Archive for the ‘Exercise and Fitness’ Category


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!

Big Results in a Short Period of Time

Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

New Research on SPARK Middle School PE program Published!

By: Paul Rosengard, SPARK Godfather

Did you know today’s SPARK’s Middle School Physical Education curriculum and teacher training program evolved from the three largest studies of MS PE ever conducted? It’s true. The three National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded research projects, M-SPAN (Middle School Physical Education and Nutrition), TAAG (Trial of Activity for Adolescent Girls), and The Healthy Study contributed to the exemplary and award-winning program being disseminated today.

While the last of these studies concluded in 2010, middle schools across the country have partnered with local universities to conduct ongoing tests of the SPARK program and better understand its effects on students and teachers.

One such effort titled, “Effect of the SPARK Program on Physical Activity, Cardiorespiratory Endurance, and Motivation in Middle School Students” was recently published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health*. Several significant takeaways from this paper:

Background: This study examined the effect of a 9-week SPARK Middle School Physical Education program on physical activity levels, cardio-fitness, and motivation of 174 sixth through eighth grade students from two urban, private schools in Salt Lake City, Utah. This intervention group (using SPARK MS PE) was compared to other students in the same grades and schools who continued with their usual physical education program (Controls – referred to in the paper as Traditional group).

Measures: To ascertain student activity levels, students wore high-quality, research-validated pedometers. To determine their levels of cardio-fitness, students were administered the PACER test. To assess students’ motivation and enjoyment of the SPARK activities, they completed questionnaires (Sport Enjoyment Scale).

Results: Despite the very short intervention timeline, students participating in SPARK Middle School PE were more active, increased their cardio-fitness scores, and showed they were more motivated by the SPARK lessons and enjoyed them more than their “usual/traditional” PE program.

Here’s one interesting quote from the paper:

“The results from this study indicate that there were increases in-class PA for both the SPARK and Traditional groups from pre-test to post-test. However, the SPARK group had statistically greater increases on in-class PA compared with the Traditional group in younger children. These results support that SPARK, as an established health-related PE program, was significantly more effective in increasing middle school students’ in-class PA levels than the Traditional program in younger children.”

SPARK wishes to thank the authors, the University of Utah, and the participating schools and teachers for their time and subsequent contribution to the scientific knowledge base.

If your school is conducting research using any components of any SPARK program, please let us know via email, spark@sparkpe.org.

Ready to bring SPARK Middle School Physical Education to your school?

  • Click here to download free sample SPARK Middle School PE Lesson Plans
  • Click here to shop for SPARK Middle School PE curriculum sets
  • Click here to request a proposal for the full SPARK Middle School PE program (professional development training, curriculum, and content-alighted equipment)

*Article citation:

Fu, Y., Gao, Z., Hannon, J.C., Burns, R.D., Brusseau, T.A. (2016). Effect of the SPARK Program on Physical Activity, Cardiorespiratory Endurance, and Motivation in Middle-School Students. Journal of Physical Activity and Health 13, 534-542.

Click here to access the research article.

Staying Active over Summer Break

Tuesday, July 5th, 2016

Staying_Active_over_Summer_Break

By: BJ Williston, SPARK Trainer and Curriculum Development Consultant

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

Be Supportive

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

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

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

Plan Ahead

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday: Take a hike

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

Set Limits

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

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

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

Have Fun!

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

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

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

[INFOGRAPHIC] Youth & Yoga

Thursday, March 12th, 2015

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

Youth & Yoga - Kids Yoga Poses

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Start Them While They’re Young: Introducing Kids to Exercise Routines

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015

It is no secret that children today lead more sedentary lives than their parents and grandparents did. Childhood obesity has more than doubled over the past three decades and screen time is at a record high between television, computers, tablets, video games, and smartphones. While it seems that the days of playing outside and simply “being a kid” are fading away, it’s not too late to turn the ship around. By introducing your kids to exercise routines and showing them how fun being active is, you can make a big difference.

What Is a Healthy Amount of Exercise For Kids?

 
The Centers for Disease Control recommends at least 1 hour per day of physical activity for children and adolescents. That time frame should include mainly aerobic activity, but muscle and bone strengthening exercise is also very important for growing bodies.

Sixty minutes per day is not difficult to achieve if you look for smaller time frames to incorporate activities, like walking to school or participating in organized sports a few days per week. The key is to pick age-appropriate activities that interest your kids so that they will look forward to the activity and form a positive opinion of healthy fitness pursuits.

Kids exercise

Exercise by Age

Not all exercise is appropriate for all ages and some is more beneficial to certain age groups than others. Take a look at what should be the focus of an exercise routine for kids by age:

Infants/babies

Working with the smallest of kids to develop motor skills, like crawling, walking, and pulling up to a standing position is enough activity. This is also an important bonding time for parents and babies, so getting down on the floor and playing with infants is beneficial in physical and psychological ways.

Toddlers

A good 90 minutes of daily physical activity is not only helpful for a toddler’s health but benefits parents by providing a release for all of that extra energy. Toddlers learn most in play environments, so structuring just 30 minutes per day of planned physical activity is enough, as long as you provide active outlets for free, creative exploration on the part of the toddler.

Preschoolers

This group of kids requires the most amount of physical activity of all the age groups, at 2 hours. They still need an hour of unstructured, creative play but are physically able to handle another hour of planned activity too. Most preschools do have some built-in physical activity, but parents should still find ways to incorporate the difference at home.

School-age kids

As recess times at school decline, it is important that parents find at least 1 hour per day for their kids to exercise. Ideally this exercise should last at least 15 minutes at a time to have full effect. As children grow, they are also capable of doing some independent fitness activities that parents should encourage. Pay attention and listen to your children’s interests, and support whatever physical activity they love the most. Whether they want to play sports, take dance classes, or just jog around the neighborhood every day, as kids get older they need some independence when it comes to staying fit.

Every child will want to sit down and watch television from time to time or play a computer or tablet game. This is fine as long as it does not occur in excess. The CDC recommends that children under the age of 5 never remain inactive for less than an hour and that school age kids never remain inactive for more than 2 hours at a time—apart from nap and bedtime, of course.

The best way to get your kids excited about exercise is to set the example. Find family activities that you can all do together and cheer each other on at individual events, too.

10 Fit Family New Year’s Resolutions

Monday, December 22nd, 2014

Millions of people will make resolutions when the New Year rolls around, and millions of those resolutions will have to do with living a healthier, more active lifestyle. Keeping those resolutions is challenging, but by making resolutions as a family, you have a built-in support group that encourages each other to reach fitness goals throughout the year.

Take a look at a few ways your family can resolve to be more fit in the coming year and beyond. exercise

Train Together

Sign up for an upcoming event, like a short road race or obstacle course challenge as a family unit. Schedule training sessions together, set individual goals, and cheer each other on in the process.

Park with a Purpose

Every time you’re out and about, reconsider the urge to find the closest possible parking spot. Deliberately park your car further away than normal. Over the course of a year, all of those additional steps will really add up. Plus, your heart will appreciate a reduction in stress that comes with navigating crowded areas and battling with other drivers for parking spots.

Try Something New

Pick a new sport or activity to try out as a family or resolve to try something new each month of the year. For extra family fun and participation, rotate who gets to choose each new month’s activity.

Get Outside

Resolve to spend more time in nature. Take family walks after dinner or frequent a neighborhood park once per week. Check out your city’s Department of Parks and Recreation website to find parks and open spaces that are open to the public. You’ll probably find a lot more than you knew existed, including a few family favorites to visit regularly. There’s no denying the benefits nature has on our well-being!

Unplug

Set limits on electronic device use, including watching television. Schedule times to put all phones, computers, and tablets away and fill that space with active pursuits—even cleaning the house—instead.

Plan an Active Vacation rafting

When you are trying to decide where your next family getaway should be, take a look at what recreational opportunities you can fit in. Are there trails to hike? Canoeing options? Downhill skiing or water sport activities? Let these activities guide the planning process and build them into your itinerary.

Just Walk

Whenever possible, walk to your destination. When you get there, find ways to add even more steps to the experience. This can include everyday activities, like going to school or work, and can also mean taking walks for the sole purpose of fitness. Buy everyone a pedometer or activity tracker and keep track of your steps together on a family chart.

Plant a Garden

Not only will you have fresh, healthy foods to place on your dinner table, but you will be active in the garden through the building, planting, and harvesting process. Teach your kids that not all foods come prepackaged at the grocery store and that some of the tastiest ingredients can be grown right at home.

Pencil It In

Don’t just say you will be more active; actually write it on the schedule alongside other family obligations. Having it in print will make you more accountable to uphold your New Year’s resolutions to keep moving as a family.

Being more active as a family is the best New Year’s resolution you can make any year. Make this year one that brings your family better health and fitness outcomes, and resolve to reach your goals together.

10 Tips for Teaching Dance

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

BJ-W-2

By BJ Williston

SPARK K-12 Trainer & Curriculum Developer

I was lucky to have been exposed to a wide variety of types of dance as a kid. Living in Hawaii, my first experience was taking hula lessons with my older sisters. I may have been the only redhead in the halau (or hula school) but I loved the feeling of moving to the beat and changing as much as my more native-looking friends. In school, our PE teacher taught us square dance, Polynesian cultural dances, and later dances to the hit songs of the day. I am certainly dating myself when I say we danced to Three Dog Night’s “Joy to the World” and The Jackson Five’s rendition of “Rockin’ Robin”.

In middle school we choreographed our own routines and performed in front of the class. The groups were teacher-assigned which meant a mixed bag of students cooperating to complete the task. I have great memories of that assignment. By high school I was taking jazz and modern dance classes outside of school and joined a dance company which performed around the island. We rehearsed several nights a week and the experience helped build my confidence and gave me a greater insight into the life of a dancer.

At the time I didn’t realize how fortunate I was to have been given such a well-rounded dance education. Looking back on it, I owe a lot to my PE teachers who cared enough to expose me to dance at such an early age.

Why teach dance?

My guess is that most teachers inherently know that dance is an important part of every child’s education. Aside from bringing pleasure, dance can increase health-related fitness as well as improve balance, coordination, and balance. Dance brings us more in touch with diverse cultures and may be used as a tool to teach or reinforce cultural awareness. Learning a dance helps memory and sequencing skills. In addition, dance can be a form of self-expression and creativity. Many dances promote social skills like cooperation and teamwork. Dance is typically a non-competitive activity that most students enjoy. So, the real question should be why not teach dance?

As I’m sure you know there are some PE teachers who don’t teach dance. They have all sorts of excuses for leaving dance out of the curriculum. If you are one of these teachers, this blog is for you. Let me put your worries at ease as SPARK can help you overcome just about any barrier you may have for not teaching dance. Below are a few of the barriers and ten tips to help overcome them:

I’m not a “dancer”

No one is expecting you to be an expert in everything. Most PE Specialists are more comfortable teaching certain activities over others. You may be the Invasion Games Expert or the Aquatics Guru or the Racquets and Paddles King/Queen. But just because you are not an “expert” in an area does not mean you can’t teach it. Here are a few ideas for teaching dance when you yourself are just learning:

1. Start small: Look for dances in the SPARK program that have just a few steps like the Conga, The Bunny Hop, The Pata Pata, etc. Get your feet wet with these to build your confidence and see how your students take to dance.

2. Build on that: Each time you teach a dance, use that dance as a warm-up for your next few lessons to reinforce learning. Allow students to add their own twist to dances as they get more comfortable. Revisit your dances throughout the year and keep building their repertoire.

3. Use the Jigsaw Method: Many of SPARK’s dances are broken into 3-4 discernable parts. For example a dance with Verses, Chorus, and Instrumental parts with 3-5 steps in each. Students begin in Jigsaw Groups, then # off according to how many parts there are. They then move to Learning Groups where they are all learn the same steps and become an expert in those steps. When ready, they return to their Jigsaw Group and each student teaches the part they learned. Like a jigsaw puzzle, they put it together to form one full dance. This method encourages students to work cooperatively, promotes reading, and allows students to interpret the dance steps in order to teach them.

4. Get a little help from SPARKfamily: All of the K-12 PE and After School dances are now available on SPARKfamily.org in a new section called SPARKdance.  SPARKdance provides the instructional materials, music, and videos for each dance.  There are two videos per dance – an Instructional and an All Together version. Use the Instructional video to go through each dance step-by-step. Then use the All Together video to help lead the group through the dance with no stops. This frees you to move around the area to help students in need.

5. Turn over the reins: Use PACE dances to allow students to learn at their own pace with a partner or small group. SPARK also has a “Create a Dance” activity in most program levels. These activities should be used after other dances have been taught so students can build on what they have learned.

6. Find an expert: Whether it is another teacher at your school, a parent volunteer, a student teacher, community member, or even one of your students, there are “expert” dancers all around! Invite someone to be a guest teacher a few days each month. Once students learn the dance, get a few students who are comfortable leading, turn on the music, and dance away! Again, this frees you to move throughout and provide feedback to your class.

I don’t have the right music

There are all sorts of resources out there to help you with music. Try some of these:

7. SPARK provides an mp3 version of each of the songs for all of our dances on SPARKfamily.org. SPARK also has CDs with all of the music from each program. Click Here to download the order form.

8. iTunes allows you to purchase songs one at a time for $0.99 or $1.29. Be sure to listen to them for content appropriateness!

9. Some companies, such as Kidzbop® put out kid-friendly versions of the most popular songs of the day.

10. Stay tuned for the SPARKdance DVD set (including instructional materials, music, and videos) in September 2014!

We don’t have a dance room

Very few schools do, so don’t let that slow you down. A gym is perfectly fine for dance. If you don’t have a gym, a blacktop or even grass works just fine. Basically, kids can dance anywhere! It certainly helps to have a good sound system so you and the students can hear the music well.

Now, don’t let your students go one more week without getting them moving to music. It’s the right thing to do! Have fun!

Ready to get started? Join the #SPARKdance contest May 27, 2014 – June 30, 2014 for a chance to win an iPad Mini! Click Here to learn more.

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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