Archive for the ‘SPARK PE’ Category


Tips for Heart-Healthy Children and Families

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014
February is American Heart Month, and we want to take some time to focus on how parents can promote their children’s heart health.
When it comes to raising healthy children, efforts should start at home, with parents and other immediate family members that have so much impact on kids during their formative years. The efforts extend into the community, where school officials, coaches, and so on help mold the youth into healthy, responsible adults. As they say, it takes a village to raise a child, and when we work together everybody wins.
Keep reading for some tips you can implement at home to help your children create heart-healthy habits.
Making Time for Healthy Habits
The first step is to make time to incorporate healthy habits. And while it seems like there already aren’t enough hours in the day, the secret is that you don’t have to find more time—you replace time spent on not-so-healthy habits with time spent on better-for-you ones. Try these ideas:
Schedule TV and Other Types of Screen Time
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children younger than two years old have no screen time and older kids have one to two hours of screen time per day with high-quality content. But children now spend an average of 7 hours per day in front of the TV, iPad, laptop, and/or gaming system.
One way to cut back is to schedule screen time. Try these:
Make a list of the family’s must-see programs—these are the ones you can watch together or separately, but do keep the list to a minimum.
Turn the TV only on a few minutes prior to the start of the shows, and turn it off immediately after. No channel surfing, no mindless watching.
Schedule a game night or award “time tickets” to allow your kids to get their video game fix without spending endless hours glued to the screen and controllers.
Track Your Meals
How often do you stop at the drive-through on your way to or from activities? You may not realize just how often you grab dinner to go or reach for processed convenience items unless you keep track for a couple of weeks.
The problem is that most of these items contain overly processed simple carbohydrates (such as sugar and flour) and oils high in omega-6 fatty acids (like sunflower, soybean, and corn oil)—huge culprits of inflammation. While the debate of whether inflammation or cholesterol is the direct cause of heart disease is still in progress, it is certainly a big cardiovascular health risk factor.
Curb fast food eating, and learn how to make better choices when hitting the drive thru window.
Making healthy meals at home is easier than you think. For example, heart-healthy meals can be slow-cooked in a crockpot so they are ready when you are, you can make homemade freezer meals that just need to be popped in the oven.
Replace certain ingredients in your pantry. Rather than all-purpose white flour, go with 100% whole wheat baking flour and flour products. Instead of butter, shortening, and margarine, try extra-virgin olive oil, which features heart-healthy fatty acids. Instead of canned or jarred fruits, choose fresh or frozen. Instead of sugary sodas and juices, try mixing 100% juice with water—even a splash makes for a refreshing treat.
Track Your Time
Being constantly on the go is stressful for you and your children. Extra-curricular activities are a good thing for children, but as they say, you can have too much of a good thing. A recent NPR story highlighted the new levels of stress children and teens are experiencing today have a negative impact on health. As too much continual stress has been identified as one of the causes of heart disease, it’s imperative that families come together and decide where to cut back on obligations and commitments.
While stress management techniques, such as yoga, deep breathing, and meditation, are great, healthy activities for everyone to practice, learning where to cut back and focus energy where it really counts is the first step.
Getting More Active at Home
After creating room in your lifestyle for healthy habits, fill it with fun activities at home! Why zone out or complain about boredom when there are so many valuable and fun activities you can do at home?
Become a Clean Machine
Getting everyone involved in household tasks and chores makes the work easier, faster, and healthier. And you can even make housework more fun!
Put sticky notes on everything that needs attention: Dust me, pick me up, sweep me, clean me, etc. Then race around the house to see which family member can acquire the most sticky notes and get the job done properly.
Put some tunes on the stereo and limit each household task to a certain number of tracks—3 for washing the dishes, 2 for scrubbing the bathtub, 4 for dusting the living room, etc. Get your toes tapping and the house clean all at the same time.
Go Green in the Garden
Backyard agriculture is all the rage these days, as we have rediscovered the joys and benefits of growing our own food. Gardening is also a great way to get, and stay, active. Those seeds and plants need planting, watering, weeding, and tending to. The fruits of your labor need to be harvested and prepared for storage and meals. Branching out to incorporate backyard chickens, rabbits, or other small livestock creates another dimension to your activity (and learning) time.
Besides the boost in physical activity, growing your own food is often healthier, cheaper, and more fulfilling than relying on the grocery store.
Take a hike
Or walk the dog, visit the neighborhood park or playground, play some hoops, go for a swim, set up the net and have a rousing game of volleyball in the backyard, and so on. Just get outside and get moving! Turning a lazy Saturday, Sunday, or weekday evening into a fun activity builds heart health, good habits, and memories, all of which can last a lifetime.
Doing What You Can
The easiest and most effective way to develop healthier habits as a family is by taking it one step at a time. No one said you had to do it all at once or all by the end of the month. Just start. Do what you can, when you can. Grow from there. When built upon and sustained over time, these habits will evolve into a full-blown heart-healthy lifestyle that will last you and your children a lifetime.

February is American Heart Month, and we want to take some time to focus on how parents can promote their children’s heart health.

When it comes to raising healthy children, efforts should start at home, with parents and other immediate family members that have so much impact on kids during their formative years. The efforts extend into the community, where school officials, coaches, and so on help mold the youth into healthy, responsible adults. As they say, it takes a village to raise a child, and when we work together everybody wins.

Keep reading for some tips you can implement at home to help your children create heart-healthy habits.=

Making Time for Healthy Habits

The first step is to make time to incorporate healthy habits. And while it seems like there already aren’t enough hours in the day, the secret is that you don’t have to find more time—you replace time spent on not-so-healthy habits with time spent on better-for-you ones. Try these ideas:

Schedule TV and Other Types of Screen Time

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children younger than two years old have no screen time and older kids have one to two hours of screen time per day with high-quality content. But children now spend an average of 7 hours per day in front of the TV, iPad, laptop, and/or gaming system.

One way to cut back is to schedule screen time. Try these:

  • Make a list of the family’s must-see programs—these are the ones you can watch together or separately, but do keep the list to a minimum.
  • Turn the TV only on a few minutes prior to the start of the shows, and turn it off immediately after. No channel surfing, no mindless watching.
  • Schedule a game night or award “time tickets” to allow your kids to get their video game fix without spending endless hours glued to the screen and controllers.

Track Your Meals

How often do you stop at the drive-through on your way to or from activities? You may not realize just how often you grab dinner to go or reach for processed convenience items unless you keep track for a couple of weeks.

The problem is that most of these items contain overly processed simple carbohydrates (such as sugar and flour) and oils high in omega-6 fatty acids (like sunflower, soybean, and corn oil)—huge culprits of inflammation. While the debate of whether inflammation or cholesterol is the direct cause of heart disease is still in progress, it is certainly a big cardiovascular health risk factor.

  • Curb fast food eating, and learn how to make better choices when hitting the drive thru window.
  • Making healthy meals at home is easier than you think. For example, heart-healthy meals can be slow-cooked in a crockpot so they are ready when you are, you can make homemade freezer meals that just need to be popped in the oven.
  • Replace certain ingredients in your pantry. Rather than all-purpose white flour, go with 100% whole wheat baking flour and flour products. Instead of butter, shortening, and margarine, try extra-virgin olive oil, which features heart-healthy fatty acids. Instead of canned or jarred fruits, choose fresh or frozen. Instead of sugary sodas and juices, try mixing 100% juice with water—even a splash makes for a refreshing treat.

Track Your Time

Being constantly on the go is stressful for you and your children. Extra-curricular activities are a good thing for children, but as they say, you can have too much of a good thing. A recent NPR story highlighted the new levels of stress children and teens are experiencing today have a negative impact on health. As too much continual stress has been identified as one of the causes of heart disease, it’s imperative that families come together and decide where to cut back on obligations and commitments.

While stress management techniques, such as yoga, deep breathing, and meditation, are great, healthy activities for everyone to practice, learning where to cut back and focus energy where it really counts is the first step.

Getting More Active at Home

After creating room in your lifestyle for healthy habits, fill it with fun activities at home! Why zone out or complain about boredom when there are so many valuable and fun activities you can do at home?

Become a Clean Machine

Getting everyone involved in household tasks and chores makes the work easier, faster, and healthier. And you can even make housework more fun!

  • Put sticky notes on everything that needs attention: Dust me, pick me up, sweep me, clean me, etc. Then race around the house to see which family member can acquire the most sticky notes and get the job done properly.
  • Put some tunes on the stereo and limit each household task to a certain number of tracks—3 for washing the dishes, 2 for scrubbing the bathtub, 4 for dusting the living room, etc. Get your toes tapping and the house clean all at the same time.

Go Green in the Garden

Backyard agriculture is all the rage these days, as we have rediscovered the joys and benefits of growing our own food. Gardening is also a great way to get, and stay, active. Those seeds and plants need planting, watering, weeding, and tending to. The fruits of your labor need to be harvested and prepared for storage and meals. Branching out to incorporate backyard chickens, rabbits, or other small livestock creates another dimension to your activity (and learning) time.

Besides the boost in physical activity, growing your own food is often healthier, cheaper, and more fulfilling than relying on the grocery store.

Take a hike

Or walk the dog, visit the neighborhood park or playground, play some hoops, go for a swim, set up the net and have a rousing game of volleyball in the backyard, and so on. Just get outside and get moving! Turning a lazy Saturday, Sunday, or weekday evening into a fun activity builds heart health, good habits, and memories, all of which can last a lifetime.

Doing What You Can

The easiest and most effective way to develop healthier habits as a family is by taking it one step at a time. No one said you had to do it all at once or all by the end of the month. Just start. Do what you can, when you can. Grow from there. When built upon and sustained over time, these habits will evolve into a full-blown heart-healthy lifestyle that will last you and your children a lifetime.

Teaching Children Good Sporting Behavior

Friday, February 21st, 2014
Sports teach kids many important lessons. One of those lessons is how to play hard and fair, while also being a good sport. Good sporting behavior not only teaches children how to compete without losing their composure, but it also helps them understand the importance of positive social skills. By teaching and reinforcing these values at a young age, children are prepared for the greater competitive opportunities they’ll face during their teenage years.
Defining Good Sporting Behavior
By definition, good sporting behavior means playing a game by the rules, respecting those rules, and being courteous to teammates, the referee, and the other team. A good sport may be unhappy about losing a game or match, but they won’t take out their unhappiness on the other team. Good sports remain calm and respectful, and think about how they can improve their performance the next time. On the other hand, the good sport who is ahead on points when the game ends also remains respectful and does not gloat or brag. Keeping score does infuse some level of competition, yet respecting others and the game itself should be the highest priority.
The Importance of Being a Good Sport
There are three major lifelong lessons children can learn from being a good sport:
1.  The score is less important than playing the game the right way, being respectful of yourself and others, and enjoying the process. During and after a game, being humble and thankful for the experience is a goal to strive for. Assessing one’s performance and trying to improve it next time—regardless of the outcome of any sporting event—is the ultimate objective.
2. Good sporting behavior teaches kids to accept losing gracefully and respectfully. Losing isn’t very fun, but it’s a necessary part of life. Good sporting behavior teaches children that there are times we all need to swallow our pride, respect those who won, accept our losses, then move on.
3. Finally, good sporting behavior teaches children to be humble and respectful after winning or succeeding. Respect goes both ways. Winning is certainly something to celebrate, but that doesn’t mean we forget about the kids or adults on the other side of the field who are disappointed. Next week, it could be our team on the losing side. That should be respected, along with the fact that that all players and people are equal—winning doesn’t make you better, losing doesn’t make you worse.
Tips for Encouraging Good Sporting Behavior
Encouraging children to be good sports is often more difficult than it seems. Each child is different, after all, and just as it’s important to teach kids that winning and losing are both natural parts of life, it’s also important to remember that emotional tensions often run high during periods of high energy—such as while playing sports. Remember to always approach any arguments or fights calmly and objectively.
Here are three more tips to keep in mind when encouraging kids to play hard, play fair, and be a good sport:
Strive to Be a Role Model
Always remember you’re going to be the one the children look up to when coaching, supervising, or pairing up with kids for sports and competitive activities. You never want to start an argument or lose your cool in front of them. Cheer your children on from the sidelines and never talk meanly about the other team. This should even be remembered while watching other sporting events.
Establish Rules Early
Make it a point to explain the rules of the game early on and follow those rules at all times. If you ever see anyone breaking the rules, call the child out and remedy the rule breaking as quickly as you can. Point out the rules and examples of the rules in action while watching other teams play. Explain the rules so they make sense. Stress the importance of listening to and respecting the decisions of referees and coaches.
Also, make sure your kids know how to behave while on the field and off. Set ground rules for what to do when winning or losing a match and hold the children to those rules. Try to end each match or game—no matter who won or lost—with a series of handshakes between both teams and heads held high.
Emphasize Performance and Progress
Instead of emphasizing winning and losing, emphasize goals like having fun, learning how to work together as a team, or accomplishing personal performance goals. Keep tabs on the progress of the team and compliment each member when significant progress is made. Whenever possible, concentrate on positive aspects instead of negative ones.
This goes for the opposing team as well. When you compare the opposing team to the players of your own team, make sure to positively point out things the other team may be doing differently and explain how your team can do the same. Use these moments to teach instead of criticize.
If your children lose a game or match, instead of criticizing each member, talk about how they performed positively. Stress the importance of improvement while providing examples of how they can work on improving. Set new goals if need be. Criticism can be hard to take, especially at a young age, but mixing it with new goals to work on and praise for other things helps children reflect on the conversation and all of the points that were made.
Teaching children to be good sports begins at home, during practice, and in those crucial moments during the big game. By encouraging kids to play fair and take wins and losses with a head held high and a humble heart, you help them ease into a world where they can confidently tackle challenges head-on and succeed with flying colors.

Sports teach kids many important lessons. One of those lessons is how to play hard and fair, while also being a good sport. Good sporting behavior not only teaches children how to compete without losing their composure, but it also helps them understand the importance of positive social skills. By teaching and reinforcing these values at a young age, children are prepared for the greater competitive opportunities they’ll face during their teenage years.

Defining Good Sporting Behavior

By definition, good sporting behavior means playing a game by the rules, respecting those rules, and being courteous to teammates, the referee, and the other team. A good sport may be unhappy about losing a game or match, but they won’t take out their unhappiness on the other team. Good sports remain calm and respectful, and think about how they can improve their performance the next time. On the other hand, the good sport who is ahead on points when the game ends also remains respectful and does not gloat or brag. Keeping score does infuse some level of competition, yet respecting others and the game itself should be the highest priority.

The Importance of Being a Good Sport

There are three major lifelong lessons children can learn from being a good sport:

1. The score is less important than playing the game the right way, being respectful of yourself and others, and enjoying the process. During and after a game, being humble and thankful for the experience is a goal to strive for. Assessing one’s performance and trying to improve it next time—regardless of the outcome of any sporting event—is the ultimate objective.

2. Good sporting behavior teaches kids to accept losing gracefully and respectfully. Losing isn’t very fun, but it’s a necessary part of life. Good sporting behavior teaches children that there are times we all need to swallow our pride, respect those who won, accept our losses, then move on.

3. Finally, good sporting behavior teaches children to be humble and respectful after winning or succeeding. Respect goes both ways. Winning is certainly something to celebrate, but that doesn’t mean we forget about the kids or adults on the other side of the field who are disappointed. Next week, it could be our team on the losing side. That should be respected, along with the fact that that all players and people are equal—winning doesn’t make you better, losing doesn’t make you worse.

Tips for Encouraging Good Sporting Behavior

Encouraging children to be good sports is often more difficult than it seems. Each child is different, after all, and just as it’s important to teach kids that winning and losing are both natural parts of life, it’s also important to remember that emotional tensions often run high during periods of high energy—such as while playing sports. Remember to always approach any arguments or fights calmly and objectively.

Here are three more tips to keep in mind when encouraging kids to play hard, play fair, and be a good sport:

Strive to Be a Role Model

Always remember you’re going to be the one the children look up to when coaching, supervising, or pairing up with kids for sports and competitive activities. You never want to start an argument or lose your cool in front of them. Cheer your children on from the sidelines and never talk meanly about the other team. This should even be remembered while watching other sporting events.

Establish Rules Early

Make it a point to explain the rules of the game early on and follow those rules at all times. If you ever see anyone breaking the rules, call the child out and remedy the rule breaking as quickly as you can. Point out the rules and examples of the rules in action while watching other teams play. Explain the rules so they make sense. Stress the importance of listening to and respecting the decisions of referees and coaches.

Also, make sure your kids know how to behave while on the field and off. Set ground rules for what to do when winning or losing a match and hold the children to those rules. Try to end each match or game—no matter who won or lost—with a series of handshakes between both teams and heads held high.

Emphasize Performance and Progress

Instead of emphasizing winning and losing, emphasize goals like having fun, learning how to work together as a team, or accomplishing personal performance goals. Keep tabs on the progress of the team and compliment each member when significant progress is made. Whenever possible, concentrate on positive aspects instead of negative ones.

This goes for the opposing team as well. When you compare the opposing team to the players of your own team, make sure to positively point out things the other team may be doing differently and explain how your team can do the same. Use these moments to teach instead of criticize.

If your children lose a game or match, instead of criticizing each member, talk about how they performed positively. Stress the importance of improvement while providing examples of how they can work on improving. Set new goals if need be. Criticism can be hard to take, especially at a young age, but mixing it with new goals to work on and praise for other things helps children reflect on the conversation and all of the points that were made.

Teaching children to be good sports begins at home, during practice, and in those crucial moments during the big game. By encouraging kids to play fair and take wins and losses with a head held high and a humble heart, you help them ease into a world where they can confidently tackle challenges head-on and succeed with flying colors.

How to Use SPARK Integrations

Friday, February 7th, 2014

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

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

Please explain these!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Please share how you use them!

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

Carol M. White: A Lasting Legacy of Physical Education

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014
On October 21, the physical education advocacy community lost a great hero and mentor.
Carol M. White was many things in her life—a teacher, a congressional aide, a wife, a mother. Though White passed at the far-too-young age of 66, her legacy will live on from the important work she did advocating for quality, standards-based physical education programs in schools.
White was instrumental in the passing of the Physical Education for Progress (PEP) Act that was introduced in 1999. Her voice was so strong when it came to the legislation that it was later renamed in her honor to the Carol M. White Physical Education for Progress Act.
PEP: Funding Fit Children
White was always vocal about her belief that physical education (PE) should be a right for all American children and that it was vital to healthy lives and longevity. For PE programs to be given their proper credit and resources, White knew they needed backing on the federal level. As congressional aide, then Chief of Staff, to former Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska, she helped draft legislation that authorized an initial $400 million in grants so that local education organizations could build and maintain physical education programs.
Since the funds were enacted in 2002, over $800 million total in grants have been distributed out to physical education programs across the nation to in public, private and home school settings. The grants are available to K-12 programs and can be used to purchase instructional materials, professional development services, and content-matched equipment in an effort to help districts align their programs to State Physical Education Standards. As a direct result of these funds, millions of children have been introduced to the benefits of enhanced physical education and have experienced more inclusive, active, and enjoyable PE classes.
A Mission about More than Money
The money itself was not the only benefit of the act’s passage. Within the legislation were Congressional findings that raised public awareness on the great need for PE in the lives of American children. Some of those included statements about how:
Physical education improves self-esteem, behavior, independence, and relationships in children.
Physical education gives the overall health of children a boost by improving bone development, cardiovascular stamina, muscular strength, posture, and flexibility.
Physical education encourages healthy lifestyle habits and positive use of free time.
There were also some humbling statistics within the act that ultimately led to its passage as a matter of public health. Based on figures from 1999, those statistics were:
Diseases related to obesity cost the U.S. more than $1 billion annually.
Less than 1 in 4 children get the recommended 20 minutes of vigorous activity in a given day.
Poor diet and sedentary lifestyles cause over 300,000 U.S. deaths every year.
The percentage of overweight children has doubled in the past 30 years.
Children who are exposed to daily physical activity programs remain healthier throughout their adult lives.
Adults of a healthy weight and fitness level have significantly fewer risk factors when it comes to strokes and heart attacks.
Within the act were these words that were undoubtedly influenced by White:
“Every student in our nation’s schools, from kindergarten through grade 12, should have the opportunity to participate in quality physical education. It is the unique role of quality physical education programs to develop the health-related fitness, physical competence, and cognitive understanding about physical activity for all students so that the students can adopt healthy and physically active lifestyles.”
Necessary Funding and a Legacy of Hope
Though she could not predict the recession years that followed her insistence on PEP’s passage, those funds became invaluable to the many schools and programs that needed them to keep physical education initiatives from vanishing due to budget cuts. The money from PEP grants has not just been used for PE program “extras”—in some cases, it has meant the difference between closing a program and keeping it running for children. To White and many other PE advocacy groups, teaching kids healthy habits and how to live active lifestyles was a right, like learning how to read or write—not a fringe component of education.
SPARK is just one of the many organizations that believe in what White stood for when it came to the fight against issues like childhood obesity. Tom Cove, CEO of the Sports and Fitness Industry Association (SFIA), and Jim Baugh, Founder of PHIT America, worked hand in hand with White and continue to fight for PEP funding. SPARK is a proud sponsor of PHIT America and supports the efforts of SFIA and others to keep PEP alive.
In order to counteract the growing sedentary nature of American childhood, White knew that PE had to be an integral part of academics and not viewed as optional learning. Because of people like White speaking up, public awareness about the role of PE has increased. By using her influence in a positive way, White forever impacted the many children who have already benefitted from PEP grants—and the many more to come.
Thank you, Carol M. White. May your lasting contributions to physical education long be realized and remembered.

On October 21, the physical education advocacy community lost a great hero and mentor.

Carol M. White was many things in her life—a teacher, a congressional aide, a wife, a mother. Though White passed at the far-too-young age of 66, her legacy will live on from the important work she did advocating for quality, standards-based physical education programs in schools.

White was instrumental in the passing of the Physical Education for Progress (PEP) Act that was introduced in 1999. Her voice was so strong when it came to the legislation that it was later renamed in her honor to the Carol M. White Physical Education for Progress Act.

PEP: Funding Fit Children

White was always vocal about her belief that physical education (PE) should be a right for all American children and that it was vital to healthy lives and longevity. For PE programs to be given their proper credit and resources, White knew they needed backing on the federal level. As congressional aide, then Chief of Staff, to former Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska, she helped draft legislation that authorized an initial $400 million in grants so that local education organizations could build and maintain physical education programs.

Since the funds were enacted in 2002, over $800 million total in grants have been distributed out to physical education programs across the nation to in public, private and home school settings. The grants are available to K-12 programs and can be used to purchase instructional materials, professional development services, and content-matched equipment in an effort to help districts align their programs to State Physical Education Standards. As a direct result of these funds, millions of children have been introduced to the benefits of enhanced physical education and have experienced more inclusive, active, and enjoyable PE classes.

A Mission about More than Money

The money itself was not the only benefit of the act’s passage. Within the legislation were Congressional findings that raised public awareness on the great need for PE in the lives of American children. Some of those included statements about how:•

  • Physical education improves self-esteem, behavior, independence, and relationships in children.
  • Physical education gives the overall health of children a boost by improving bone development, cardiovascular stamina, muscular strength, posture, and flexibility.
  • Physical education encourages healthy lifestyle habits and positive use of free time.

There were also some humbling statistics within the act that ultimately led to its passage as a matter of public health. Based on figures from 1999, those statistics were:

  • Diseases related to obesity cost the U.S. more than $1 billion annually.
  • Less than 1 in 4 children get the recommended 20 minutes of vigorous activity in a given day.
  • Poor diet and sedentary lifestyles cause over 300,000 U.S. deaths every year.
  • The percentage of overweight children has doubled in the past 30 years.
  • Children who are exposed to daily physical activity programs remain healthier throughout their adult lives.
  • Adults of a healthy weight and fitness level have significantly fewer risk factors when it comes to strokes and heart attacks.

Within the act were these words that were undoubtedly influenced by White:

“Every student in our nation’s schools, from kindergarten through grade 12, should have the opportunity to participate in quality physical education. It is the unique role of quality physical education programs to develop the health-related fitness, physical competence, and cognitive understanding about physical activity for all students so that the students can adopt healthy and physically active lifestyles.”

Necessary Funding and a Legacy of Hope

Though she could not predict the recession years that followed her insistence on PEP’s passage, those funds became invaluable to the many schools and programs that needed them to keep physical education initiatives from vanishing due to budget cuts. The money from PEP grants has not just been used for PE program “extras”—in some cases, it has meant the difference between closing a program and keeping it running for children. To White and many other PE advocacy groups, teaching kids healthy habits and how to live active lifestyles was a right, like learning how to read or write—not a fringe component of education.

SPARK is just one of the many organizations that believe in what White stood for when it came to the fight against issues like childhood obesity. Tom Cove, CEO of the Sports and Fitness Industry Association (SFIA), and Jim Baugh, Founder of PHIT America, worked hand in hand with White and continue to fight for PEP funding. SPARK is a proud sponsor of PHIT America and supports the efforts of SFIA and others to keep PEP alive.

In order to counteract the growing sedentary nature of American childhood, White knew that PE had to be an integral part of academics and not viewed as optional learning. Because of people like White speaking up, public awareness about the role of PE has increased. By using her influence in a positive way, White forever impacted the many children who have already benefitted from PEP grants—and the many more to come.

Thank you, Carol M. White. May your lasting contributions to physical education long be realized and remembered.

 

Help support the PEP grant!  Click Here to send a letter to your representative to support PEP funding. 

 

——

5 Ways to Help Students Stay Focused

Monday, November 11th, 2013

Anyone who has braved the perils of babysitting, or who has taken the giant leap into parenting or teaching children knows that keeping young kids attentive, engaged, and focused can be an uphill battle at times. In the best of conditions, research has shown that children between the ages of 6 and 8 have an average attention span of 15-20 minutes. For kids of kindergarten age (around 5 years old), that number drops to only 5-10 minutes. While these numbers might seem low, some researchers also believe that the maximum human attention span is only around 22 minutes, even for teenagers and adults. Compounding the issue of maintaining the focus of young students is the continued growth of ADHD cases in the United States.

As can be assumed, dealing with the struggles of short attention spans and ADHD in an educational setting can be extremely difficult. These days, teachers at nearly every level of education need not only to be well-versed in multiple teaching techniques, but also in how to keep students engaged in a lesson and how to bring them back should they lose their focus. School instructors and caregivers must turn to alternative methods to medication to keep the attention of young children—ADHD is a very real disorder, but more doctors are diagnosing more children with ADHD, even if symptoms are mild, and more medication is being prescribed. For some, medication drastically improves quality of life, but it’s not always the answer and can have unpleasant side effects.

Below we outline five methods that can help keep young students engaged in an educational atmosphere.

1. Implement Active Learning Techniques

In their book “Inspiring Active Learning,” Merrill Harmon and Melanie Toth set forth a plethora of active learning strategies geared toward keeping students thoughtfully and completely engaged in their own education. Some of the basic strategies of active learning include whole class discussions, debates, paired activities, and individual reactions and responses. The main goal is encourage an active, attentive listening and learning environment by making students accountable for their own learning.

2. Use Technology When Possible

The incorporation of multimedia tools to deliver educational messages continues to increase, particularly at lower levels where they can also be leveraged as methods to grab and keep children’s attention. These multimedia tools for educators include Voki, SoftChalk, Screenr, and SMART boards.

3. Have Students Practice Doing Multiple Things at Once

For very young students, this might be singing a song while tying their shoes or listening to a recording while coloring. It might seem counterintuitive to have kids focus on a several tasks at once, but giving them multiple simple tasks to do concurrently can help train their brain to focus more acutely on a set of given tasks. When they have two things to think about, they are less likely to become bored and lose focus.

4. Use Movement

Properly using movement to keep students focused can be an invaluable teaching technique. This is exemplified by our new SPARKabc’s program. SPARKabc’s integrates physical activity into the school day while maintaining an emphasis on student learning. It’s designed for busy teachers with little time, space and equipment to work with. Research by SPARK and countless other trusted health organizations shows an intrinsic link between physical activity student attitude, behavior, and academic performance. The evidence is clear: healthy students are better learners. SPARKabc’s is based on:

  • Standards-based academics
  • Brain development
  • Quality recess
  • Character and nutrition education

Sometimes we forget that kids are naturally inclined to move around and express themselves, and that it’s not something we need to combat—rather, we can embrace this quality and use it to increase the effectiveness of learning and foster academic success and growth in well-being.

5. Don’t Create a Predictable Learning Environment

If students know what to expect from your lessons day in and day out, they can start to disengage from certain parts of a lesson. Keeping students on their toes by mixing up lectures, hands-on activities, group and pair work, multimedia and technology, games, and physical activities will keep them actively engaged in the important information they’re learning.

Keeping students, especially the younger ones, engaged can be a challenge—especially as the number of ADHD cases is on the rise. There are many variables that could be contributing to this trend, but why not refresh our skill sets with techniques to keep kids engaged?

Promoting Healthy Bodies and Healthy Body Image for Kids

Monday, July 16th, 2012

Promoting Healthy BodiesWhen our kids look into the mirror, what do you think they see?

Many kids have physically healthy bodies; many kids have healthy body images.

Unfortunately, there might be a growing number of young people who have only one or the other—or neither. Some kids are taking drastic measures to fix their perceived faults, while others have taken to the Internet to prove that a healthy body and a healthy body image are not connected by default.

Here’s the debate: How do we teach our kids to balance the need to have a healthy body with the need to feel comfortable in their own skin?

Like a Surgeon

The aspects of an unhealthy body image can include more than being overweight.

According to research published in 2004, “Adolescent patients are seeking plastic surgery to correct deformities or perceived deformities in increasing numbers.” These are problems that include breast augmentations, rhinoplasty, and other non-life-threatening perceived deformities.

The study by the Department of Surgery at the University of California at San Francisco goes on to say that these elective surgeries “can have a positive influence on a mature, well-motivated teenager, while surgery on a psychologically unstable adolescent can be damaging to the patient.”

The website plasticsurgery.org cites some statistics from the Society of Plastic Surgeons:

  • “According to ASPS statistics, 35,000 rhinoplasty procedures were performed on patients age 13-19 in 2010.”
  • “More than 8,500 breast augmentations were performed on 18-19 year olds in 2010.”
  • “Surgical correction of protruding ears… made up 11 percent of all cosmetic surgical procedures performed on this age group in 2010, with more than 8,700 procedures.”

For a young person with a body image disorder to feel so trapped in their body that they take this permanent route to alter their looks says a lot about the culture we provide for them. Since the early 90s, we have grappled with the impact advertising and media outlets have on our kids. From billboards in New York’s Times Square to modeling competitions on cable TV that award tall, lithe, blemish-free women with lucrative contracts, young boys and girls are both learning that it’s normal to be perfect.

So how do we fight back against such a ubiquitous barrage of perfect body imagery?

Weight Just a Minute

But weight—generally seen as the main cause of a poor body image—is perhaps more problematic than premature rhinoplasty procedures. Anorexia, bulimia, and other eating disorders are common in the age group that includes teens and adolescents. These eating disorders are the result of poor body image, regardless of actual body health.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 17% of children and adolescents are physically obese. That’s a huge number.

With the combination of a sedentary lifestyle and the absence of healthy nutritional choices, children and adults alike become more prone to life threatening medical maladies like heart disease and diabetes.

It’s important for children to stay healthy enough to ward off these serious diseases, while at the same time understanding that a perfect body is a vacant pursuit.

Here’s how to measure a child’s body mass index (BMI). This calculator is helpful in determining if your child has a healthy weight for his or her height (obviously, this isn’t an objective tool. Other factors are at play here that can’t be accounted for, such as the ratio of muscle to fat).

It’s an easy way to find out if your child has a completely normal body type. Once you’ve established that, you can determine how their self-image correlates.

Still, how do we fight back against powerful images of perfect bodies and help our kids feel comfortable in their own skin?

A Body Image is Worth a Thousand Words

If your kid is struggling with body image problems, regardless of whether he or she has a healthy body or not, the best thing you can do is talk with them. Help them understand that the media’s portrayal of the “perfect body” only accounts for about 5 percent of the population, according to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders.

This article on womenshealth.gov gives fantastic pointers about how to help promote healthy body images within our kids, including this key piece of advice: “Parents are role models and should try to follow the healthy eating and physical activity patterns that you would like your children to follow—for your health and theirs.”

You are the best example there is for your kids. How you promote a healthy body image and a healthy body for yourself is paramount to your children doing the same in their own lives.

What if the image your child sees when he or she looks in the mirror is yours?

Promoting Healthy Bodies

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:
Self-directed
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.

Update on the 2012 Carol M. White PEP Grants

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012
Latest news for the 2012 PEP Grants:

There will be no new PEP competition this year. Instead, the program will make new awards by funding down the slate of 2011 applicants. Therefore, no new or revised applications for PEP grants will be accepted in 2012. Applicants that did not win in 2011 may have the opportunity to receive an award in 2012, depending on the score from last year’s competition. Awards will be announced by 9/30/2012.

This information was received via email from the PEP Program Manager, Carlette Huntley.

Information for PEP Grant Applicants/Winners:
  1. New: Resource Guide for PEP Applicants/Winners Click Here
  2. SPARK alignment with national & state standards Click Here
  3. PECAT Reports for SPARK K-8 PE  Click Here
  4. HECAT Reports for our Health & Nutrition Partners (Healthy Lifestyle Choices and Healthy Kids Challenge) Click Here
  5. Denver Public Schools PEP Grant success story Click Here
  6. SPARK Assessment Tools Click Here