, as well as curriculums specially designed for after school activities.

Physical education is of growing interest in today’s population of expanding waistlines. The right curriculums help instill healthy habits that can follow children throughout their primary education all the way through adulthood.

SPARK Joins Forces with KIDS in the GAME, ICAN Foundation and Supporting Organizations to Combat Rising Issues of Childhood Obesity

Wednesday, August 19th, 2015

Latest collaboration supports Mississippi school with curriculum development, teacher training and equipment aimed at promoting high-quality physical education and nutrition programs that address student health needs

GREENVILLE, Wis., August 18, 2015SPARK™, the premier physical education brand of School Specialty (OTCQB: SCOO), is pleased to announce its exciting collaboration with KIDS in the GAME, the ICAN Foundation and other supporting organizations including GoNoodle, Play Like A Girl and Hip Hop Public Health to counter childhood obesity through the promotion of active and healthy living. Inspired by a school counselor’s passion to implement change in her classroom and community, SPARK recently teamed-up with KIDS in the GAME and ICAN Foundation to provide the Oakhurst Intermediate School in Clarksdale, Mississippi with much-needed resources to develop a comprehensive physical education and health program.

According to U.S. News and World Report, Mississippi leads the country in obesity rates, with about 32.5 percent of its adult residents considered obese – based on a body mass index (BMI) of more than 30, which translates to more than 197 pounds on a 5′8″ person. Further, in “The State of Obesity” report issued by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the state ranks #3 in the U.S. for type 2 diabetes.

This past spring, SPARK’s Executive Director Dr. Kymm Ballard, learned about a school counselor named Lisa Ross who singlehandedly started a fitness program for girls in the Mississippi Delta. Fondly known as ‘Pizzazz Ross’, Lisa created Si Se Puede at Oakhurst Intermediate School to encourage her female students to increase their physical activity and develop new, healthy eating habits.

Her enthusiasm and willpower to effect change despite the lack of financial resources, inspired Dr. Ballard to reach out and encourage Lisa to apply for a PHIT America GO! Grant administered by KIDS in the GAME. The grant would be instrumental in expanding Lisa’s vision for the entire school by incorporating the SPARK program into Oakhurst’s school day.

With the support of Principal Frederick Ford, Lisa applied for the grant, which was given significant consideration as part of a collaborative approach by KIDS in the GAME and SPARK. Together, Executive Director Suzie Nixon of KIDS in the GAME and Dr. Ballard helped Oakhurst with utilizing a $5,000 GO! Grant to catalyze interest from supporting organizations, including:

  • ICAN Foundation, which covered the cost of training and transportation for Lisa Ross and colleague, Gisha Stewart, to receive training this summer at the SPARK 3-6 PE Institute in San Diego. The Foundation is also assisting Oakhurst with the purchase of Sportime fitness equipment.
  • GoNoodle, which has Oakhurst Intermediate School students moving throughout the day with its interactive physical activity breaks — running, jumping, dancing, stretching and deep-breathing — is helping to improve student behavior, focus and academic performance.
  • Play Like A Girl, which is supporting the Si Se Puede program with consultation and programming, including their model Pop-Up Play Day slated for the spring of 2016.
  • Hip Hop Public Health, which is dedicated to promoting healthier food choices and smart exercise through online cartoons, video games, comic books, and music by popular hip hop artists.

KIDS in the GAME’s Suzie Nixon remarked, “The intention of our growing collaboration with SPARK and other partners such as ICAN Foundation, GoNoodle, Play Like A Girl, and Hip Hop Public Health is to raise awareness of the excellent resources available to increase minutes of daily physical activity among youth, particularly in the south. The need to counter obesity and inactivity is propelling local agencies, schools, nonprofit organizations and others across the country to combine forces to support all children in increasing their physical literacy and minutes of movement – in other words, their desire, confidence and ability to be physically active every day.”

“We’re honored to be joining forces with KIDS in the GAME and ICAN Foundation to help reverse the childhood obesity trend and promote lifelong wellness among our youth,” said Dr. Kymm Ballard for School Specialty’s SPARK. “We’re especially excited to work with the Oakhurst Intermediate School in Mississippi to integrate a proven, highly effective physical education program like SPARK into their curriculum. The school’s efforts to make a positive impact on the health of their student body and by extension, the surrounding community, through meaningful activity, fitness and nutrition, are admirable! With the generous sponsorship of ICAN Foundation, it was wonderful to host Ms. Ross and Ms. Stewart at this summer’s SPARK 3-6 PE workshop in San Diego, and we trust that the experience and insights gained will prove valuable to the Oakhurst program.”

SPARK provides evidence-based physical education, after school, early childhood, and coordinated school health programs to teachers and recreation leaders serving Pre-K through 12th grade students. Each SPARK program is a coordinated package of curriculum, teacher training and content-matched equipment. The SPARK pedagogy is focused on highly active games, dances and sports that maximize physical activity, while also incorporating nutrition and health instruction. The SPARK 3-6 PE Institute, which was developed through San Diego State University and originally funded by the Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), is designed to be more inclusive, active, and fun than traditional PE classes. Aligned with the National Association of Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) National Standards, SPARK PE lessons are easy to learn and easy to teach. They have been proven to work with both elementary physical education specialists and classroom teachers.

The alliance between ICAN Foundation and SPARK has been invaluable with regards to providing options to schools to make classes, PE and after-school programs more active. Together, the organizations work to raise funds and support the implementation of the SPARK physical education curriculum in local schools. The most recent assistance received from ICAN to enable Ms. Ross’ and Ms. Stewart’s travel to San Diego this summer to participate in training at the SPARK 3-6 PE Institute was very instrumental. ICAN’s founder and NFL running back, Pierre Thomas, saw the need and stepped up to help the two teachers from Oakhurst Intermediate School. In addition, Mr. Thomas and the foundation are donating content-matched equipment from School Specialty’s Sportime line to help Oakhurst increase students’ activity time.

Mr. Thomas underscored, “ICAN Foundation was created to build a healthier generation of young people by encouraging them to become more active and educating them on proper nutrition. We have assembled a strong team at ICAN and we work well together to have an impact in states such as Mississippi, Louisiana and Illinois. Our partnership with SPARK has been a tremendous help and we are excited to implement the SPARK programs. We look forward to growing and making a difference together.”

“We’re committed at Oakhurst Intermediate to building a culture of activity and fitness which we believe are critical to tackling the obesity issue and increasing our students’ ability to succeed not just academically but socio-economically, by preparing them to be healthy, productive members of their communities in Mississippi,” said School Counselor, Lisa Ross. “Physical education has a significant place in a school’s curriculum, which is why our team is so thrilled to integrate the SPARK PE program. My colleague Gisha Stewart and I are grateful for the opportunity given to us to attend the summer training sessions at the SPARK 3-6 PE Institute in San Diego. It was a wonderful experience and we learned so much in terms of techniques and best practices which will be instrumental for developing the SPARK syllabus at Oakhurst.”

Lisa Ross, school counselor for Oakhurst Intermediate School in Mississippi.

Lisa Ross, school counselor for Oakhurst Intermediate School in Mississippi.

About KIDS in the GAME

KIDS in the GAME is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization focused on inspiring kids to thrive in life through sports. The organization provides financial assistance to help youth from low-income families of all abilities gain access to after school sports programs and physical education programs in schools. KIDS in the GAME raises awareness of the importance of athletics in developing future leaders, with skills and values that transfer from the sports field into the classroom, workplace, family and community. For more information on KIDS in the GAME, visit www.kidsinthegame.org.

About the SPARK Programs

SPARK is a research-based organization that creates, implements, and evaluates programs that promote lifelong wellness. The SPARK Programs consist of Early Childhood, K-12 Physical Education, After School, and Coordinated School Health. Each SPARK program provides curriculum, teacher training, follow up support and consultation, and content-matched equipment sets through the School Specialty Sportime business line. For more information on SPARK, visit www.sparkpe.org.

About School Specialty, Inc.

School Specialty is a leading distributor of innovative and proprietary products, programs and services to the education marketplace. The Company designs, develops, and provides educators with the latest and very best school supplies, furniture and both curriculum and supplemental learning resources. Working in collaboration with educators, School Specialty reaches beyond the scope of textbooks to help teachers, guidance counselors and school administrators ensure that every student reaches his or her full potential. For more information about School Specialty, visit www.schoolspecialty.com.

PhysEdSummit 2015

Monday, August 17th, 2015

Dear Colleagues,

I want to share a personal experience with you.  This weekend, I stepped out of my comfort zone to present online at the #PhysEdSummit 3.0.  It was scary yet exciting all at the same time. The core team is so knowledgeable and helpful, and they really did put me at ease to present. There is a wide audience of passionate health and physical education professionals in the world presenting and willing to give their time, resources, and friendship to help move physical education forward.  While the conference was live on Saturday, the good work will continue long after!

We know the brain carries out four functions:  gathering information (sensory cortex), making meaning of information (back integrative cortex), creating new ideas from these meanings (front integrative cortex), and acting on those ideas (motor cortex) (Zull, 2003.)

So, here is how you can continue to be involved and keep the learning from the conference alive all year.  Visit the website and gather information!  Process it!  Then create new ideas on how you can use the information in your class or school; and finally, act …  Practice using the ideas as well as share the information.  Share the resources with your colleagues, administrators, superintendents, professors, friends, coaches and parents.  Maybe highlight one presentation each month all year long!  Regardless of how you do it, get involved and share your new concepts and ideas.  Then, present next year in the conference.

http://physedagogy.com/physedsummit/

SPARK also has free resources to utilize, like our free webinars, free SPARKecademy.org professional development app (free and paid content provided), the SPARK scope and sequence and completed alignment to national and state standards.  Visit us soon for a look!  www.sparkpe.org

Yours for Healthy Active Children,

Dr. Kymm Ballard

SPARK Executive Director

About the #PhysEdSummit

The #PhysEdSummit is a FREE online conference put on by PE professionals for PE professionals.

Mission: To provide digital professional learning opportunities for physical education professionals by sharing, discussing, and reflecting on best practices.

#PhysEdSummit 3.0 | August 15, 2015

http://physedagogy.com/physedsummit/

Let’s Go Back to School with SPARKecademy!

Monday, August 10th, 2015

SPARK has a great new resource for teachers looking for ways to earn professional development credit hours.  As a physical education teacher, it can be difficult to find opportunities for professional development that apply to your content area.  I am sure you been forced to sit through countless hours of language arts and math workshops just to fill the time because districts rarely provide any kind of continuing education for their physical education/health teachers.

Here is where SPARK would like to help fill the void.  We hear what teachers are saying and we know the limitations of finding where/when to get your PD credit hours.  That is why we have created SPARKecademy.  Here you can earn your credit hours anytime, anywhere that you want. Sit on your couch, jump on in the middle of the night, even view it on your phone or tablet when you are running errands.  SPARKecademy.org is a web-based platform that provides an innovative menu of online courses for K-12 physical education teachers and health professionals. Courses include SPARK K-12 PE Workshops, timely topic monthly webinars, SPARK mini-units, podcasts, and technology/equipment tutorials.  We are building our library to provide resources for all 5 of our program areas; Physical Education, After School, Early Childhood, Classroom Activity & Recess, and Coordinated School Health.

Users receive a certificate of completion for each course and can track their professional development hours earned for the online courses as well as in-person sessions at SPARK workshops, and conference presentations.  Sign up your entire district and you can identify courses for your staff to take while being able to track and document their completed courses.  Sign up for your free account today! Go to SPARKecademy.org or download the SPARKecademy app from the App Store or Google Play Store.

Learn more about SPARKecademy!

SPARK hosted a live webinar on August 19th to preview the resources available on the SPARKecademy website and learn how to set up your free account.

Click Here to view the recording of this free webinar.

More questions? Contact us at visit http://www.sparkecademy.org/about or contact us at spark@sparkpe.org.

Lets Go Back to School with SPARKecademy!

Why Your School Should Be Using a Physical Education Curriculum Analysis Tool (PECAT)

Thursday, July 23rd, 2015

Every piece of a child’s education is important and helps to build strong, well-rounded individuals. National standards and broad participation in physical education  programs are extremely important when determining the most beneficial curriculum for today’s youth. Analysis tools such as the PECAT and the HECAT can help schools districts and schools conduct comprehensive and measurable reviews of their current physical education programs, and whether they need to make any adjustments, or seek out help.

What is the PECAT?

The Physical Education Curriculum Analysis Tool (PECAT) was developed by the CDC in order to provide school districts and schools with a resource to conduct a comprehensive and consistent self-assessment and planning guide for their physical education curricula. Before implementation, this analysis tool was field tested extensively to ensure that it met its goals as a tool that provided support to the educational community. Although created by the CDC, the PECAT tool is specifically designed to function as self-assessment tool, and not a research tool.

By conducting a PECAT review, school districts and individual schools can rate their programs and identify what’s working—and what’s not. The PECAT incorporates national standards that help set a baseline for physical education. In turn, this helps educators ensure all students have a good foundation as they move through their grade levels.

The PECAT assesses the following aspects of a school district or school’s physical education program:

  • To what extent current curricula align with national standards
  • The content and student assessment components that correspond with standards for each respective grade levelphysical education
  • How school districts and schools can make necessary changes based on items identified through the PECAT analysis

The PECAT is best used by assigning a committee or team to the task of performing the assessment. This allows multiple members of the educational community to have their voice heard. Including teachers, administrators, students, school health nurses, members of the district council, and parents into the conversation provides a breadth of viewpoint that can be helpful in conducting a truly comprehensive review.

Is the PECAT Expensive?

The PECAT itself is free of charge. When it comes to the cost of assessment and implementation, time is the most important resource to consider when conducting the PECAT. Dedicating committee members, conducting the assessment, and implementing the necessary changes requires strong dedication and leadership. The payoff of knowing that national standards are upheld and your physical education program is well-rounded is very much worth the added effort. The PECAT can take as little as a short six hours from start to finish, or more depending on the availability of committee members and the amount of time needed to collect all applicable information.

It is important to note that PECAT results are not reported to the CDC. This tool is for self-assessment only, and is not meant as an information-gathering exercise for outside agencies. Online scores are strictly private.

Where to find the PECAT

The PECAT can be found online, or by calling 1-800-CDC-INFO directly. Benefits of the interactive online version include:

  • Additional guidance through each step
  • Ability to save your responses along the way
  • Automatic calculation of module scores
  • Ability to archive previous versions for future use
  • Ability to print and share scorecards and results

The PECAT is a free, interactive, field-tested tool that is meant to help every physical education contributor construct a comprehensive and beneficial physical education curriculum for each particular age group. This self-assessment tool is a great way to ensure that your physical education programs meet national standards, remain relevant in today’s world, and provide each age group with an enriching physical education that will set them up for a lifetime of physical fitness.

If you use SPARK Physical Education curriculum, SPARK has done some of the PECAT work for you:

SPARK K-2 PE Curriculum PECAT Report

SPARK 3-6 PE Curriculum PECAT Report

SPARK Middle School Curriculum PECAT Report

SPARK High School Curriculum PECAT Report

SPARKecademy Movie Posters – Get a glimpse of the SPARKecademy stars!

Wednesday, May 27th, 2015

SPARKecademy is an online professional development resource for K-12 Physical Educators, Elementary Classroom Teachers, Early Childhood Educators, After School Program Providers, and School Health Professionals.

Click Here to learn more about SPARKecademy – coming end of June!

Each week leading up to the SPARKecademy launch we will release a movie poster featuring the SPARKecademy stars! Follow SPARK on Facebook and Twitter to see the posters first!

SPARKecademy Movie Posters   Get a glimpse of the SPARKecademy stars!SPARKecademy Movie Posters   Get a glimpse of the SPARKecademy stars!SPARKecademy Movie Posters   Get a glimpse of the SPARKecademy stars!SPARKecademy Movie Posters   Get a glimpse of the SPARKecademy stars!Three-Stooges FBSPARKecademy Movie Posters   Get a glimpse of the SPARKecademy stars!SPARKecademy Movie Posters   Get a glimpse of the SPARKecademy stars!

The Best Apps for Keeping Kids Active

Wednesday, May 6th, 2015

The Best Apps for Keeping Kids Active

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

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

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

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

Super Stretch Yoga HD

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

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

Strava

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

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

Iron Kids

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

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

Smash Your Food HD

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

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

Fitness Kids

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

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

Keep Moving!

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

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

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

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

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

Resources:

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

10 Ways to Promote Safe Biking for National Bike Month

Friday, May 1st, 2015

bike riding

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

Know and Follow Bike Safety Rules

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

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

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

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

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

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

Print Out Promotional Materials to Share With Friends

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

Wear a Helmet

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

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

Use Reflectors

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

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

Keep Your Bike in Shape

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

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

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

Reach Out to Your Government for Better Biking Conditions

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

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

Volunteer at a National Bike Month Event

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

Host a Safety Assembly at Your Local School

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

Participate in a Ride Smart Class

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

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

Sources:

http://bikeleague.org/bikemonth

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

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

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

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

SPARK Announces Dr. Kymm Ballard as New Executive Director

Tuesday, April 28th, 2015

SPARK is pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Kymm Ballard as next Executive Director of SPARK!  As the world’s most researched and field-tested physical and health education program, SPARK is a key component of School Specialty’s Physical Education offering. Kymm assumes her new role as Executive Director, following her distinguished leadership in the program as Partnership Development Specialist since 2009.  Kymm succeeds Paul Rosengard, the SPARK “Godfather”, who recently retired.

“I would like to congratulate Kymm on her well-deserved promotion and have every bit of confidence in her ability to continue to enhance SPARK programs and our overall growth in the Physical Education (PE) category,” stated Ed Carr, Executive Vice President and Chief Sales Officer. “Kymm has been a strong advocate for physical and health education for decades and brings tremendous operational and managerial experience that serves SPARK and School Specialty well.  I would also like to take the opportunity to thank Paul for his outstanding service to the program over the years.  We have a strong team in place and together, are committed to building upon SPARK’s leadership position in research-based physical education and advancing our wide assortment of physical education solutions.”

Dr. Ballard’s professional experiences include more than a decade as a PE teacher and athletic director, several years as an administrator and the co-developer of North Carolina’s first high school demonstration school.  She is the former PE, Athletics and Sports Medicine Consultant with the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction; and has drafted, advocated and promoted the Healthy Active Children Policy of the NC State Board of Education and the state’s Essential Standards for Physical Education. Dr. Ballard also supported the North Carolina Alliance for Athletics, Health, Physical Education, Recreation, Dance, and Sport Management (NCAAHPERD-SM) to retool the physical education teachers with SPARK statewide training the trainer model, more currently known as “IsPod” (In School Prevention of Diabetes).

In providing guidance to schools and other national organizations to help secure resources for quality PE programs, she served as the President of the Society of State Directors for Health, Physical Education and Recreation, as well as the Chair for the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) Public Relations Committee, among other committees. In addition, Dr. Ballard currently serves as the Coordinator of Health and Physical Education at Campbell University.  In her Partnership Development role at SPARK, she has also been successful in helping to initiate and facilitate millions of dollars to schools to address obesity prevention.

Among the many awards that Dr. Ballard has received are the National P.E. 4 Life Advocate of the Year award for her work in North Carolina and Washington, D.C.; the Physical Education Teacher of the Year and Health Education Teacher of the Year Awards in North Carolina; the North Carolina Coach of the Year; the highest Honor Awards from NCAAHPERD and Society of State Directors for Health, Physical Education and Recreation; the Channing Mann, National Administrator of the Year from NASPE; and lifetime membership to the North Carolina PTA.  She continues to be recognized by her industry peers, health organizations and her SPARK colleagues for her commitment to advancing physical fitness for children.

“I am honored for this opportunity to serve the SPARK program and School Specialty in an even greater capacity and will continue my focus on advancing our physical education solutions for educators and children. With the achievements that SPARK has made over the last 25 years in motivating students to engage in a lifelong love of activity and healthy lifestyle choices, I firmly believe we are well-positioned for future success.  I look forward to working more closely with the team to drive advancements in quality research-based physical education in schools and organizations around the country and world – with the goal of keeping our children and communities strong and productive.”

“I couldn’t be more pleased that Kymm is following in my footsteps and becoming SPARK’s 2nd E.D.!  Placing a physical educator at the wheel demonstrates SPARK’s commitment to developing the best PE resources and doing things the right way; for kids, for teachers, and for public health. I’m excited for our worldwide SPARK family and know SPARK will be bigger and better than ever in the months and years to come,” stated Paul Rosengard.

Please join us in welcoming Kymm as the new SPARK Executive Director!  Follow Kymm on Twitter @KymmBallard and stay up to date with all of the news from SPARK @SPARK_Programs.

Kymm and Annika

Kymm Ballard and women's professional golf icon Annika Sorenstam work together to promote healthy, active lifestyles for children

[INFOGRAPHIC] Youth & Yoga

Thursday, March 12th, 2015

Yoga isn’t just for grown ups anymore. It serves as another fun, physical activity for kids and it has mental and physical benefits. Check out some of these yoga poses in this infographic!

Youth & Yoga - Kids Yoga Poses

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