Archive for the ‘SPARK Blog’ Category


Back to School: PREP, SET, TEACH!

Tuesday, August 16th, 2016

Coach Giving Team Talk To Elementary School Basketball Team

By: BJ Williston, SPARK Trainer and Curriculum Development Consultant

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

CREATE A YEARLY PLAN

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

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

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

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

READY YOUR LESSON PLANS

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

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

GET YOUR EQUIPMENT, MATERIALS, AND MUSIC SET

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

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

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

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

TEACH!

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

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

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

Tuesday, August 9th, 2016

Physical Fitness Sports Team for Children

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

What’s Your PE Reality?

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

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

Authenticating Strategies

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

  • Long Term Grouping

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

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

  • Fair Play/Character Matters

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

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

  • Team Points System

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

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

  • Student Roles

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

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

  • Season with a Culminating Event

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

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

Next Steps

Make PE real for your students by:

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

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

USC Students Excited about SPARK Physical Education Curriculum

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to learn more about SPARKuniversity resources!

Making Fitness Personal: 4 Steps to Fitness Ownership

Tuesday, July 19th, 2016

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

Students Motivated?

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

Empowerment Strategies

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

Meeting Psychological Needs

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

Authenticating PE

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

Providing Leadership Opportunities

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

A Sample 4-Step Empowerment Process

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

1. Master – basic movements and/or routines

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

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

2. Create – a program or routine

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

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

3. Lead – a fitness routine or station

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

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

4. Pass Test – to demonstrate knowledge

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

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

Next Steps

Make fitness personal for your students by:

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

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

Which Type of Physical Educator Are You? [QUIZ]

Thursday, July 14th, 2016

Phys Ed teachers gather ’round! Take this quiz to find out your fitness teaching style.

Fun Physical Activities for Summer

Tuesday, July 12th, 2016

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By: BJ Williston, SPARK Trainer and Curriculum Development Consultant

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

Roll the Dice Fitness

Grade level: K-1

Need: One die

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

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

Hopscotch

Grade level: 2-3

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

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

Disc Golf

Grade level: 4-5

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

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

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

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

Staying Active over Summer Break

Tuesday, July 5th, 2016

Staying_Active_over_Summer_Break

By: BJ Williston, SPARK Trainer and Curriculum Development Consultant

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

Be Supportive

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

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

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

Plan Ahead

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday: Take a hike

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

Set Limits

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

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

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

Have Fun!

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, June 28th, 2016

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Author: Dr. Kymm Ballard, SPARK Executive Director

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

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

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

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

Click here for our complete list of research & publications.

How feasible is it to implement and sustain?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Does Evidence-Based PE Matter? Part 2: Why is Evidence-Based PE Significant?

Tuesday, June 21st, 2016

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Author: Dr. Kymm Ballard, SPARK Executive Director

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

Suggested criteria for prioritizing physical education research-based programs:

You might begin by asking yourself: What is its relevance to the field? Will it help advance and improve the field of physical education?

SPARK was and is a program that links effective and proven physical education pedagogy and concern for rising childhood obesity. One of the goals of the original studies was to determine that if the SPARK approach increased MVPA, could teachers still effectively instruct physical education so their students successfully gained the skills, concepts, and confidence needed in a quality PE program? This was proven to be true along with increases in students’ motor and sports skills, fitness, MVPA, academic achievement, enjoyment of PE, as well as the quality of teacher instruction (i.e., less time managing, more time promoting fitness, teaching physical skills, etc.). SPARK evidence helped advance and improve the field of physical education.

Furthermore, it has since been examined with in a variety of settings and populations, including variances in race, gender, and poverty, and shown to be adaptable and effective. And for NC, a State that has some of the highest obesity rates among children, SPARK was an excellent fit. For more on various relevant research click here: http://www.sparkpe.org/physical-education-resources/relevant-research/

Is it important to school, community, parents, field in general? Is it important to the student outcomes?

In NC, we felt the State’s physical educators needed resources aligned to what were the NASPE standards, although there were no national grade level outcomes at the time. However, SPARK did show how their lessons could be used as a resource to align to our state standards and outcomes (objectives), which provided that critical link. It was important to the community who funded the project and the field in general having approximately 97% of the school districts wanting to be trained in SPARK PE. Our state had high levels of childhood obesity so it was important that we not only teach effective PE but address the public health concern of obesity via increased PA and nutrition education. SPARK helped us with all this and more.

Does it align or assist in national priorities (i.e., National PA Plan, Lets Move Active Schools, Whole Child, Whole School, Whole Community, etc.)?

At our time of exploring curricula and resources for the teachers in NC, national initiatives were just coming on the scene. However, the alignment today is amazing. It was aligned to the CSHP, PECAT, and National PA Plan, which helped to lift NC’s foundational platform. Now, our physical educators had a common ground to teach from, then add their own good ideas, and accelerate their professional growth. It was then up to each district and teacher to set goals to improve their programs, their content selection, and their instructional strategies over time.

Today, SPARK partners with all the groups mentioned above, investing and/or participating together on Hill events, meetings, or sponsorships. The relationships continue to grow because it is extremely important that SPARK continues to align with national priorities. One of SPARK’s many strengths is the reach it has to grassroots teachers. Through SPARK, we are able to execute many of the action steps from awareness to implementation of these national priorities, and in turn, help improve the quantity and quality of physical education for children and teachers everywhere.

Click here to read Part 3 of this blog series on Evidence-Based Physical Education.

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

Does Evidence-Based PE Matter? Part 1: What Constitutes Evidence-Based PE?

Thursday, June 16th, 2016

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Author: Dr. Kymm Ballard, SPARK Executive Director

The term “evidence-based” is used frequently in education and, fortunately for all of us, is directly applicable to physical education (PE) as well. The team at SPARK feels that a program can claim it is evidence-based only if there is data demonstrating positive results on students and/or teachers linked to relevant outcomes (i.e., activity levels, fitness, skill development, etc.) and if those outcomes have been published in a peer-reviewed journal. Additionally, it is important that other content experts/organizations (i.e., CDC, N.I.H., National Cancer Institute, etc.) agree with the findings and support the group’s claim(s).

There is also the revelation of a fairly new term “evidence-informed” which sometimes gets confused with evidence-based. As a profession, we need to ask the questions and understand that all research is important. So how do the findings apply to your school and student needs?

We can all find lesson plans from free websites and books, but we should ask ourselves “Is this lesson evidence-based?” The lesson may implement a standard and reach an outcome. If this is the extent of what you want your program to be, there are many lessons to choose from. What makes SPARK so unique, different, and evidence-based, is if you implement the lesson after being trained in the methodology, you will not only implement a standard and outcome, increase the physical activity time a child is active during the day, and help to obtain national recommendations for children to be active, but you are replicating something that has been proven to work.

With a direct link to research, a teacher knows she/he has aligned his/her curriculum choices with public health recommendations that address childhood obesity. SPARK is more than an effective PE program; it is a marriage of quality, SHAPE America Standards-Based PE and public health recommendations, and this makes it the most evidence-based program available in the U.S.

I was a Consultant for the Dept. of Education in North Carolina (NC) for 11.5 years. While serving in this capacity, I wanted to provide my physical educators in NC a foundational framework leading to excellent curriculum and resources for implementation. I saw too many times that my teachers had to start from scratch, basically trying to write their own lessons, on curriculum revisions where Math, Science, and others were reviewing updated texts, assessments, and supplemental materials. Some of the lessons were good, some were not, but it was all they had. I wanted them to have a solid base as a foundation for them to start from, and build their house of curriculum from there. Unfortunately, as a State employee, it was not feasible for me to provide a “statewide” curriculum. Luckily, our partners NCAAHPERD received funding from several sources which were able to help establish this groundbreaking effort (see success story here). In deciding what to do to support NC physical educators, some areas of importance surfaced.

Click here to read Part 2 of this blog series on Evidence-Based Physical Education, and click here to read Part 3.