Archive for the ‘Classroom Activity’ Category


Add These 7 Things to Next Year’s Equipment Wish List

Thursday, August 3rd, 2017

PE teachers holds a stopwatch while a young girl climbs a wall

Today’s educators are beginning to recognize the connection between physical activity and cognitive function in the classroom. This means that all teachers, not just physical educators, are searching for new resources that might help them to encourage brain-boosting movement throughout the school day.

One of the best ways to make sure that students stay engaged during PE lessons and other academic experiences is to have the right resources at hand. The following items are some of the best, most effective pieces of equipment that you can have on your wish list. Here, we’re going to introduce you to a range of items and offer ideas for how you can use these products to cultivate a healthier school culture.

1. School Smart Coated Foam Balls

When it comes to essential resources for any physical education class, it’s hard to overlook the value of foam balls. This School Smart set includes a range of colors, perfect for bouncing, throwing, catching and volleying with racquets and paddles.

During early childhood, when children are most engaged by colors and sensory experiences, a collection of School Smart coated foam balls can help educators to plan lessons like “Bounce and Catch.” These lessons can help children develop basic motor skills, while introducing them to colors, numbers and more.

2. Volley SuperSkin Flying Discs

Perfect for both indoor and outdoor use, Volley SuperSkin Flying Discs come in a range of colors and feature peel-proof, super-durable skins for a longer lifetime in classrooms. These discs work perfectly either as part of standard throwing and catching games, or as part of a game of “All-Run Flying Disc Baseball.”

All-Run Flying Disc Baseball is a great way to get students of all ages working together to pass and throw discs between members of a small team. This game encourages teamwork, boosts aerobic ability, and helps to build up endurance, too.

3. Sportime Stopwatches

A simple set of Sportime Timetracker stopwatches can help students and teachers alike track their progress during timed games and races. Educators can share these stopwatches with students to encourage them to set their own fitness goals.

One particularly good use of the Sportime stopwatch is for Social Studies Fitness Relay lessons. Being able to view the amount of time each student spends within different fitness relay sections can help to encourage a balanced development of skills.

4. Sportime High School Fitness Station Pack

The Sportime High School Fitness Station Pack is a comprehensive collection of equipment designed to get students moving, and it comes with a SPARK digital curriculum, too! The collection includes foam balls, cones and exercise mats, ideal for building new high school lesson plans.

The Sportime Fitness Station Pack could be a great way to start introducing students to new skills, like yoga. With the mats in hand, and some yoga content cards, students can learn how to manage stress and improve flexibility with simple yoga poses.

5. Poly Enterprises Classic Game Cones

Cones might seem like a simple resource, but they often make up a fundamental part of most team-based games in a physical education lesson. These Poly Enterprises Classic Game Cones come in a variety of sizes and colors to suit any lesson plan.

Cones can be a vital part of a STEM Fitness Training session, helping to create different activity stations for students around the room. With STEM, children can get active, while learning facts about Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.

6. School Smart Parachute

The School Smart Parachute is a high-quality piece of equipment, complete with a drawstring carrying bag for easier storage. These parachutes are a fantastic way to encourage collaboration through team-based games, while promoting coordination and rhythm in PE environments.

Students can use parachutes to play “Parachute Switcheroo,” a recess, after-school, or lesson-based program for students that teaches coordination and teamwork. In Parachute Switcheroo, students learn how to cooperate, focus, and organize themselves as part of a group.

7. Pull-Buoy No-Kink Hoops

The Pull-Buoy No-Kink Hoops are lightweight and durable hoops that use a special formula to avoid bending and breaking. These 30-inch options are ideal for educators who want to create lesson plans based around gymnastics, aerobics and teamwork. A single set contains a range of colors for students to choose from.

One great way to boost your lesson plan with No-Kink Hoops is to introduce your students to “Cooperative Golf” or Kin-Ball. This exciting game is a great way to keep kids active, while teaching them how to work together toward a universal goal. What’s more, this activity is a great way to teach children about games played throughout the world.

Your Equipment Wish List

Chances are your wish list will depend on your existing resources and the new lesson plans you hope to implement in the year ahead. But, by implementing just a few of the suggestions outlined above you could find new and engaging ways to keep your students active, both inside and outside of PE lessons.

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.

Q: How Can We Help Students Reach 60-a-day?

Monday, May 5th, 2014
A: Comprehensive School Physical Activity Program!

For National Physical Education Week, we’re taking a deeper look into a Comprehensive School Physical Activity Program and resources available to help reach the goal of 60 minutes of MVPA a day.

How much activity and why?
It seems you can’t look through a magazine or watch a news program without hearing about the importance of physical activity (PA) and its role in overall health. There’s nothing better for controlling weight, reducing risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers; not to mention PA’s role in increasing muscle strength and bone density, improving attention in class, and so much more. PA is the “wonder drug” of champions (literally!).

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Department of Health and Human Services, as well as the President’s Council on Fitness, Sport, and Nutrition all recommend 60 minutes of physical activity for children ages 6-17. With that dosage kids will be healthier, happier, leaner, and have a much better chance of living longer. Sixty minutes seems to be the “magic” number and it should consist mostly of aerobic activities in the moderate to vigorous intensity level range (MVPA), such as brisk walking, running, swimming, etc., as well as 3 days/week of muscular strengthening like gymnastics and calisthenics. So, how on earth are today’s busy kids supposed to accumulate 60 minutes of MVPA most days?

Physical Education (PE) is a great start!

Let’s say your school has a fabulous, quality physical education program with daily PE for all students. They have PE for 30+ minutes (for elementary) and 45+ minutes (for MS/HS) each day and they are engaged in MVPA for 50% of class time — always! It’s an ideal program all around. Sounds great, right?  It is – yet it’s also VERY rare.

Are YOUR students reaching the magic dosage of 60 minutes on most days with PE alone? If not, they’ll need to find other physical activity opportunities throughout the day if they’re going to achieve their 60 minute goal.

How might you supplement student Physical Activity (PA)?

Viable options include before and after school programs, recess, activity during other academic classes, on-site intramurals, as well as myriad activities off campus after school. Programs such as these are components of a Comprehensive School Physical Activity Program (CSPAP). They include quality PE as the foundation, as well as PA opportunities before, during, and after school, staff involvement, and family and community engagement.* The whole package helps keep our children active and fit. Like SPARK Principal Thom McKenzie likes to say, “It takes a village to raise an active child.”

Teaming up for PA!

No one person or entity is responsible for our kids’ health. When everyone does their part and students are supported with PA choices in all sorts of environments, they are much more likely to participate and achieve their 60 minutes or more. And every type of activity “counts” towards the 60 (e.g., walking to school, climbing on the jungle gym, having activity breaks during class, dancing in PE, playing tag at recess, running in a running club, playing intramurals after school).You want your kids to have so many opportunities they can’t help but find activities they love to do and to do them often!

What resources are available?

Let’s Move! Active Schools provides free and low-cost resources to help schools incorporate physical activity before, during, and after school for at least 60 minutes a day.  SPARK is an official supporting organization of Let’s Move! Active Schools and encourages schools to sign up to be an Active School.  Learn more here.  

How can SPARK help you and your students reach the 60 minute goal?

Quality Physical Education – Sadly, many PE programs are not active enough – ironic right? Yet studies show students may spend a good chunk of class time waiting their turn for a chance just to touch the equipment (as in relays) or sitting on the sidelines because they got “out” (elimination games) or simply waiting for someone to pass the ball to them (large-group games). PE classes full of these practices often engage students in MVPA for only a short amount of time. SPARK PE (K-2, 3-6, MS, and HS) offers teachers quality PE programs that in turn provide students many opportunities to participate and practice skills. Research shows SPARK PE engages students in MVPA at least 50% of class time, addresses National Standards, aligns assessment with instruction, and regularly promotes out-of-class physical activity. Students become more active and more skilled when they have SPARK PE. When taught daily, students can receive nearly half of their recommended minutes of PA with SPARK PE alone!

During academic classes – Because students often sit for hours at a time during classes, activity breaks are a must! They help not only by adding minutes of PA, but they have been shown to enhance academic performance. The SPARKabc’s program provides numerous activities to be used as breaks during classroom time as well as activities which integrate academic topics to help “anchor” learning and make it more active and fun. SPARK provides sample SPARKabc’s lessons to give you a taste of what our ASAP movement breaks and academically focused activities look like. They’re easy to teach, easy to learn, fun and effective. SPARK PE (K-2 and 3-6) programs also include multiple limited space activities that classroom teachers can use as activity breaks throughout the day.

During Recess – Recess has potential to be either very active or very sedentary. Depending upon students’ preferences, they might choose to play an active soccer or basketball game or to sit and chat with a friend while eating their snacks. Even if they join what appears to be an active game, they may spend most of their time waiting in line for their turn at wall ball, tetherball, kickback, 2-touch, etc. Frankly, they may get most of their activity jumping up and down cheering for the kids who are playing! Both SPARK K-2 and 3-6 PE programs include Recess Activities sections with ideas for inclusive, enjoyable, and ACTIVE games. SPARKabc’s also provides resources for recess staff looking to improve activity opportunities for all elementary age students. Here’s a sample recess activity that can be played as is, or modified to match your students and setting. Try it and tell us what you think!

Before and After School – Students who attend before and/or after school programs can receive a large percentage of their daily MVPA during structured and/or non-structured activities. Again, as in recess, activities need to be structured in such a way to increase activity levels and to have positive effects. There are many issues to consider with running a quality program that addresses a wide range of ages, group-sizes and skill levels, commonly have a lack of equipment and limited space, as well as high staff-to-student ratios. SPARK’s After School program (which actually targets all out-of-school PA programs, not just those done after school) has been found effective in increasing PA for children and adolescents ages 5-14. It has hundreds of suggestions for addressing many of the concerns typically encountered in these types of programs.

At the end of the day, students CAN reach the goal of 60 minutes or more of MVPA. It’s a matter of structuring your environment to encourage PA. By providing safe places to play, programs that promote movement throughout the day, equipment to complement those programs, and trained staff to lead them, your students will have met or exceeded the 60 min. goal for now, as well as learned the skills to continue to do so for a lifetime!

*(Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Comprehensive School Physical Activity Programs: A Guide for Schools. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; 2013)

Learn More:

Comprehensive School Physical Activity Programs: A Guide for Schools

Let’s Move! Active Schools

Free SPARK webinar!

Comprehensive School Physical Activity Programs

Resources for Integrating Physical Activity Throughout the School Day

May 7, 2014 @ 3pm Pacific (6pm Eastern) – Register Here

Recess Implementation Ideas & Resources

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014

Part 2 of 2

BBJ-W-2y BJ Williston

SPARK K-12 Trainer & Curriculum Developer

Click Here to read Part 1 of this article.

After assessing your current recess program with the School Recess Report Card in the SPARK Recess Handbook (included in the SPARKabc’s program), prioritize the components targeted for improvement.  Priority goes to the components with the lowest scores on the report card.

It is then time to implement!

The SPARK Recess Program includes all sorts of components to improve your school’s recess.

Activity Areas

Divide your recess environment into 4 main activity areas:

  1. Playground Structure for unstructured free-play
  2. Group Games Area
  3. Individual and Partner Games/Activities Area
  4. A perimeter area for students to walk/jog around

There should also be space and resources for those students who aren’t able to participate due to illness/injury/etc.

Supervision

It is suggested that adults be the Recess Supervisors responsible for the overall procedures, set-up, and safety.   Student Game Leaders work with the Supervisors to distribute and collect equipment, set up activity areas, and serve as a liaison to communicate student concerns.  Once the program is up and running, students arrive at recess, choose from a variety of activities and follow recess expectations.

Both Supervisors and Game Leaders promote Character Matters, a social skills development program designed to identify, reinforce, and assess character education concepts in physical activity settings like PE and recess.  Concepts such as cooperation, respect, concern, leadership, and fair play are introduced at the beginning of the school year in all SPARK PE programs (K-12) and SPARK After School.

Activities

SPARK’s Recess Program offers a variety of activities for students to choose from. Individual/Partner activities include 2 and 4-Square, Hoop Stations, Jump Rope Stations, and Flying Disc Golf. Group games include 3-Catch and All-Run Kickball.

Maintenance

Recess Supervisors keep the program going by completing monthly Recess Action Plans, maintaining equipment, encouraging enthusiasm among the Student Game Leaders, and staying on top of the needs of the program.  Details for this maintenance are laid out in the Recess Handbook.

SPARKabc’s Recess Program can help your school get it all together to achieve all the benefits a fabulous recess program can bring!

Advocate for Recess

Want to advocate for better recess policies at your school? Take these 5 steps:

  1. Refine your own viewpoint about how children learn best.
  2. Spread the word: share proof about the significance of recess (see attachment for citations).
  3. Lobby for safe and properly maintained play areas in your school, neighborhood, and community.
  4. Get connected to local organizations that support recess.
  5. Stay informed with action alerts from local and national organizations such as the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

For more information on the SPARKabc’s Program and the SPARK Recess Program, go to www.sparkpe.org/abc or contact SPARK at 1-800-SPARK PE (772-7573).

The Importance of Recess

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014

Is it Recess Yet?

Part 1 of 2

BJ-W-2By BJ Williston

SPARK K-12 Trainer & Curriculum Developer

Remember when you were little and someone asked you what your favorite class was?  If you were like me, you emphatically said “Recess!” It’s not that I didn’t like my “real” classes, it’s just that the freedom I got when that bell rang was so sweet I could taste it.

The choices seemed endless.  Sometimes I’d play kickball with a big group and other times I’d play marbles or jacks with a friend or I’d jump rope.  I remember there were several months when I was obsessed with mastering a few tricks on the bars, so that is all I did.  I grew up in Hawaii, and I remember needing help getting down whenever my muumuu got twisted around the bar.  After it rained real hard, we couldn’t wait to chase baby frogs across the field.  It was a smorgasbord of outdoor fun and I got to choose depending on my mood not once but twice a day. It was heaven.

Sadly, today’s elementary school kids don’t have it so good.  Recess has been on the proverbial chopping block in the past decade due to budget cuts and the pinhole focus on academic standardized test scores. The powers that be have decided recess just isn’t important enough to keep.  Well, I for one hope to shout that it is extremely valuable and worth fighting for. I’m not the only one, and more and more folks are causing a fuss to reverse this alarming trend.

Here are just a few of the issues in a nutshell:

  • School-aged children need about 60 minutes of physical activity a day for myriad reasons, including heart health, decreasing risk of overweight/obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and various types of cancer to name just a few.
  • Kids can get this 60 minutes of PA in a multitude of ways including before and after school activities, physical education class, activity during their classroom time, and recess.
  • Only 6 states require PE in all grades K-12.  Almost half of US students don’t receive any PE in an average week.
  • All students don’t have the resources to be involved in before and after school structured physical activity, and many kids don’t live in an environment conducive to unstructured physical activity during their free time.  Neighborhoods are unwalkable, and parks are too few and far between.  For these kids, recess is even more important to get them to the 60 minute goal.
  • Only 9 states require recess be given to elementary school students. Yikes!

We all instinctively know that recess is not just fun, but important for all kids to have on a daily basis. Knowing is one thing, however it sure helps recess’s case that The American Academy of Pediatrics has come out with a strong opinion promoting recess.  They consider recess a necessary break from the demands of school and in their policy statement in January 2013, they concluded that “minimizing or eliminating recess can negatively affect academic achievement, as growing evidence links recess to improved physical health, social skills and cognitive development.” So, there you have it: Recess is important for everyone.

Research conducted on recess and its benefits has found that students with at least 15 minutes of recess daily behaved better than their peers who did not have recess (Baros, Silver, & Stein, 2009).  So, clearly taking it away from children with poor behavior in class is not what the doctor ordered.  The benefits of recess range from increased physical activity to help children reach 60 minutes each day to the social and emotional learning they get from play.

Children learn teamwork, cooperation, empathy, fair play, and how to make adaptations to include all students.  What do they do when they disagree?  Do they need an adult there to help them clear it up? Most of the time, no.  They learn conflict resolution skills to work things out on their own. Skills they can take with them and use in their life outside of school.  Oh, and then there’s the benefit that the powers that be seem to be most interested in: improvements in academic scores.  There are myriad studies correlating fitness and physical activity with higher academic scores.  That’s always a nice feather in the benefits cap.

So, if everyone is saying recess is important, let’s be sure to keep it in schools and to make it the best it can be.  How do you do that?  SPARK can help. SPARK now has a Recess Component as part of the SPARKabc’s Program.  It was written to help school staff get and stay organized, promote health-enhancing PA, and promote positive social interaction in a semi-structured environment.  It’s got the whole package from an evaluation of your ho-hum or worse yet, dangerous and chaotic recess to all the tools you need to make it a recess your school is proud of.

The first step is to assess your current program.  SPARKabc’s Program offers a School Recess Report Card designed to provide you and your committee a starting point for assessing the quantity and quality of your present recess.

The 5 components measured are:

  • Time and Frequency
  • Effectiveness
  • Supervisors
  • Facilities and Equipment
  • Formal Policies

After measuring these (with a committee including representatives from recess supervisors, PE staff, administration, parents, and classroom teachers) prioritize the components targeted for improvement. Priority goes to the components with the lowest scores on the report card.  It is then time to implement!

See Part 2 of this blog for implementation ideas & resources.

Schooling, Health and Youth Development – What is Necessary?

Thursday, March 13th, 2014

Schooling, Health and Youth Development – What is Necessary?

Provided by ASCD Whole Child Programs · www.ascd.org · www.wholechildeducation.org

Over the past few years, ASCD authors have penned a number of articles about the need for schools, educators and policymakers to focus on the health and well-being of their students. Not just for the sake of their health and well-being (if that shouldn’t be enough on its own) but also to support effective teaching and learning.

Here are just a few selections to read and share:

Physical Activity

Integrating Movement Roundup

Ensuring a high-quality physical education program is important. Equally important is ensuring that students are active across the school day and not just in PE class. Research shows that kids who are physically active are not only healthier, but also likely to perform better academically; and short activity breaks during the school day can improve concentration and behavior and enhance learning

Play and Recess

Playing a Game Is the Voluntary Attempt to Overcome Unnecessary Obstacles

Last month we ran the theme of integrating movement throughout the school day (and outside of physical education classes). Obviously one place where this should be a no-brainer is recess. But it’s been scary seeing how many schools and districts have been cutting back on recess time to either provide enrichment classes or add additional academic study time into the school day.

Investing in Healthy Recess to Nurture the Whole Child

A healthy, positive school environment transcends what goes on in the classroom. In fact, what happens at recess holds a crucial key to developing the whole child. A school that provides time and space for students to run, talk, and play helps ensure every child is healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged. Experience and research tell us that active students learn better, and daily recess is proven to help students focus in the classroom.

Does Better Recess Equal a Better School Day?

In a new study released Tuesday, Mathematica Policy Research and the John W. Gardner Center for Youth and Their Communities at Stanford University rigorously evaluated the Playworks program and found that it improved outcomes in the areas of school climate, conflict resolution and aggression, physical activity, and learning and academic performance.

Nutrition

Reducing the Effects of Child Poverty

In today’s global economic state, many families and children face reduced circumstances. The 2008 economic crisis became a “household crisis” (PDF) when higher costs for basic goods, fewer jobs and reduced wages, diminished assets and reduced access to credit, and reduced access to public goods and services affected families who coped, in part, by eating fewer and less nutritious meals, spending less on education and health care, and pulling children out of school to work or help with younger siblings. These “new poor” join those who were vulnerable prior to the financial shocks and economic downturn.

No Child Should Grow Up Hungry

We are proud to welcome Share Our Strength as a whole child partner. Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign aims to end childhood hunger in the United States. It connects kids in need with nutritious food and teaches their families how to cook healthy, affordable meals. The campaign also engages the public to make ending childhood hunger a national priority.

Mental Health

Best Questions: Mental Health

More than 20 years ago, I spent one school year as the full-time school counselor in an early childhood center in Washington, D.C. Our enrollment was 250 full-day preK and kindergarten students in an old, huge brick building with 20-foot high ceilings and massive center courtyard-like hallways. I spent the year in easily washable clothes and with my hair in a ponytail at all times because, as anyone who has ever worked in early childhood can tell you, fancy clothes and fancy hair don’t mix well with peanut butter and finger paint.

A Health Iceberg

I use these slides often when discussing health. It starts with the tenets, becomes a pyramid, and then ends with what I call a “health iceberg.” Let me show you what I mean.

The common thread through all of these articles is that health and well-being matter and they determine how well we learn, grow and achieve. Health and education are symbiotic. What affects one affects the other. The healthy child learns better just as the educated child leads a healthier life. Similarly, a healthier environment—physically as well as socially-emotionally—provides for more effective teaching and learning.

To learn more about ASCD and Whole Child Education, visit the links below.

www.ascd.org

www.wholechildeducation.org

How to Use SPARK Integrations

Friday, February 7th, 2014

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

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

Please explain these!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Please share how you use them!

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

Holiday Message from Paul Rosengard

Saturday, December 7th, 2013

Hi everybody:

Happy holidays to you and yours from SPARK!

Hard to believe it’s nearly the end of 2013.  Whether you are a preschool teacher, an after school youth leader, a physical education specialist, classroom teacher, or administrator, we know how hard you worked every day this year for your students.

SPARK has been busy too – working for YOU.  Here are some of the new resources we created in 2013:

  • SPARKabc’s (Activity Break Choices) for the Classroom (click here to learn more)
  • Downloadable Music in Every SPARK Program (on SPARKfamily.org – click here to learn more about SPARKfamily)
  • Resources to align to the Common Core State Standards (click here to learn more)
  • New Assessment tools in Grades 3-6 PE (SPARKfamily.org)
  • FUNctional Fitness Resources for High School and SPARKfit (SPARKfamily.org)

Our holiday gift to YOU is a promise to continue developing new, innovative tools that help your students learn and you to become the best teacher you can be.

On behalf of all of your friends at SPARK (and Scout) have a safe and wonderful holiday season.

Paul Rosengard

P.S:  Here’s a picture of Scout and I in Park City, Utah over Thanksgiving break.  Not sure where that bear came from…

Paul and Scout Dec 13