Archive for the ‘Physical Activity Plan’ Category

iRun 201

Tuesday, October 3rd, 2017

Happy high school student standing on track before big race

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

In our last blog, iRun 101, we outlined the scientific training principles, fitness guidelines, and training methods used to help students create individualized training programs, be active on a regular basis at an appropriate level, and achieve their personal fitness goals. Today we will extend the conversation, focusing on how the SPARK HS iRun unit specifically applies these principles, guidelines and methods.

101 Refresher

The SPARK iRun unit is a fitness-based unit designed to promote personal health, fitness and running performance. This unit challenges students to create a personalized aerobic training program based on their personal fitness level and goals.

iRun in SPARK High School PE

iRun is the latest SPARK HS PE program web unit and can accessed on iRun is considered a hybrid unit, combining aspects of both integrated fitness and games-based units in one. iRun is similar in structure to group fitness units (implements SPARK Fitness Instructor Certification and includes Basic Training and Create Your Own lesson formats) and uses lesson formats from games-based units (Personal Best, Fun-day-mentals Jigsaw, Adventure Race, Event). This unit draws on the best of both unit types to create an inspiring and supportive atmosphere where each student’s goal is to be their personal best.

iRun is comprised of user-friendly activity plans, instructional materials and assessments. iRun addresses SHAPE Standards 1-5.

1. Activity Plans

SPARK iRun Activity Plans follow a step-by-step process to ensure students and teachers are successful.

Step 1. Design – Students work individually or in similar fitness level groups to master aerobic training methods by creating personalized training programs to improve their current fitness levels.

Step 2. Practice & Refine – Students perform their personal workouts and adjust as necessary based on training principles and fitness guidelines.

Step 3. Compete – The unit culminates with a race (5k or other distance determined by teacher and students) where students are challenged to set and meet or beat their own personal goal time.

2. Instructional Materials

SPARK provides all necessary resources to support the successful implementation of activity plans.

  1. Content Cards – Defines components of health-related fitness, training methods and running form.
  2. Scorecards – Organizes multiple team scores and collects running times on one page.
  3. Workout Wristbands – Daily workout plan designed to be worn on student’s wrist, which provides quick and easy access to pacing information.
  4. Racing Bibs – Pre-made racing numbers for use in culminating event.

3. Authentic Assessment: Create a Program

In SPARK iRun, students are challenged to create a program that includes continuous, interval and circuit training workouts. Students create this personalized program by applying fundamentals mastered in basic training instruction. As part of the process, students practice, refine and, if they choose, lead classmates through their created workouts. iRun Create a Program focuses on SHAPE Standards 4 and 5.

iRun Teaching Tips

  • Utilize iRun Pace Chart to ensure accurate calculations as students develop workout pace.
  • Make sure students are racing the clock, not each other.
  • Encourage students to drink water before, during and after a run to ensure proper hydration.
  • Remind students to modify their programs as they become increasingly fit.

Get Equipped

Share Your Knowledge

Have you used a unit similar to iRun? What’s your experience? Any tips or hints you could share? Post a response below and let us know!

Current SPARKfamily members with High School access can find the new iRun 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.

iRun 101

Tuesday, September 26th, 2017

High school athletes at starting line for track meet race

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

iRun 101 is the first installment of a two-part blog series highlighting the latest SPARK High School web-unit: iRun.


SPARK HS’s newest web-only addition, iRun, is a fitness-based running unit designed to promote personal health, fitness and running performance. Regardless of your students’ current fitness levels, iRun will inspire and support each individual student on the pathway to personal success.

iRun takes scientific training principles, fitness guidelines, and training methods and makes them easy to understand so that students can create individualized training programs, be active on a regular basis at an appropriate level, and achieve their personal fitness goals. Read on to learn more about the foundational components of the iRun unit:

Training Principles

A system for developing long-term changes and improvements in fitness levels:

  • Overload – adding resistance or increasing difficulty
  • Progression – rate of overload, resistance or difficulty
  • Individuality – personalized goals
  • Specificity – align program and exercises to personalized goals
  • Reversibility – use it or lose it

FITT Guidelines

Recommendations for providing details to a program:

  • Frequency – how often to workout
  • Intensity – how hard to workout
  • Time – how long to workout
  • Type – which method of training to use

Aerobic Training Methods

The approaches for applying training principles and FITT guidelines:

  1. Continuous – single activity, moderate intensity, extended period of time with no rest.
  2. Interval – single activity, short bursts of high intensity alternated with brief rest periods.
  3. Circuit – a series of different activities performed at high intensity, brief rest at end of series.

Moving On!

Be on the lookout for the iRun 201 blog where we will look at the specifics of the SPARK HS iRun unit, illustrate strategies and identify resources to assist you in successfully implementing this unit in your own program.

Share Your Knowledge!

What are your experiences using aerobic conditioning programs? What advice would you give to someone who is planning to use this type program for the first time? Post a response below and let us know!

Current SPARKfamily members with High School access can find the new iRun 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.

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

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 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 We’d love to share your best practices with the SPARK family!

Healthy Family Habits for Every Month of the Year

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

True positive change is often not drastic or sweeping. It takes time to modify your family’s lifestyle and create lasting healthy habits. SPARK creates resources for educators to teach kids the importance of physical activity and healthy eating at school, but establishing a healthy routine begins with parents at home.

As you look ahead to the New Year, consider these suggestions to improve the health of your family:


Update your gear.

Getting organized is often at the top of the list when we turn the calendar for the New Year. Start by going through your family’s activewear and equipment to toss, recycle, or donate what no longer fits, works, or is used. This leaves room for any new gear you need, like running shoes for growing feet, jump ropes and balls, or even bikes for the family.


Get outside.

With the holidays behind us at this point and the cold dreary weather starting to take its toll, your family may want to hibernate inside until spring arrives. But winter inactivity is meant for bears, not humans! Find fun reasons to get outdoors. Winter sports, like skiing or ice skating, are fun for the whole family. Even if you bundle up for a simple daily walk around the neighborhood or play in the snow in the front yard, the fresh air and activity will do everyone some good.


Evaluate your family’s sleep habits.

March is the month when an hour of sleep is forever lost as we “spring forward” and set the clocks an hour ahead. But this is a great opportunity to look at the sleep habits of your family, parents included, to ensure that everyone is getting the right amount of rest. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention call sleep deprivation in America an epidemic that tends to accompany other chronic illness. This month, take a few minutes to improve the sleep habits, and therefore overall health, of your family.


Go to a ball game.

April marks the start of America’s favorite pastime as fans flock to baseball stadiums across the country. Taking your family out to the ballpark is an excellent way to get some fresh air and witness some inspiring athletic talent. If baseball isn’t your thing, find a basketball game, tennis match, or track and field meet to attend.

For added benefit, let the pros inspire you to play your own game of baseball (or other sport of your choice) in the backyard or park with the kids. Show them that it’s fun to work up a sweat, strategize, and partake in a little friendly competition just like the big-leaguers. Emphasize the importance of positive sportsmanship and team work for a well-rounded learning experience.


Join a gym.

Prepare for months of no school by getting set up at a nearby gym that offers classes and an active play area for kids. While kids certainly need some down time in the months away from everyday studies, resist television takeover. If you work during the day, pick out a few evenings to hit up the gym with your kids so everyone can burn off some of that summer energy.


Practice proper sun protection.

Actually, wearing the right sunscreen is important every month of the year—even the ones without much sun. Summer usually brings more opportunities for sun exposure, though, so make sure you are always prepared with sunscreen of at least SPF 30. You should also encourage your kids to wear hats out in the sun and do the same yourself.


Discuss oral care.

July is Oral Health Month (February is Children’s Dental Health Month), giving you the perfect opportunity to talk to your family about tooth care and decay prevention. Did you know that tooth decay is the top chronic illness in children? It is admittedly tough to make sure kids are really taking proper care of their teeth and entire mouth, particularly if they are resistant. Take some extra time this month to explain the importance of oral health in your family and to establish good habits.


Take up biking.

If you live close enough to your workplace or children’s school, make a commitment to walk or ride there instead of taking the car. You do not have to spend a lot to get the right gear. Check local consignment shops and garage sales for bikes that others have outgrown and then get a few weeks of practice in before the school year begins.


Do yard work.

Plain and simple, yard work burns calories and brings families together in a united front. Yard work also teaches responsibility and stewardship.


Practice moderation.

Halloween is often viewed as a candy and sweet free-for-all but it can also be a great lesson in portion control. Let your kids pick out their candy favorites and then donate the rest to an organization like Operation Gratitude, which sends it to U.S. troops overseas.


Run a turkey trot.

Start your Thanksgiving morning off right by entering a family-friendly Turkey Trot road race. These can be as short as a one-mile walk or as long as a half-marathon. Find the distance that accommodates everyone in the family and then bundle up!


Give back and raise awareness.

Find a cause that is close to your family’s heart and donate some time to it. Organizations appreciate donations of cash, clothing, and other household items of course, but actually working for the cause helps your kids really see the impact. Whether by sorting canned goods or sweeping out a shelter animal’s crate, find an active way to give back during the holiday season.

Making minor changes over time is the best way to establish healthy family habits and teach your kids about lifelong wellness. Start the year off right with the determination to stay active and you will be healthier overall come January 1, 2015.

Holiday-Themed Tag Games

Monday, December 9th, 2013

Here are four fun holiday-themed tag games submitted by teachers across the country – these games will get your kids moving and put everyone in the holiday spirit!

  • Grinch Tag
    • Santa’s helpers vs. the Grinch. Holiday hustle has new meaning!
    • Grades K-2


  • Turtle Dove Tag
    • Limited space movement break with a hungry Turtle Dove.
    • Grades K-3



  • Tree Topple Tag
    • Chop down your opponent trees before they chop yours!
    • Grades K-8


For more December holiday games, login to and click on December Games in the Quick Links section.

Not a SPARKfamily member?  Click Here to learn how to join.

8 Ways to Improve Your Health by the End of the Year

Friday, December 6th, 2013

When January 1 rolls around, we are often more determined than ever to get fit and feel great. Research shows that only 8 percent of us actually achieve New Year’s resolutions, however. The main reason? We make dreamy resolutions but fail to follow up with the planning and work needed to achieve them.

Instead of waiting to make a New Year’s resolution when it comes to your health, get ahead of the game. Decide that instead of letting the holiday season get the best of you, you are going to get a jump start on a healthier 2014.

Ways To Improve Health - SPARKTake these 8 suggestions from SPARK to improve the whole family’s health by the New Year:

  • Just move. Our bodies were made for movement. Whether you take a family walk for an hour after dinner each evening, set the mood for the day with a morning yoga session, or even include some of SPARK’s lesson plans during playtime with your kids, just get moving. Park your car away from the crowds and put in a few extra steps when doing holiday shopping. Institute a friendly family football game each Sunday and teach the little ones how to throw a perfect spiral. If the holiday season seems too hectic to fit in a workout, think again! Movement in your everyday life counts.
  • Eat smart. There will be plenty of invitations to parties and gatherings this season, and you should definitely make the most of those and attend. But that doesn’t mean you have to fill your plate with the highest-calorie goodies at the serving table in the name of good cheer. Pack portable, protein-rich snacks for marathon shopping sessions rather than making a stop at the mall’s cafeteria. Gracefully turn down invites to go out to lunch with co-workers or bring your own meal packed from home along with you. There are so many delicious temptations during the holiday season, so save your splurging for the times when it means the most.
  • Buy an activity tracker. Many people track what they eat when they are trying to lose weight—but have you ever thought about keeping an eye on your activity levels? Upgrade your basic pedometer to a device like our very own Polar Active Monitor Watch that tracks all daily activity and progress. Some monitors even track sleep and have calorie-monitoring capability. When you have a high-calorie day, add some time onto your workout or take a long walk in your neighborhood. Don’t assume that your activity level is high enough to counteract what you consume. Have a device that tracks it for you and gives insight into your habits, helping you make healthy changes.
  • Drink more water. Of course, replacing calorie-laden beverages like soda with water is an instant health boost, but there are even more reasons to stay hydrated. People often mistake thirst with hunger and eat when they should really be pouring themselves a nice tall glass of water. Hydration can also boost immunity and energy level, a must during the fall and winter seasons. A good rule of thumb is to drink enough water in ounces to equal half of your weight in pounds. So if you weigh 150 pounds, drink 75 ounces of water every day.
  • Replace sedentary habits with active ones. Keep a journal each day that charts how much activity you get in a 24-hour period. Write down the amount of time you spend watching television on the couch, sitting at your office desk, and sleeping. Take a look at your typical habits after you’ve recorded them and look for ways to replace some of the sedentary stuff with an activity. Just four five-minute breaks from your desk for a brief walk add up to an hour and 40 minutes every week. Schedule gym visits during your favorite shows and watch them from a treadmill. You do not need to be on your feet every waking hour, but make minor adjustments to maximize your activity levels.
  • Improve sleep habits. Sleep is an incredibly overlooked but very important component of overall health. The Centers for Disease Control have declared American sleep deprivation a health epidemic because of its prevalence and negative health outcomes. Adults generally need eight hours of sleep to perform their best the next day. If you have trouble nodding off when your body is tired, take a look at what habits may be causing it. Avoid caffeine in the afternoon and evening and be sure to get that physical activity that makes for a good night’s rest. Consistent sleep will improve your entire quality of life so make it a priority going into the New Year.
  • Reduce stress. Stress is a part of life. That means stress management is a part of life. Try to approach every situation with a rational attitude and avoid negative thought patterns. What’s causing your stress? It’s a problem that needs a solution—and the solution is as simple as writing down what needs to be done to make the problem go away, and then following through. Practicing yoga, joining a church group, or simply taking a few minutes every morning to meditate will help keep your stress level low. Exercise, restful sleep, and a healthy diet help you manage stress too—see how it’s all connected?

Maintaining your health is a lifelong process, but there is certainly no reason to wait for January 1st to make some improvements. Instead of letting the holiday season steal your health, decide to make some changes now that will set you up for a successful 2014 and help you enjoy the holidays more.

How do you plan to tackle health goals this holiday season?

Overcoming Challenges to Providing Physical Activity For Preschool-age Children

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

Part One: Time

One of the biggest reasons teachers are not able to provide sufficient amount of minutes of physical activity is time.  With all of the responsibilities teachers have leaves little time for activity.  Instead of giving up, look for ways to integrate activity into your day.  Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Transition time- hop to the next activity, stand like a stork, or walk like an animal, etcTips for Teaching- Overcoming Challenges to PE- Spark PE
  • Center time- create an activity center and students can use locomotor movements to go to next center
  • Literary arts- read books that include movements or have children act out the story
  • Music time- play music that prompts students to do different types of movements
  • Outdoor Time- structured and unstructured activity

For a sample SPARK physical activity lesson, Click Here.

Part Two: Equipment

It would be nice to have brand new equipment with enough for every child to have their own, budget issues don’t always allow this to happen.  Teachers oftenstruggle have little or no materials to provide for their classes. Instead of repeating the same activities or avoiding it altogether, be creative!  Here are some suggestions:

  • You don’t need the same “ball” for everyone.  Think “tossables” instead, use beanbags, fluffballs, tennis balls, etc. Students choose the tossable they want to use!
  • Use materials you have: instead of balls, use crumbled up paper or rolled up socks; instead of spot markers use carpet squares or foam sheets.
  • Do simple games such as tag, simple games, or and musical activities that don’t require equipment.  They are just as fun and improve your health!

For a sample SPARK physical activity lesson including a Family Fun activity to send home, Click Here.

Part 3: Space

So you have created time for activity found equipment for students to use, but you don’t have think you have enough space to move.  What should you do?  There are many ways to get students moving in limited space but it takes a little ingenuity to make it happen.  Some ideas to get you started are to:

  • Outside on grass area or blacktopTips for Teaching- Overcoming Challenges to Providing Physical Activity
  • Area of circle time
  • Move desks, tables, or other furniture out of the way
  • Children can thread around furniture at a slow tempo
  • Search your site for areas that can be used such as hallways or covered entry ways

The key is to give students their own personal space to move and participate.  They don’t have to be running around the room to get activity!

For a sample SPARK physical activity lesson including a Family Fun activity to send home, Click Here.

Early Childhood Teaching Tips: Structured Activity vs Unstructured Activity

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012
The National Association for Sport and Physical Education recommends that preschool-age children should get at least 2 hours of physical activity each day.  An hour of activity should be structured and the other hour unstructured. But what is the difference between these two types of activities?
Structured Activity is:
Planned and directed
Designed for child’s developmental level
Organized activity with an instructional purpose
Unstructured Activity is:
Occurring as children explore their environment
Opportunity to make up games, rules, and play with others
While unstructured activity allows time for creativity, self-expression, cooperation, structured activity is encourages socialization, development of gross motor skills and object control skills, and improves self confidence. The goal is to provide both types of activity each day.
Our sample lesson illustrates unstructured activity during Exploration, a time when children can just play with their fluff balls play near their spot markers. An example of structured and unstructured play in the same lesson is Challenges and Switcheoo. Click Here.

The National Association for Sport and Physical Education recommends that preschool-age children should get at least 2 hours of physical activity each day.  An hour of activity should be structured and the other hour unstructured. But what is the difference between these two types of activities?

Structured Activity is:

  • Planned and directed
  • Designed for child’s developmental level
  • Organized activity with an instructional purpose

Unstructured Activity is:

  • Self-directed
  • Occurring as children explore their environment
  • Opportunity to make up games, rules,and play with others

Tips for Teachers- Structured activity vs. UnstructuredWhile unstructured activity allows time for creativity, self-expression, cooperation, structured activity is encourages socialization, development of gross motor skills and object control skills, and improves self confidence. The goal is to provide both types of activity each day.

Our sample lesson illustrates unstructured activity during Exploration, a time when children can just play with their fluff balls play near their spot markers. An example of structured and unstructured play in the same lesson is Challenges and Switcheoo. Click Here.

Early Childhood Teaching Tips: Stop and Start Signals

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

Spark Physical Activity Lesson PlansIn order to keep children on task and provide instruction during lessons, it is important to teach children to respond quickly and consistently to start and stop signals. This will allow more time to be spent on activity rather than class management.  There are many different types of stop and start signals.  There are many other types of signals you can use that are successful for preschool age children. We recommend using music as often as possible.  Music is fun, encourages movement and is easy to hear turn on and off.  Other ideas include:

Whistle cues
Claps and response claps
Visual signal (hold a hand up or turn the lights off and on)
Verbal cues (“1-2-3 eyes on me”)
Bang a tambourine or other musical instrument
For a sample SPARK physical activity lesson, Click Here.
    • Whistle cues
    • Claps and response claps
    • Visual signal (hold a hand up or turn the lights off and on)
    • Verbal cues (“1-2-3 eyes on me”)
    • Bang a tambourine or other musical instrument

For a sample SPARK physical activity lesson, Click Here.