Archive for the ‘SPARK Blog’ Category


50 Activation Grant Winners Announced

Thursday, May 26th, 2016

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Sportime featuring SPARK Announces 50 Activation Grant Winners

May 26, 2016

San Diego, CA – In celebration of Sportime’s 50th anniversary and in partnership with Let’s Move! Active Schools, Sportime featuring SPARK is proud to announce (50) Activation Grant awards to schools nationwide to help students get active before, during, and after school.

Let’s Move! Active Schools is part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative dedicated to ensuring 60 minutes of physical activity a day is the norm in K-12 schools. The initiative is powered by a national collaborative of 35 health, education and private sector organizations that work together through the collective impact framework to help schools create Active School environments for children.

The 50 grant recipients were selected out of more than 500 applications that were received from schools across the country. Applications were submitted by Physical Education Teachers, Health Teachers, Classroom Teachers, Wellness Coordinators, Principals, PTA Members, and other members of the school community.

Applicants expressed the need for physical education curriculum – many teachers do not have any curricular materials for physical education and have to create their own lesson plans and assessments – as well as a variety of equipment to help engage large class sizes, include students with special needs, and to introduce lifelong activities other than traditional sports. Applicants also aimed to increase activity throughout the school day by integrating physical activity into classrooms and before/after school programs.

“We are very proud to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Sportime this year by giving back to schools in need of materials and tools for developing their physical activity and wellness programs,” stated Dr. Kymm Ballard, Executive Director of SPARK. “Through our strategic partnership with Let’s Move! Active Schools, we are providing innovative resources including evidence-based curriculum, teacher training and equipment to help students maximize their activity not just during school but also before and after school, enabling them to build all-round healthy lifestyles that can be carried into adulthood. We congratulate all the grant winners and look forward to their programs being a success!”

Grant applications were accepted April 1- April 30, 2016 and K-12 schools in the United States were eligible to apply. As a requirement of the grant, schools must be enrolled with Let’s Move! Active Schools and have completed the school assessment by the application deadline.

The 50 awarded schools will receive a grade-level specific SPARK Curriculum set that includes the SPARK manual, music CD, and 3-year access to SPARKfamily.org.  Each SPARK program is research-based and provides hundreds of lesson plans aligned to state and national physical education standards, assessments, task and skill cards in English and Spanish, videos, dances, and more.  The awarded schools will also receive a $100 voucher to purchase physical activity equipment from Sportime.

Congratulations to the grant winners!

The 50 Awarded Schools are:

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To learn more about Let’s Move! Active Schools, visit letsmoveschools.org. 

To search for other grant opportunities, view the SPARK Grant-Finder Tool.

Can a Healthier Lifestyle Promote Good Character in Kids?

Tuesday, May 24th, 2016

character

The early years make up an important developmental phase in any person’s life. Up to the age of 18, we’re constantly learning new habits, information, and behaviors – while establishing foundations that will shape our experiences as an adult. In short, childhood represents both opportunity and vulnerability when it comes to promoting a healthier lifestyle.

For a child to thrive, they need support and stimulation both at home, and in school. Because a healthy lifestyle demands physical activity, child care programs and schools that reduce recess and physical education for children could be damaging their development – stunting their emotional and physical growth. Studies have already begun to prove the link between exercise and intelligence, cognition, character development and emotional stability, showing that play is a huge part of the early developmental phase.

Physical Activity Promotes Healthier Characteristics

According to the U.S. Department of Health, children should get no less than one hour of physical activity a day in order to fight back against skyrocketing public issues like heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. However, physical benefits are not the only reason behind a child’s need for regular exercise. Numerous studies continue to show a positive correlation between the physical activity level of children, and his or her mental development. Active play gives children an opportunity to explore creativity, while developing their minds, and emotional as well as physical strength.

When children have the chance to participate in organized sports or physical education classes, the basic values they learned during the earliest developmental periods become further emphasized including the values of sharing, working together, and respect. Through participation in physical education, young people learn key values to carry with them throughout their lives, such as:

  • Adherence to rules
  • Respect for themselves and others
  • How to engage in fair play
  • Working as a team
  • Honesty

Physical education also provides a platform that allows young people to learn how to manage competition and cope with winning or losing.

A Healthy Lifestyle Links with Academics

Aside from the social skills that children learn through physical activity, regular exercise benefits a child’s brain in a number of ways, from improved memory to enhanced levels of concentration. Regular activity stimulates the development of new neurons, allowing brain cells to grow which permit better focus and cognitive performance. As a result, children who are in better shape physically also have better academic results than those who do not exercise. At the same time, exercise promotes better sleep, which is another aspect responsible for boosting the formation of the brain.

According to the Delaware Department of Education, students who are more physically fit perform well and behave better during school classes – regardless of their family income, race, gender, or school district. What’s more, research from the University of Illinois revealed the physical activity improves white matter integrity, a factor that links with “superior cognitive performance,” and better communication between different regions of the brain.

Healthier Lifestyles Make Happier Children

Finally, regular physical activity also has a positive impact on the mental health of a child. Numerous studies have shown undeniable relationships between the frequency of a child’s physical activity levels, and their mental health in association with emotional distress, anxiety, depression, and self-esteem. The same phenomenon applies no matter your age – people who have had particularly stressful days often blow off steam after work with an afternoon run.

The reason for this is that physical activity promotes the delivery of endorphins to the brain, elevating the mood. At the same time, getting rid of excess stress with physical activity can help to refresh a child’s system, improving their motivation in class and enhancing their ability to focus on other tasks. Because they have already had an outlet for their stress, children exposed to regular exercise are also less likely to get involved with negative behavior inside and outside of school.

In other words, as a result of physical activity, children are likely to perform better in school, establish friendships, be more mentally healthy, and learn social lessons – all factors important for the future.

Children Need to Move to Develop


In conclusion, physical activity plays a crucial rule in the general development of a child, from establishing motor skills, to ensuring psychological well being, emotional maturity, and cognitive focus. Children who are inactive are more likely to suffer from health problems, and could even be exposed to physical, psychological, and social issues that impact the rest of their lives.

A greater focus on physical education could ensure that children consistently engage in enough physical activity to support brain health, a better lifestyle, and good character.

Let’s Move! Active Schools recognizes Athletes for Hope and Sportime featuring SPARK as Partners of the Year

Friday, May 20th, 2016

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May 20, 2016                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Let’s Move! Active Schools recognizes Athletes for Hope and Sportime featuring SPARK as Partners of the Year

Let’s Move! Active Schools, part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative dedicated to ensuring 60 minutes of physical activity a day is the norm in K-12 schools, today honored Athletes for Hope and Sportime featuring SPARK with its inaugural Partner of the Year Award. The awards were presented as part of the 2016 Partnership for a Healthier America’s Building a Healthier Future Summit in Washington, D.C.

The Let’s Move! Active Schools Partner of the Year Award recognizes organizations that have actively prioritized the cause of Active Schools and supported schools in achieving physical education and physical activity best practices through the Let’s Move! Active Schools framework during the past year.

“We are thrilled to recognize Athletes for Hope and Sportime featuring SPARK for their outstanding leadership, collaboration and commitment to Let’s Move! Active Schools,” said Charlene Burgeson, Let’s Move! Active Schools Executive Director. “Our partners are the engine for this initiative, and this award shines a spotlight on their contributions to the Active Schools cause.”

Let’s Move! Active Schools is powered by a national collaborative of 35 health, education and private sector organizations that work together through the collective impact framework to help schools create Active School environments that provide children with at least 60 minutes of physical activity before, during and after the school day.

Since partnering with Let’s Move! Active Schools in February 2015, Athletes for Hope has facilitated more than 100 school visits where Olympic, professional and collegiate athletes serve as physical activity role models for kids. Also, last fall, Athletes for Hope initiated “Athletes for Active Schools Week,” a campaign that mobilized social media, a #5forPE video challenge and school visits to raise awareness of Let’s Move! Active Schools on a national level.

“This award validates the importance of physical activity to the 3,000 professional, Olympic, and college Athletes for Hope members, and we are truly honored to be recognized,” said Ivan Blumberg, Chief Executive Officer of Athletes for Hope.

Sportime featuring SPARK joined the national collaborative in January 2014 and has integrated Let’s Move! Active Schools into many of its key programs and initiatives. In addition to driving enrollment via several promotions and delivering an exclusive Let’s Move! Active Schools grant program to schools, Sportime featuring SPARK also sponsored a think tank meeting to address physical education and physical activity needs of students with disabilities.

“We’re very honored to be recognized as Partner of the Year by an initiative as transformative and well-respected as Let’s Move! Active Schools,” stated Dr. Kymm Ballard, Executive Director of SPARK. “This is a special time as Sportime featuring SPARK celebrates 50 years enhancing the health and wellness of our youth. This has been accomplished through evidence-based curriculum, teacher training, and equipment that help students maximize their physical activity and health. We’re dedicated to the mission of Let’s Move! Active Schools and are excited to offer this year 50 Let’s Move! Active Schools Activation Grants to help schools get active before, during, and after school. We received over 500 applications for the Activation Grant, and the grant winners will be announced next week. We continue to encourage all schools to participate in this healthy initiative and look forward to many more years of a successful partnership!”

“Our collaboration with Let’s Move! Active Schools is extremely important to School Specialty as physical, mental and emotional health and wellness are core values we live by. With our Sportime featuring SPARK platform, we promote best practices and standards in physical education that support and motivate our children to be active for a lifetime,” commented Joseph M. Yorio, President and Chief Executive Officer of School Specialty. “This is a great privilege and we look forward to working more closely with the Let’s Move! Active Schools collaborative to drive home the importance of wellness.”

Since its March 2013 launch, more than 19,000 schools in all 50 states plus the District of Columbia have enrolled in Let’s Move! Active Schools, reaching more than 10 million students. Find out more at www.letsmoveschools.org.

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6 Apps Every Physical Educator Needs

Thursday, May 19th, 2016

physical education apps

Mobile fitness applications are all the rage for people who want to get active and stay in shape. Smart wearables revenue is projected to hit $19 billion USD worldwide by 2018 – driven in large part by the demand for fitness trackers and accompanying apps.

Physical education teachers can tap the same type of technology to engage students in P.E. class, and to keep them moving long after class has ended. By downloading these free (and a few low-cost) apps, P.E. teachers can incorporate the best tech resources into their everyday classroom activities.

Check out the top apps that physical education teachers should have at the ready:

1. SworkIt – Free

Fourteen million people have downloaded this free app, which allows users to create personalized workouts that range from five minutes to an hour in length. There are options for cardio, Yoga, strength training, circuit activities, and more. This is a perfect fit for P.E. teachers who want to switch up the type of activities from one class to the next, but don’t have a lot of time to create such a variation in lesson plans. The workouts that happen in SworkIt can sync to other fitness apps like Fitbit, DailyMile, MyFitnessPal, and more.

2. Hudl Technique – Free

This app makes slow motion video assessment possible, making it applicable to both P.E. class and school sports settings. The app can analyze baseball swings, or set up side-by-side comparisons of tennis techniques. You can record video in high-definition video, and upload videos and images from other sources, like the phone camera. Hudl also offers a library of video resources to help students learn new skill sets.

3. FIT Radio – Free

Nothing gets a kid’s feet moving quite like the right music. Eliminate the time it takes to create the right playlists for your activities by choosing from thousands of lists already available in this app. There are 15 to 20 available playlists in each genre that are changed up daily. There is even a setting for picking kid-friendly tunes that are void of profanity and inappropriate content.

4. Skitch – Free

This app is not P.E.-specific but its capabilities work well in the setting. Skitch is a product of Evernote (the popular organization app), and it allows users to visually communicate ideas in a variety of ways. In a P.E. class, Skitch is useful for taking photos of students trying out new skills, and then attaching ideas and tips to the image. Sports coaches can also use the Skitch app to draw out plays, or comment on images of plays that have already occurred.

5. FitnessMeter – $1.99

FitnessMeter is the ultimate tool for measuring student athletic pursuits – from speed to agility to altitude to general physical shape. The app has video functions that help with measuring outcomes, like distance and height. It even has a function that counts repetition on activities like jumping jacks, push-ups, sit-ups, and chin-ups.

6. Balance It – $1.99

This app is specific to helping students develop gymnastics skills through Task Card learning. With more than 60 hand-drawn balances, starting at beginner level and working up in difficulty, it’s a scalable app that can work for a variety of ages and fitness levels. In addition to individual “balance” challenges, there are paired ones and challenges written for larger group teamwork.

While Physical Education apps can’t take the place of the actual physical activities in class, they can supplement what teachers are already doing quite well. Blending the available technology with good old-fashioned exercise and skill building is a cutting-edge way to maximize the impact of P.E. classes and keep students genuinely excited about the activities taking place.

 

Protecting Children’s Cardiovascular Health

Tuesday, May 17th, 2016

children's cardiovascular health

We’re born with reasonably good levels of heart health, and as we grow, our lifestyle choices, dietary decisions and other habits affect our hearts increasingly over time. Although many people associate heart concerns with the elderly population, research shows that the slippery slope into chronic cardio issues can actually start at a very young age.

Studies show that children throughout the world are approximately 15% less fit than their parents were at the same age, with cardiovascular endurance declining by around 6% per decade. Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine conducted a study that examined four indications of heart health in children: BMI, diet, blood pressure, and total cholesterol. The study found that out of the sample of 8,961 children between the ages of 2 and 11, not a single child had ideal levels for all aspects of heart health.

If children are unfit in their youth, they’re likely to develop worsening conditions later in life. Since heart disease remains to be the number one killer of Americans today, it’s important to examine the reasons behind children’s declining cardiovascular health and combat this trend by teaching healthy habits.

Lack of Physical Education


In the recent years, schools have been cutting down on physical education classes and recess in an attempt to open up extra time for academic study. This approach could be detrimental not only to the physical, mental, and cognitive development of children; it could be actively putting them at a higher risk for blood pressure problems, high cholesterol, obesity, and heart disease.

Reduced physical activity in school is a major risk factor for developing coronary artery disease and chronic diseases like diabetes. Just like for adults, increased levels of physical activity are often associated with decreased cardiovascular risk and increased life expectancy — meaning that the more we cut down on physical education and recess, the more damage we could be doing to our children.

Lack of access to recess and physical education could also correlate with fewer chances to develop crucial social skills at a young age, which may lead to higher levels of stress and anxiety in students.

Poor Dietary Habits


Giving children unlimited access to consumption of sweets and unhealthy foods could lead to literal heartache later in life. In a study regarding sugar consumption, the CDC found that the average teenager consumed around 500 calories worth of processed sugar every day. Teenagers whose calorie intake was made up of more than 30% sugar had higher levels of LDL (bad cholesterol) in their system.

In the past thirty years, childhood obesity levels have doubled, leading to increases in instances of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. Although it might not be possible to constantly watch over what children are eating, parents and schools can offer more nutritious choices and keep junk food out of easy reach.

Sitting Still for Too Long


Research suggests that too much “static sitting” could be bad for your health, regardless of the amount of exercise you might get at other times. Studies have linked excessive sitting — such as the time students spend sitting still in class — to issues like type 2 diabetes, obesity, and more.

One of the largest studies conducted to date involved a sample group of almost 800,000 people, and found that when compared to people who sat less often, people who stayed seated for most of the day had a 147% increase in cardiovascular events and a 90% increase of death caused by heart problems. Promoting positive behaviors at school, like encouraging students to get up and move around every hour, can help keep their hearts healthy and instill long-lasting good habits.

Promoting Good Heart Health


While a lot of articles give advice for adults to improve heart health and lower their cholesterol, many ignore the fact that bad habits often start in childhood, creating ill effects that persist throughout the remainder of a person’s life. The American Heart Association encourages adults  to model healthy behaviors for children as early as possible. The recent data revealed about child heart health is a worrying concept, but acts as a reminder that cardiovascular fitness is a lifelong process, not something that should only be considered in adulthood.

Encourage kids to engage in at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day — using as many muscle groups as possible — through activities like swimming, running, or cycling. If we fail to inspire children to develop fitness habits through dietary awareness and physical education, we may be robbing them of the resources they need for long-term cardiovascular health.

3 Reasons Wearable Tech Belongs in Physical Education Classes

Thursday, May 12th, 2016

wearable tech

Wearable technology is quickly becoming more than just a buzz phrase in education. From virtual technology headsets in geography class to fitness trackers in physical education settings, the technology of personal electronics is transforming the way students learn.

The nonprofit group Youth Sports Trust recently released a report forecasting trends in physical education for the next 20 years, and the organization listed wearable technology as a major player in what’s ahead. Wearable devices – and the accompanying mobile applications – will change the way P.E. classes happen, and how students can track and assess their own success. Gamification, via incorporating technology like virtual reality, will also play a role in transforming P.E. classes and sports offerings.

Let’s delve a little more deeply into why wearable technology will boost the value and effectiveness of P.E. classes, and how students and teachers will benefit.

Digital Native Mindset

The students in today’s physical education classes are part of the first generation of digital natives; they’ve grown up with uber-connected lives. Common Sense Media reports that 72% of children have a home computer, and 67% own a video game system. In the 0 to 8 age group, more than one-quarter of all screen time takes place on mobile devices like smartphones or tablets. Kids don’t need lessons in app usage – they show up to Kindergarten classrooms with the skill set in place.

Incorporating technology that students are already comfortable using into P.E. settings just makes sense. Wearable devices and apps help kids make the connection between fitness and the rest of their daily lives. It’s also a way to tap into something they’re already good at – using technology – to further engage students in P.E. class.

Better Assessment

As society transitions to a more automated, sedentary way of life, physical education classes are important places to teach students the value of active lifestyles. That happens through action. The focus of P.E. is not to allow the natural athletes a place to shine; it is to welcome students at every fitness level and help them improve. This occurs through standard practices like timed running or fitness tests, which are then duplicated throughout the term to gauge improvement.

Wearables like fitness trackers make it much easier to accomplish and streamline the assessment process, for both educators and students. For students who own their own wearables, the activity that happens in class is traceable to other aspects of life, and there is an easily accessible way to measure progress. Teachers benefit from more precise assessment tools, and students are able to carry the lessons they learn in P.E. classes into the rest of their lives.

Holistic Healthy Living

Wearable technology is not just about how many steps a person walks in a day, or reaching the 60-a-day recommended minutes of physical activity (though both are certainly perks of the technology). Leading devices, like the Fitbit, track sleep patterns and nutrition, and also guide users in making smart, healthy choices.

Fitbit is a well-known leader in wearable tech, but there are others available, with smaller price tags – including the $30 Zamzee device that is specific to younger users. A study of children who wore the Zamzee for 6 months found a 59% increase in the amount of physical activity they completed each day. These devices have mobile dashboards that show users a snapshot of their overall health – including steps taken, calories burned, food consumed, and the amount of sleep a person receives. With knowledge comes power, and wearable devices are helping users – from adults to elementary-age students – take control of their health through data measurement.

Technology is often associated with an increase in laziness; but when it comes to wearable devices, the opposite is true. Embracing these devices and apps not only saves times for P.E. teachers, but it engages students in a heightened way, empowering them to take on better lifelong health pursuits.

Teaching Kinesthetic Learners in Physical Education

Tuesday, May 10th, 2016

physical education

As every teacher knows, no student learns the same. To help students learn as efficiently as possible, teachers must recognize different learning styles and accommodate them in their lessons. Physical education (PE) is no different. As a physical educator, it’s important to first understand the different learning styles and then look for ways to accommodate them.

While there are different ways of categorizing learning styles, these are the three that are considered most common:

  • The visual learner learns best by watching someone demonstrate a movement
  • The auditory learner learns by focusing on sounds and rhythms to learn movement patterns
  • The kinesthetic learner learns by identifying what the movement feels like

Everyone draws on each of these to varying degrees, but most students rely on one type of learning more than others.

Each type of learner needs a different type of coaching and guidance. Visual cues such as “See where your bat was over the plate when it hit the ball?” help a visual learner, while an auditory learner is better helped by verbal descriptions of the movement, such as “Did you hear the difference between your strong hit and the weaker one?”

While most people are either visual or auditory learners, the needs of minority kinesthetic learners shouldn’t be neglected. As many people are most comfortable teaching in the style they learn – and most teachers are either visual or auditory learners – it can be difficult to know how to teach a kinesthetic learner.

Here are some tips for identifying the kinesthetic learners in your PE class, and teaching them in ways that will make it easier and more fun for them to learn.

Identifying a Kinesthetic Learner

Kinesthetic learners may use larger hand gestures or more expressive body language to communicate. They prefer to play with the physical parts of a model rather than reading about how it works, and they may fidget when sitting or listening to someone talk. Kinesthetic learners may use language that points to their orientation towards the physical, with phrases such as, “That feels right,” or “I can’t get a grip on this.”

Kinesthetic learners are action-oriented, and prefer to do something to understand it, rather than read about it or listen to someone else explain it.

Teaching a Kinesthetic Learner

As kinesthetic learners learn by doing, they are well-suited to sports and PE. In fact, while kinesthetic learners are often at a disadvantage in traditional classrooms – with these classrooms’ emphasis on lectures and visuals – PE is a rare opportunity for kinesthetic learners to shine. Students who are kinesthetic learners find sports to be an invaluable environment to learn, think, and flourish.

Kinesthetic learners process information when they are given the opportunity to move. They want to know what the movement feels like so they can use that feeling as a reference point. Simulations, guidance, and repeated practice are important in developing this frame of reference.

Move them through the skill you are teaching them. Do simulations. Practice. Give as many tactile cues as you can. Ask questions like “Did you feel where your arm was when you released the ball?” and “That was a great goal kick. How did it feel on your foot? Where did your foot hit the ball?”

Be careful, however, to monitor the accuracy and form of their practice. Offering a kinesthetic learner the chance to practice a skill repeatedly is only helpful if you ensure they are practicing with the correct form.
By correctly identifying the way students learn, you can easily make your PE class accommodate all learning styles; including the kinesthetic learning style. With kinesthetic learners’ natural enthusiasm for physical activities and targeted teaching methods, they will thrive in your PE class.

What Are the Goals of Physical Education?

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016

physical education

In recent years, physical education has been falling out of its position as a staple of the traditional school day. Research not only connects regular P.E. classes with improved academic performance, but also suggests that lack of activity could be damaging children’s cardiovascular health. Despite the scientific evidence, the modern curriculum continues to impede physical education in favor of more time spent in the classroom, placing additional pressure on physical educators and school departments to optimize the time allotted towards achieving crucial fitness goals.

In schools for all ages, the physical education program is responsible for helping students learn the value of activity for health, recreation, social interaction, and more. Here’s what you should aim for when outlining goals as a physical educator, or organizing a school P.E. department.

1. Teaching Essential Body Management Skills

The most well-known goal of any physical education class is to promote movement – but there’s more to this aspiration than breaking students out of a stationary lifestyle. P.E. classes teach children skills that they will use throughout their entire lives.

For many younger children, physical education classes offer their first chance to learn about the relationships between nutrition, exercise, and health, while acquiring basic body management skills such as:

  • The ability to stop and start on signal
  • Spatial awareness
  • Body part identification
  • Balance and control

Though these skills may not seem as crucial as literacy and numeracy, the absence of them can result in sedentary children who feel too “clumsy” to engage in any regular activity. After time, the inability to develop mature motor skills can cultivate sedentary adults, who struggle to achieve career goals or lack self-confidence.

2. Promoting Physical Fitness as Fun

Quality instruction from dedicated educators helps children develop fundamental motor patterns. But it’s also important for teaching students that being active can be a fun, natural habit.

The more that young students consider physical fitness a natural part of their daily schedule, the more likely they are to be engaged in fitness as they age – leading to a healthier lifestyle. One in three children are overweight in America, and youngsters who enjoy physical activity are the ones most likely to be active in the future.

While physical education isn’t the only factor helping children get active, it can be a useful way to help them uncover new skills and discover activities that they enjoy. By exploring a range of sports and fitness solutions, from gymnastics to running and climbing, physical educators give students a chance to find the activity that appeals most to them – giving children their own personal tool in the fight against obesity.

3. Developing Teamwork, Sportsmanship, and Cooperation

Physical education allows children to experience healthy social interactions, teaching cooperation through group activities, and encouraging teamwork through identification as one part of a team. These social skills stay with children throughout their lives, increasing the chance that they’ll become involved in their communities, take leadership roles, and build lasting relationships. Social skills develop confidence, contributing to academic performance and mental health.

When students are stressed, they struggle to focus and manage their emotions properly. Physical activity is a great way to relieve stress, promoting positive mental health and enhanced learning aptitude. Although reduced time for physical education is often justified as a way to help students spend more time in the classroom, studies have shown that regular activity during the school day links to higher concentration levels, more composed behavior, and happier students.

Setting Goals is Crucial

In a physical education setting, the right goals will:

  • Engage students in P.E. class
  • Attract the attention of distracted learners
  • Create an environment that cultivates movement
  • Teach the values of health and exercise

Establishing goals within physical education can also help students learn the value of setting their own personal and achievable goals in relation to their favorite activities. Teach kids about goal-setting by recording each child’s best sprint time and showing them how they improve through the year, or encouraging students with a particular interest to take their skills to the next level.

From developing motor skills for younger children to creating an environment where students can cultivate a positive attitude towards physical fitness, well-designed physical education goals will not only boost kids’ education, but prepare them for an active, healthy, and productive lifestyle.

Can Exercise Help Students to Excel Academically?

Tuesday, April 26th, 2016

exercise

Although we all know that physical activity is an essential factor in lowering the risk of child obesity, and improving physical fitness, new research is proving that a fit body, can equal a fit mind. In other words, ensuring your kids stay active could be the first investment you make in their college fund.

Findings from the realms of education and biology research hint that regular exercise creates numerous benefits for the brain. Not only can regular workouts in the school gym or on the playground improve learning capacity, attention span, and memory, but it also works to reduce stress, and even combat the effects of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. In short, keeping your kids active could make them smarter.

The reason for this is that learning functions and memory retention are functions in the brain that rely on the growth and nourishment of brain cells, and exercise creates the best environment for that process to occur.

It All Adds Up: Exercise and Math

A recent study suggests that there may be a link between regular participation in physical education, and the mathematics scores that children achieve on standardized tests. The details of the study indicate a correlation between the amount of time students spent taking part in physical activity at school, and the scores they achieved during math-based exams. But the scientifically-backed connections don’t stop here. In fact, various pieces of research over the years have been able to point to the obvious interaction between physical health, and brain function.

The study worked by dividing the elementary schools of the city into separate groups according to level of physical education and exercise opportunities provided to students. At the same time, the researchers examined the recorded math scores for each student within those groups, allowing them to see a connection between both factors. The results showed that the schools offering the highest opportunity for exercise (151 minutes average) often posted higher math scores. In comparison, schools offering an average of 29 minutes of activity showed a lower proficiency rate.

Why the Research Makes Sense

While other studies have shown that academic performance is influenced by various factors, including socioeconomic status and parental involvement, a growing body of evidence has begun to reveal that active children often have a stronger performance in school, particularly in regards to mathematics and reading. The reason for this is simple – physical activity promotes positive mental health, reduces the likelihood of developing risk factors for chronic disease, and helps to build strong muscles, but it also affects academic achievement by enhancing concentration and improving classroom behavior. In fact, certain pieces of research have even suggested that reducing physical education exposure in schools could hinder the academic performance of developing children.

Although researchers aren’t entirely sure at this time what aspects of exercise contribute to better cognitive function, they are learning that it does physically benefit the brain – just as it benefits any other muscle in the human body. After all, increased aerobic exercise helps blood to pump throughout the body, delivering nutrients to organs and muscles. More blood means more oxygen, and therefore, nourished brain tissue.

At the same time, scientists have also suggested that regular exercise could be essential in helping the brain to produce more of a special protein known as the “brain-derived neurotrophic factor“. Otherwise known as “BDNF” this protein is an incredible source of nutrition for the brain, as it encourages the cells to grow, interconnect, and even communicate in brand new ways. Studies are even showing that exercise helps to play a part in the production of new brain cells, particularly in the “dentate gyrus” area, which is heavily responsible for the development of memory skills and learning.

Encouraging Educational Exercise

As more evidence continues to show the intertwining natures of exercise and brain function, it only makes sense that more groups are coming together to advocate the importance of after school activities and physical education in schools. Reports have already begun to suggest that all students should be getting at least sixty minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day, and yet only about half of school-age children are meeting this guideline.

Fortunately, parents may be able to help supplement some of the exercise that kids aren’t getting at certain schools. By supporting physical education classes, classroom breaks and recess, then encouraging children to take part in after-school sports and activity, they can increase the chances that their child will come to think of exercise as a normal, habitual, and important part of life.

Teacher Appreciation Week

Thursday, April 21st, 2016

teacher appreciation week

As a former PE teacher I can tell you that I never really thought about Teacher Appreciation Week until it came, and then the wonderful things bestowed upon us typically overwhelmed me. The PTA would organize some sort of food to be brought in for breakfast or lunch and we all felt very special. It is certainly a treat to be catered to! But what I will always treasure are the handmade books using the prompt “What do you love about PE?” Their pictures were adorable and the things they wrote often made me cry. I have been out of the schools for a few years now, but I have kept and cherished those books.

This year, Teacher Appreciation Week is May 2nd to the 6th. There are SO many things you can do to show appreciation to the teachers in your life. Here are a few ideas ranging from costing you nothing but a few minutes to those costing a few bucks. Whatever you do, if it comes from the heart, the teachers in your life will love it!

  • Have your child write a thank you card telling the teacher why they appreciate them. Drawings are always loved. You should write one too. Teachers love hearing kind words from the parents of their students.
  • Provide donations of classroom supplies, many of which can be purchased on the School Specialty website. Many teachers spend their own money to cover supplies for things such as art projects, class pets, bulletin boards, and more. Anything you can help with will be appreciated.
  • Offer to bring some healthy snacks for the classroom. (E.g. Oranges, trail mix, veggies and dip, popcorn, cheese sticks, apples, berries, celery with cream cheese/peanut butter, whole grain crackers, fig bars, etc.)
  • Volunteer some time in the classroom when you can, as teachers can always use help. Whether it’s putting homework and reminders into backpacks, teaching math or reading to small groups, being an art docent, helping with field trips, leading a physical activity, etc. your help is a welcome addition to the class. If you haven’t done so this year, start next school year right by talking with your child’s teacher(s) to see how your strengths can benefit the class.
  • Host a Teacher Appreciation Breakfast (or lunch). Make it a potluck with other parents from the school, and give teachers a clue it is coming so they don’t eat breakfast at home that day.
  • Offer to build a bulletin board one month in your area of expertise.
  • Have the students bring fresh flowers for the teacher toward the beginning of the week, and one parent per classroom is in charge of bringing a vase. Flowers from home gardens are perfect.
  • Take photographs of the children in the class to put on a poster. Then have each child write a few words of thanks next to their photo.
  • Create a video with each child saying or acting out something they appreciate about their teacher.
  • Purchase or make a large tote bag for hauling supplies to school. Then, using fabric markers, have all students write their names and a brief thank you.
  • Create a goofy class photo T-shirt and have the students sign their names on the back.
  • Purchase a gift card from anywhere! Teachers nearly always appreciate any little treat. Get something from a local coffeehouse, grocery store, restaurant, pedicurist, etc. Be sure to include a few words of thanks with the card.

Hope this year you enjoy the Teacher Appreciation Week and help make a teacher in your life feel special!

 

By: BJ Williston