Archive for the ‘Exercise and Fitness’ Category


Taking the Fear Out of Physical Education

Thursday, August 10th, 2017

A woman trainer at the gym helps her student lift weights.

An educator’s job goes beyond ensuring students learn particular facts and develop certain skills. Instead, educators play a critical role in instilling their students with a love of learning, discovery and exploration.

Ideally, an enthusiastic and skilled educator can help a student not only remember the year the Constitution was written or the Civil War broke out, but also imbue them with a sense of wonder and make them want to learn more about history.

Yet physical education is a subject where many educators can inadvertently have the exact opposite effect, making their students flee from the subject. Negative experiences in gym class as a child can make a person less likely to engage in physical activity as an adult.

What can physical educators do to ensure their classes are the start of a lifelong enjoyment of physical activity? And how can adults who are still intimidated by negative experiences in gym class learn to love exercise for the first time?

What Educators Can Do for Students

A bad physical education teacher doesn’t only scare kids away from gym class — he or she can also make them throw in the towel for the rest of their lives.

A 2009 study in the academic journal Qualitative Research in Sport and Exercise found negative experiences in gym class as children keeps people far away from team sports for years. As one study participant said, “[physical education] robbed me of the joy of physical activity for many years…It destroyed my physical confidence.”

Another study examined the practice of picking teams in physical education class, and found this caused “real and long-lasting harm to people’s psyches and their physical activity participation levels.”

Doing the wrong thing can cause a lot of harm. So, what are the right things that physical educators should do?

Keep the Goal in Mind

As a physical educator, sometimes it’s easy to forget what the end goal is. Teaching children sports is not the end goal — teaching them teamwork and physical coordination and improving their physical strength and health are the end goals. Sports are one means to this end.

Keeping this in mind will change the way you approach teaching physical education. It will minimize the importance of winning and losing, and will help you adopt more creative ways of teaching skills.

Consider the example of teaching a child to dribble a basketball. The important thing is not that they know how to dribble a basketball; rather, it’s that they improve their hand-eye coordination. Having them dribble through a course of pylons is one way of helping them improve their hand-eye coordination, but there are many other drills and activities that can use a basketball to achieve the same ends. The trick is finding the activities that your students will find enjoyable rather than excruciating.

Make It Fun

The thought of physical activity shouldn’t induce feelings of apprehension or fear. It should be fun! A 2014 study of youth athletes found the overwhelming reason they played sports was because it was fun. When it’s no longer fun, the main reason to play is gone.

An important way to keep sports and physical activity fun is to minimize attention on outcomes. Avoid keeping score. Offer positive reinforcement. Make having fun a more important goal than winning. Emphasize self-improvement rather than competitiveness. Encourage your students to do better at a physical activity than they did the time before, rather than comparing them to other students.

These are particularly important principles when teaching physical education at the younger ages, but the overarching goal of encouraging fun is important to keep in mind at all ages.

Remember That Your Attitude Matters

Physical educators are often people who care a lot about sports and take profound satisfaction in athletic achievement. Sometimes this makes them too quick to push children harder and farther than children are ready to go.

Remember, the role of a physical educator is different than that of a coach. Children don’t need a drill sergeant, they need an educator who cares about creating a safe and fun environment for them to learn.

With your words and actions, demonstrate that effort is more important than perfection, and fun is more important than winning. Your attitude will set the tone for the class, and ultimately make a huge difference in how your students feel about physical activity.

Think Beyond Sports

Sports are great, and team sports in particular impart many important skills. All the same, some students will not gravitate towards sports as much as to other physical activities. It is important for them to understand that physical activity is not limited to competitive sports.

Introduce your students to other physical activities like dance, wall climbing, archery, aerobics, yoga and outdoor activities like canoeing. You’ll broaden their understanding of physical activity and make it more likely they hit on an activity they’ll enjoy enough to make a lifelong hobby.

Eliminate Picking Teams

One last suggestion: don’t let your students pick teams. Students who are picked last describe the experience as embarrassing, alienating and frustrating. It can invoke strong feelings of sadness, shame and even anger.

None of these are emotions you want your students to associate with physical education. When playing sports, make the teams yourself. As the educator, you will probably be much better at creating teams and making for a more enjoyable experience for the entire class.

How Adults Can Overcome Negative Experiences

If you’ve had a bad childhood experience with physical education, it can shape the way you view physical activity for the rest of your life. You may feel intimidated by the very idea of going to the gym or joining a sports team.

There a few ways you can overcome these feelings. For example, if you want to begin weightlifting, but find the gym an intimidating place, you can set up a home gym. Another option is to could go the gym with someone you trust, who can help make you feel more at ease. Even doing a few sessions with a personal trainer can help many people feel more comfortable.

It’s also worthwhile to think about the activities you have negative associations with. If you found team sports stressful and unenjoyable, consider trying solo sports like cycling, golf or swimming.

Don’t let a bad gym teacher from your childhood ruin a lifetime of physical activity. There is an incredible range of physical activities suited to everyone’s skills and interests. Find the one that you’ll enjoy today to have a healthy hobby for life.

Tabata 201

Monday, August 7th, 2017

young woman using a skipping rope

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

In our last blog, Tabata 101, we discussed the Tabata Protocol. Today we will extend the conversation, focusing on how to teach Tabata in a physical education setting.

Imagination Station

Imagine a PE class that operates like a wellness center (see this blog for more details)… one where motivated students choose from and enjoy participating in a variety of fitness stations (weight training, yoga, Tabata, fitness walking, cycling, etc.), where each station is led by certified student-instructors, focused on helping their peers develop personal fitness skills, knowledge and confidence. Read on to make this dream your reality…

Tabata Refresher

Tabata is a high intensity interval training (HIIT) program designed to get maximum fitness benefits in a short duration workout, making it a great option when you are pressed for time or want to add variety to a training program. Accordingly, Tabata can be a meaningful part of a well-rounded HS PE program.

Tabata in SPARK High School PE

In the SPARK HS PE program, Tabata is part of a larger unit called Group Fitness. As such, Tabata, like all other group fitness “mini-units,” consists of two progressive instructional activities:

  1. Basic Training

Here students master fundamental safety protocols and movement techniques associated with the unit content. In SPARK Tabata, students use the Content Cards to experiment with and master basic exercises. This may take multiple lessons as the teacher leads students through the mastery process. Tabata Basic Training focuses on SHAPE Standards 1, 2 and 3.

  1. Create a Workout

Here students create a series of personalized Tabata workouts by applying fundamentals mastered in basic training. As part of the process, students practice, refine and then lead classmates through their created workouts. In SPARK Tabata, students are challenged to create nine 4-minute Tabata workouts (3 workouts with 2 exercises, 3 with 4 exercises and 3 with 8 exercises). Tabata Create a Workout focuses on SHAPE Standards 4 and 5.

Tabata Teaching Tips

  • Encourage students to give Tabata a chance to help them improve aerobic and muscle fitness.
  • Focus students on safety, performance cues and personal fitness goals.
  • Modify activities to ensure safety, individual success and motivation.

Get Equipped

Share Your Knowledge

What are your experiences teaching Tabata? What advice would you give to someone who has never taught Tabata, but wants to? Post a response below and let us know!

Current SPARKfamily members with High School access can find the new Tabata unit under High School Web-Based Units. If you are not a current SPARKfamily member, you will receive 3-year access to the digital content when you purchase a SPARK High School curriculum set.

Tabata 101

Tuesday, August 1st, 2017

People exercising with dumbbell at gym

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

Tabata 101 is the first installment of a two-part blog series highlighting the latest web-unit addition to the SPARK High School PE Group Fitness Unit.

Tabata… a HIIT for getting fit.

Tabata is a High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) program designed to get maximum fitness benefits in a short duration workout, making it a great option when you are pressed for time or want a change from more traditional workout programs.

The Protocol

A single Tabata workout is 4 minutes in duration and consists of two parts: work and rest.

  1. Work: 20 seconds of full effort
  2. Rest: 10 seconds recovery
  3. Repeat: Complete workout/rest cycle 8 times
  4. Exercises: 1, 2, 4 or 8 exercises can be included per workout

An Example

  1. Push-up (20 sec), Rest (10 sec)
  1. Jumping Jacks (20 sec), Rest (10 sec)
  1. Air Squat (20 sec), Rest (10 sec)
  1. Jump Rope (20 sec), Rest (10 sec)
  1. Repeat 1-4 (4 min)

A Bit-a Tabata History

  • Who: The Tabata protocol was developed by researcher Izumi Tabata.
  • How: His landmark study compared the following training programs:
    • Traditional aerobic training: 5X/Week @ 60 min/workout
    • HIIT: 20 sec work, 10 sec rest repeated 8X
  • Results: HIIT and traditional trainings equally improved aerobic endurance. Tabata also improved anaerobic capacity while the traditional did not.
  • Summary: Tabata is an effective training protocol for improving aerobic and anaerobic fitness.

Try Tabata

Follow the guidelines below and give Tabata a try.

  • Bod Squad: Use body-weight exercises to reduce the need for specialized equipment.
  • Experiment: Try Tabata at a lower intensity to get comfortable with the protocol.
  • Choose Wisely: Select exercises you can perform safely and that match your fitness goals.
  • Modify: Alter exercises to match your current fitness level and progress as your fitness improves.
  • Stack It: When ready, try multiple Tabatas back-to-back with a brief rest (1-3 min) between each.
  • Warm-Up & Down: Use a dynamic, full body warm-up before and warm down afterwards.
  • Tech Support: Use a Tabata app to: select exercises, and add music to and/or time your workout.

Share Your Tabata Thoughts!

Stay tuned to for our next Tabata blog. In the meantime, we’re interested to know… What are your experiences engaging in Tabata? What advice would you give to someone who has never engaged in Tabata? Post a response below and let us know!

Current SPARKfamily members with High School access can find the new Tabata unit under High School Web-Based Units. If you are not a current SPARKfamily member, you will receive 3-year access to the digital content when you purchase a SPARK High School curriculum set.

What the 2016 Shape of the Nation Report Says About Recess

Tuesday, June 6th, 2017

four kids playing on recess equipment

The latest Shape of the Nation report included a combination of recess and research. Experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and SHAPE America have poured vast amounts of time and energy into figuring out how our children can get the most out of recess.

In the U.S., two recesses rarely look the same. Only eight states have policies that require schools to offer recess, and researchers found there were no real guidelines in any part of the country. This despite the recommendations that children engage in at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day.

With that in mind, there’s no time like the present to reexamine the way your school looks at recess. This summary of the report’s 19 strategies should serve as a good start.

Formalize the Fun

Ever heard of a recess curriculum? One of the broad strategy recommendations of the Shape of the Nation report is to make significant leadership decisions so recess becomes a priority. This doesn’t mean recess should be rigid and regimented, but it does mean your school should have a written physical education plan so all school staff and supervisors understand why daily physical activity benefits their students’ health and focus.

Sit down with teachers, parents, and students and create a set of policies to guide recess. This can involve everything from designating indoor and outdoor play spaces to figuring out how to keep students safe if a freak snowstorm hits during recess. Your strategy should include your school’s philosophy about recess, the goals it will take to get there, and who is responsible for taking on each step.

If you’re not sure where to start, the CDC has a self-assessment tool schools can use to see where they’re doing well and the areas in which they still need improvement.

From Planning to Playground

It’s time to adapt your schoolyard or indoor recess space so students benefit from your planning.

When possible, schools should provide ample play equipment. The types of equipment will vary, based on the age categories of your school. Educators should look beyond soccer balls and jump ropes and ensure their bounty of recess gear includes equipment that is inclusive for children of all ages and abilities. Consider balls of different size, textures, and color, as well as manipulative equipment that can be used by children with gross motor delays.

In addition to equipment, the report recommends creating designated physical activity zones. For example, your schoolyard could be split into three areas: one each for sports, fitness skills, and relaxation. This schoolyard division will make recess more satisfying for students and avoid the accidents that inevitably happen when two sports collide. One of your physical activity zones should also acknowledge that exercise doesn’t just come in the form of traditional sports. Drama productions, mazes, and obstacle courses can be created by more creative staff members and will serve the same positive purpose: getting children on their feet and having fun.

Finally: safety first. The Shape of the Nation report found that just under half of American schools post safety rules and guidelines for equipment, despite almost all schools having this equipment available to students. Creating an accessible list of rules and ensuring play equipment meets safety standards is an excellent preventative measure your school should take.

Activate Your Community

Everyone should be invested and engaged in making recess a success. If you laid out supervisory roles in your written recess plan, now is the time to implement them. While most schools require teachers and parents to be supervisors, less encourage them to be physical activity facilitators. Facilitators guide students through different activities, which helps reduce injury, bullying, and exclusionary behavior. While safety supervisors should be adults, physical activity facilitators can be found within your student body. Allowing older students to organize and facilitate an activity of their choice is essential in positive youth development and can create valuable peer leadership opportunities.

Tweak for Next Year

No strategy is complete without a means to assess it. The report recommends schools gather information about recess: how much intense physical activity is the average child getting, how is this affecting classroom outcomes, discipline rates, etc. Gathering this information will help you constantly refine your recess plan and provide a source of evidence if anyone ever challenges your school’s recess values.

Physical activity time is an essential part of a child’s school day. By incorporating all or some of the Shape of the Nation’s strategies, you can be sure you’re making recess the best it can be.

Are Your Students Meeting the Physical Education Guidelines?

Monday, May 22nd, 2017

teacher marking off checklist with students in the background

By teaching young minds the proper techniques of physical fitness, educators are better able to instill valuable knowledge that will last a lifetime.

But how close are your students coming to an ideal physical education? Read on to discover the Physical Activity Guidelines (PAG) from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to create the best program for your class this spring.

Emphasize Health-Related Fitness

In the world of physical fitness, two competing practices exist: health-related fitness and performance-related fitness. Performance-related fitness rewards students based on achievement of a specific task; PAG guidelines are not meant to promote this type of competitive education. Instead, a full curriculum based on health-related fitness is endorsed to teach heart-health-conscious kids.

Proper instructions for cardiovascular and muscular fitness allow students to continue to work on their health, regardless of their skill level. While an individual focused on performance-related fitness routines may develop quicker, flashier physical results, they lack proper understanding of what it takes to maintain that level of fitness throughout development.

Choose Individualized Health Goals

Not every student is at the same level of physical fitness, and they aren’t in the same developmental stages at the same time, either. That’s why instead of setting arbitrary goals, like a certain time to run a mile or a certain number of sit-ups in a row, physical education teachers should focus on customized fitness goals.

Educators can promote individualized results for each student by tailoring physical education parameters to their specific wishes and health needs. Not everybody functions the same under the same circumstances. Through proper education, teachers should communicate what questions an individual should ask themselves in order to gain perspective of their desired goal. Some of these questions include, but are not limited to:

  • How physically fit do I want to be?
  • How much weight do I want to lose and keep off?
  • How important is it to me to reduce my risk of heart disease and diabetes?

It’s vital to challenge students to achieve higher levels of physical fitness than their baseline comfort levels without making them feel they aren’t good enough if they can’t reach the same goal as a peer.

Focus on Disease Prevention

One of the main goals of the PAG guidelines is developing fundamental education and an understanding of disease prevention. By fostering proper physical fitness routines, students, as well as adults, have less likelihood of developing Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. It’s also crucial to teach students the opposite end of the spectrum: the effects inactivity can have on the human body. By understanding both ends of the spectrum, students are better able to find a balance and ensure sound physical health throughout their lives.

Take the Lifespan Approach

Physical fitness and sports are imperative for children’s healthy growth and development. Exercising the right way for just 60 minutes a day has a huge impact in both the short and long-term, promoting healthy day-to-day habits and encouraging a lifetime of physical activity. Students fully educated by PAG guidelines will be able to take this valuable knowledge and apply it to each stage of their life: adolescence, adulthood, and late adulthood. And it can all start with one well-designed physical education class at school.

With all these benefits, why not update your P.E. classes this National Physical Fitness and Sports Month? Which new lesson plan ideas will inspire you?

4 Fun Lesson Plans to Keep Kids Active During Physical Activity Month

Monday, May 15th, 2017

 

Kids learning from teacher while sitting in a circle

Today, many schools are reducing their opportunities for physical activity, limiting recess, restricting physical education lessons, and keeping youngsters anchored to their desks for hours each day. Although this might seem like the easiest way to ensure a constant focus on academics, research indicates that physical activity and cognition go hand in hand.

May is officially recognized as National Physical Fitness and Sports Month. That makes now the perfect time for schools across the country to begin re-assessing their options for encouraging activity inside and outside of the classroom.

In the past, we at SPARK have drawn attention to the fact that students at every level desperately need movement to thrive in any school setting. Read on to discover some of our simple and effective lesson plans for instant and ongoing classroom physical activity you can start using today.

1. STEM Fitness Training

“STEM” Fitness Training lesson plans focus on fun facts about science, technology, engineering and math, while encouraging physical movement. Using a combination of markers, STEM Fitness Training cards and up-tempo music, teachers can encourage their students to actively pursue a deeper understanding of crucial topics as they get their blood pumping.

STEM Fitness Training involves quick cues, challenges and in-depth discussions between students as they move through aerobic fitness segments that support the mind/body connection. Try using SPARKabc’s Instructional Materials, which include three years of access to SPARKabc’s materials, along with STEM integration solutions, task cards and teaching resources.

2. Social Studies Fitness Relay

The Social Studies Fitness Relay lesson plan looks at the eight basic locomotor skills and helps develop peripheral vision in students. Using markers, the Social Study Fitness Relay state list and state cards, teachers can encourage children to expand their minds and enhance their understanding of crucial topics, while building a healthy vision.

As students spend more time staring at screens with their eyes fixed in distant vision mode, peripheral vision enhancement can help strengthen their eye muscles and improve reading comfort. The instructional materials set contains all the resources educators need to introduce Social Studies Fitness Relay solutions into their classrooms.

3. Nutrition Mix-Up

The Nutrition Mix-Up lesson plan teaches children about the five crucial “MyPlate” food groups, while promoting physical activity. The objective is for each student to identify themselves as a different food. They will then move quickly from one spot to another when the teacher calls their group.

Nutrition Mix-up is a fun and simple lesson solution that helps teachers emphasize the important connections between exercise and diet. The goal is to improve the positive relationships that children have with movement and healthy food, as well as to highlight the impact these elements have on their development and cognition. The Healthy Kids Challenge Wellness Solutions Toolkit can be an incredible supplement to the Nutrition Mix-Up, or any other nutrition-focused lesson plan.

4. Active as Soon as Possible Activities

A full lesson doesn’t need to center around physical activity in order to get students moving. Sometimes teachers will be able to recognize that their students are losing focus or becoming restless. And that’s where Active as Soon as Possible (ASAP) plans come into play. You can incorporate ASAP activities into the lesson plan around the times when children begin to become most lethargic. Each teacher should be able to pinpoint the perfect timing for their class.

Activities such as Invisible Jump Rope and Go Bananas! shake children out of their mid-day slump and get their hearts pumping. The rush of activity ensures an oxygen boost to the brain, which promotes energy and concentration. SPARK musical collections and instructional materials can help craft exciting ASAP activities to engage and revitalize students.

Planning for Physical Activity

As research continues to show the importance of physical activity in relation to brain function, it’s easy to see why teachers should incorporate more movement into their lesson plans. With physical activity lesson plans, educators can ensure that health and fitness don’t take a back seat to education. Instead, academics and activity can blend seamlessly together in an environment that encourages healthier development and better learning for children of all ages.

5 Ways to Promote Physical Activity Month at Your School

Monday, May 8th, 2017

Young kids in gym uniform follow gym instructor

Today, most parents and educators alike know that children need at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise each day. While encouraging children to spend an hour being active might not seem like much of a challenge, the truth is that we’re living in a world where youngsters are spending more time glued to television screens and rooted to classroom desks.

Around 3 out of 4 children are getting less than an hour of physical activity each day. This problem can link back to a reduced number of physical education classes, diminished recess opportunities, and the fact that children are spending around 30 hours per week on “screen time.”

May is “National Physical Fitness and Sports Month,” which makes it the perfect time for schools to start prioritizing activity and introducing the benefits of regular movement to their students. Here are 5 ways you can celebrate the advantages of an active lifestyle at your school to help develop a culture of fitness for the future.

1. Introduce In-Lesson Physical Activity

Today, school administrators across the United States are restricting opportunities for physical activity in classrooms. In an effort to push more focus on academic achievement, recess has fallen to minutes per day, and physical education classes are becoming increasingly less frequent.

Unfortunately, research suggests that P.E. and recess aren’t just crucial for fighting obesity and other common weight-related health problems, they’re also essential for boosting cognitive development. Regular physical activity promotes greater circulation and blood flow throughout the body, helps to enhance focus, and assists children in performing better academically. One way for teachers to overcome this issue is to build physical activity into their lesson plans.

During National Physical Fitness and Sports Month, educators can begin introducing STEM Fitness Training and Social Studies Fitness Relays, designed to get children up and moving while they learn. These solutions can make lessons more fun and engaging, while combining academic achievement with physical fitness.

2. Celebrate Fitness with Special Events

All children love a chance to celebrate something – even physical activity. That’s why National Physical Fitness and Sports Month is a great time to get them involved with special days and community events. On May 10, children from around the country can join families and community partners by walking or biking to school. Schools across the U.S. can register their 2017 event to enter into free prize draws for helmets and bikes.

Alongside a “bike or walk to school” day, you can also encourage parents and students in your school to help you come up with additional events and fundraisers. From a jog-a-thon to a hula hooping money-raising event, the whole community can get involved with exercise-friendly fun. What’s more, these fundraising opportunities will give you a chance to build the cash you need to invest in new materials that can help put fitness first.

3. Invest in New Materials

Sometimes, improving the active culture in a school environment is all about making sure you have the right resources. There are various low-cost and high-reward materials available that are already aligned to national and state physical education standards.

Digital programs, music, and even simple task cards can help teachers start developing new curriculums and lesson plans for a more active future. During National Physical Fitness and Sports Month, schools could examine the resources they already have by reaching out to fitness experts in the community and the school. A little investment and some research could open the door to dozens of new and healthy educational programs.

4. Get Creative

We’ve already established that teachers don’t need to restrict physical activity to P.E. lessons and recess. The time between lessons can be used to ensure physical activity throughout the whole day, without detracting from instructional periods. For instance, you could:

  • Use fitness activities to get students moving during advisory or homeroom periods.
  • Play uplifting music to promote movement during breaks.
  • Make exercise programs available during lunch periods, as well as before and after school.

5. Encourage Students to Take Charge

Finally, remember that National Physical Fitness and Sports Month is the perfect time for teachers and parents to encourage students to take charge of their own healthy habits. If educators can help children understand the benefits of regular movement and offer interesting ways for them to get active, they’ll be more likely to try it.

Students Taking Charge” is the Action for Healthy Kids framework that allows high school students to find ways to create and lead their own projects for nutrition and physical activity initiatives with help from adults and teachers. Student teams can build their own programs from scratch and transform the way they look at fitness with groups and activities that appeal to them.

In a world where it’s becoming more difficult to engage students in physical activity, allowing them to take control of their fitness is the perfect way to promote positive habits. Don’t miss out on all the advantages of promoting National Physical Fitness and Sports Month at your school.

3 Innovative Physical Education Teaching Techniques

Tuesday, April 18th, 2017

physical education

Physical fitness among young people has now found itself at the forefront of society’s scrutiny. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), obesity among children between the ages of 2 and 19 has more than doubled in recent years, leaving students susceptible to the development of diabetes, complex joint issues and a host of other serious health problems.

Many physical fitness educators have taken it upon themselves to drastically reduce these statistics over the course of the next decade. Although the improvements in technology have somewhat contributed to the dangerously sedentary lifestyles of many young people, it can also be harnessed to reverse these health concerns. With instant access to almost anything at any given time, technology can be used to improve fitness and potentially save lives. It’s just a question of how it’s used.

So how can today’s educators create interactive work environments for their physical education classrooms?

Here are 3 modern solutions to fight the current health concerns facing our youth:

1. Modern Wellness-Tracking Technology

One way that educators can make physical wellness more interactive is by implementing fitness monitors, like the Fitbit or the Nuband, into their classes.

These lightweight, wearable activity trackers provide a wide range of real-time data. They can be used to help students become more aware of their body’s processes as a whole, or simply to learn their peak heart rate levels to achieve maximum physical fitness. Electronic activity trackers record step counts, quality of sleep cycles and a host of other personal metrics to ensure that students stay active throughout their developmental years. The attention to detail creates a feeling of ownership, fostering a sense of responsibility to maintain that state of wellness for the future. It is said that children should remain active for at least 60 minutes a day to meet proper health standards. Fitness trackers can help make sure kids reach this simple but vital goal in their P.E. classes, and also in their daily lives.

2. Music and Dance as Motivation

When it comes to movement in physical education, there is no better motivator than music. With this universal truth in mind, educators have developed new teaching methods based on viral dance crazes, like the Cupid Shuffle and the Konami Dance Dance Revolution music game. Not only does learning choreography together create a sense of camaraderie among classmates and teachers, but it also provides a great workout. Students can improve their coordination, strengthen their social interactions with one another and reduce stress levels during exam time.

What P.E. teacher wouldn’t want a class of smiling, dancing students?

3. Active Gaming Platforms

Technology-based hobbies have become so ingrained in the lifestyles of students that we often forget that they can serve as a valuable tool.

Exergames, or active gaming programs, like Hopsports and Kinect Xbox, invite users into a comfortable and familiar environment, while offering an opportunity for moderate-intensity physical activity. The best part about this exercise source is that it can be continued outside of school. Many students have their own gaming consoles and could take their P.E. class inspiration to a whole new level at home.

It is becoming increasingly important for teachers to use every outlet at their disposal to improve the health of their students. Some physical education teachers have found the key to success is utilizing what young people love the most – and, very often, that’s the new advancements in technology. By creating interactive and entertaining lessons with activity tracking, music, dance and gaming, teachers can improve student wellness practices not only in school, but in the decades to follow.

Just Dance: Improving a Child’s Emotional and Social Skills Through Dance

Thursday, February 23rd, 2017

Dance class

There’s a reason why it feels so good when you have an uninhibited dance party in your bedroom. As well as being a great way to release tension — not to mention have a lot of fun — there are studies showing that dance is also an excellent way to foster the emotional and social growth of children.

Dancing combines all the benefits of physical activity with those of educating children about music and the arts. From an emotional and social standpoint, dance classes for kids between the ages of kindergarten and grade 12 are proven to have an impact when it comes to acceptance of others, respect, teamwork, and cooperation.

This could be because dance gives children the opportunity to express themselves freely and creatively, which allows an outlet for emotional and physical release. While children are still developing full cognitive abilities, it could be that they choose to send messages through dance rather than having to articulate their thoughts in speech.

Dance creates a social environment where kids need to cooperate with and trust one another to complete the moves and avoid stepping on toes. At a very young age, it also instills a greater respect for one’s body, and the bodies of others. Socially, it teaches children how to hold one another appropriately, how to be aware of someone else’s movement, and how to understand the physical abilities and limits of one’s own body.

Dance teaches the aforementioned skills in a language children understand: movement. Kids learn by doing, and there’s nothing better than moving through a dance routine to synthesize the lessons learned.

Bringing Dance to Schools

A survey conducted in 2014-2015 showed that 66% of LA-based schools that incorporated dancing reported seeing its students become more accepting of one another. This acceptance is important, especially in schools with at-risk students or communities where children come from diverse racial backgrounds. Dance, like music, is a universal language, and one that is relevant to every culture around the world. As research collected by NDEO states, dance can help at-risk students deal with more complex emotional and social conflicts, such as violence and race. By creating dance exercises that mirror the movements of different students, the head dancer is able to feel like a leader, and understands that they’re being accepted and respected by their peers.

As a bonus, participation in the arts is also shown to have a positive academic influence on children. A study on this topic found that students who took part in the arts performed better on standardized tests, had higher SAT and math scores, and were more focused in class. Dance can also have much needed health benefits at a time when 18% of American children aged 6 to 11 are obese and only 1 in 3 children are physically active on a daily basis.

If you’re wondering where to get started with bringing dance to your school, look no further than the SPARKdance DVD. Ideal for K-12 students, the DVD includes more than 20 dances and lesson guides so the benefits of the activity are within every educator’s grasp. There is also a Dance Decoded workshop for teachers who want to take their school’s physical education program to the next level.

Staying Active in Winter: Tips and Tricks for Kids

Thursday, December 29th, 2016

active

Staying active in the winter months can be a daunting task. Most people would just rather stay inside, veg out on the couch, and call it a day. But these kinds of activities aren’t good for your physical or mental health. Fortunately, there are numerous indoor activities that can be a good substitute for more typical outdoor sports during the winter months.

SPARK Lesson Plans

If your students are unwilling to go outside, there are several different games/activities that can be played indoors with little equipment.

We’ve put together collection of lesson plans that are perfect for indoor winter activities. Here are a few worth your attention:

Rock-Paper-Scissors Tag

In this game, kids partner up, play rock-paper-scissors at the midline, then whoever wins is “IT.” This person chases other players towards the endline. A point goes to the chaser if they tag a runner; a point goes to the runner if they make it safely to the endline. You’ll need cones, and flag belts are suggested.

Paper Plate Aerobics

In this game, kids have to keep a paper plate underneath each foot while doing some sort of movement. Examples include lunges, push-ups, and crunches. You could also have students use a softball and play catch with a couple others, without lifting feet off the plates.

Toy’s Alive!

In this game, everyone spreads out and pretends they are a toy (like in Toy Story). When they hear “Andy’s coming!” they must freeze in position. Students count down from three to one, and wait to hear “All Clear!” to move again. In order to move, they must use a bean bag as a “battery,” balanced on their head or shoulder. If the bean bag falls, the student must freeze until another toy-student helps them out. You’ll need cones and bean bags for this activity.

YMCA’s, Open Gyms, and Community Centers

Encourage students to take fitness into their own hands, outside of school. During the winter season, there’s a lot of time over break that should be used to constructively balance holiday indulgence.

YMCA’s offer a multitude of options for indoor activities, that vary depending on the location. A few different things that may be available at your local YMCA:

  • Gymnastics, swim classes, youth fitness classes (yoga, dance, Zumba)
  • Sports; basketball, flag football, volleyball, martial arts, running

Besides YMCA’s, open gyms, usually reserved for basketball, are “open” for anyone to use. They can also have space for gymnastics or volleyball nets. This is a great option to suggest to students with specific activity preferences.

Local community centers offer a variety of different activity options that are similar to what a local YMCA might provide. A local community center might offer martial arts, dance classes, and various sports teams to sign up for. But staying active doesn’t always mean doing a sport or exercise class. Another “activity” might be something like taking a cooking class as a family at a community center.

Bowling/Indoor Rollerblading/Indoor Trampoline

The best way to get a student to exercise? Make it seem like something that’s more “fun” than “work.” A few ideas to suggest for staying active in winter:

Bowling

Bowling gets you up and moving, plus it’s fun. You don’t have to be great at bowling, and there are bumpers on the lanes for kids. It’s also relatively inexpensive!

Indoor Rollerblading

Students may claim it’s too cold to go outside to ice skate, so encourage them to opt instead for indoor rollerblading. There are many health benefits associated with rollerblading: it’s easier on the joints, improves your overall mood, and can also help with endurance and agility.

Indoor Trampoline: Indoor trampoline parks are getting more and more popular. It’s an indoor park composed of trampolines and a pit of foam cubes to jump into. Trampolining is a great way to get kids active! Did you know that a ten minute bounce is the same as a half hour run?

Outdoor Activities

Just because it’s winter, doesn’t mean you HAVE to be stuck inside! There are many activities to do outside that kids, and parents, can enjoy. Some suggestions:

  • Build a snowman or snow fort
  • Go skiing, sledding, or snowboarding
  • Bundle up and go for a walk

Indoor Activities

We aren’t out of ideas for staying active in the winter yet! Here are some indoor activities to suggest to students that will probably please their parents.

Cleaning the House

It doesn’t have to be a chore! You can do a couple things to make this fun:

  1. Make it a game: whoever cleans their bedroom the fastest (an adult has to approve of thoroughness) gets a simple reward (like their choice for dinner).
  2. Turn the cleaning into a dance party and blast some tunes.

Cooking/Baking

Cooking and baking can really get you moving in the kitchen. You can turn it into family time, as well and cook/bake together. If it’s around the holiday time, encourage parents to bake cookies and decorate them with the kids. Learning to cook and manage your nutrition is not only a valuable skill, it’s also something fun to do when it’s freezing outside.

Active Video Games

Many gaming consoles have active video game titles kids can play. From Nintendo’s Wii Sports, to Xbox’s Kinect, there are plenty of options. You might also suggest dancing games like Zumba and Just Dance.

Staying active during the winter is difficult for many, and being cooped up isn’t fun either.  But staying active in winter helps physical health as well as mental health. You will have more energy and be less lethargic if you use some of these tips!