Posts Tagged ‘childhood obesity’

National Childhood Obesity Facts, Figures and a Solution to End the Epidemic

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

Childhood obesity is a major concern in the United States. Over the past few decades there has been a dramatic increase in the number of children suffering from obesity. Kids are staying indoors more with limited physical activity and increased caloric consumption, resulting in a nationwide epidemic of obesity in our children. There are hundreds of organizations, large and small, fighting to stem this trend and help get our kids’ health back in check. But a business or non-profit can’t do it alone. Parents and kids must both be willing to change their habits to create a healthier lifestyle.

Causes of Childhood Obesity
There are many causes for childhood obesity, and sometimes a complex combination of circumstances work together to put our children at risk. One thing we know for sure is that reduced physical activity in school is a component and a risk factor for childhood obesity. Studies have shown that throughout our nation, less than one third of school-aged children (age 6-17) engage in physical activity – that is, activity that makes them sweat and increase breathing and heart rate for at least 20 minutes. And that’s just the minimum recommended amount of physical activity. There is no surprise here that childhood obesity has become a frightening epidemic in our country.

Risks of Child Obesity

  • High Cholesterol and Blood Pressure: High levels of “bad” cholesterol called LDL and also high blood pressure are common in obese children.
  • Bone and Joint Problems: There have been numerous cases of obese children experiencing a slipped growth plate in their hip bone.
  • Sleep Apnea: Obstruction of the child’s airway is common and can result in many other day-to-day problems like poor school performance and nighttime bedwetting on top of the primary risk where the individual stops breathing in their sleep.
  • Psychological Problems: Probably the most severe risk of obesity in kids is their emotional and psychological health. Kids will develop poor self-esteem and accept the fact that they will be obese their entire lives, making it extremely difficult for them to change their lifestyle in later years.
  • Type 2 Diabetes: What used to be only of concern in adults and very rare in children is not a major concern for obese kids.

Child Obesity Statistics

  • Prevalence of Obesity: Among children ages 6-11, there was a 6.5% rate of obesity in 1980 which increased to 18.6% by 2008. Ages 12-19 increased from 5% to 18.1% in the same time period.
  • Cardiovascular Disease: 70% of obese children from 5-17 years have at least one symptom and risk factor of cardiovascular disease like high blood pressure or high cholesterol.
  • Low-Income Obesity: 1 of 7 low income children in preschool is obese.
  • 13 million children and adolescents in the U.S. are obese.
  • Obese adolescents are 80% more likely to end up as obese adults.
  • Healthcare expenses directly related to childhood obesity are $14 billion every year.

One Solution to the Epidemic: Quality PE in Schools
The problem of childhood obesity is urgent – changes need to be made immediately. Children need positive influences from the adults around them to make better choices. And who better to provide that than a physical education teacher? In general, children attend about 5 or 6 hours of school, 5 days per week. Physical education classes might take up about an hour per day. Imagine the good that could be done for children if that time was optimized with fun, challenging, and healthy activity.

Implementing quality PE in children’s school schedule would be a great first step to turning this epidemic around. PE classes should be used to really teach children about how important a healthy lifestyle is. We can reverse the stigma about PE classes being boring, awkward, and repetitive by breathing new life into old games and activities. Children can learn that challenging themselves and staying healthy are great for self-esteem and making new friends. Teachers should be passionate about their purpose, and lead by positive example.

When students are able to connect with teachers and create a respectful relationship, they are highly more likely to engage in activities and try their hardest. With energetic and fun teachers, a challenging and exciting curriculum, and education about the crucial importance of physical activity and healthy eating, children will take fitness seriously. We will improve the PE in our schools, and let our children reap the benefits.

SPARK & Skillastics Team-Up to Get Kids Active

Friday, May 6th, 2011

SPARK is proud to announce a partnership with Skillastics, the leader in engaging, reinforcing, and assessing large groups of children PreK-12 in standards-based fitness and sports specific skill development activities.

Skillastics, now a SPARK Recommended Resource, will enhance SPARK activities by providing an additional assessment tool, allowing the instructor the freedom to view a large amount of children engaging in activities supported by a SPARK lesson. This partnership was formed to foster greater access to quality physical activity solutions for schools and community-based organizations nationwide.

SPARK Executive Director Paul Rosengard adds, “I’ve been a big fan of Sandy (Spin) Slade and Skillastics for a long time. Their products are an excellent supplement for our SPARK teachers and youth leaders and I recommend them highly. I’m especially excited about Skillastics’ application in after school environments where space limitations and instruction of children from multiple grade levels are common place.”

Skillastics is considered a “new and improved twist” in circuit training, and allows 1 to 100 children of varying ages and athletic abilities to participate and enjoy being active at one time. They provide solutions for physical education, after school, and early childhood programs.

Their newest offering, “Character is Cool”, is designed as a teaching tool to help children interact positively with one another while participating in cooperative fitness activities that emphasize character traits such as good sporting behavior, respect, responsibility, teamwork, caring and honesty.

Since its introduction in 2003, Skillastics is enjoyed in over 20,000 physical education classes, after school programs, and community-based organizations throughout the world!

For more information on Skillastics please visit

What is a PEP Grant?

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011

The PEP Grant, also known as the Carol M. White Physical Education Program (PEP) Grant, is a federally funded grant program designed to award money to local education agencies and community-based organizations, including religious organizations, to help them initiate, expand, or enhance physical education programs for K through 12 students. In 2011, the PEP Grant will award schools and community-based organizations anywhere from $100,000 to $750,000 for programs that help students work toward meeting state standards for physical education.

Money from PEP Grants may be used to purchase physical education equipment, provide support for students, provide training and education to teachers and staff members, bring in programs and teachers from outside the school or organization, and to initiate new physical education programs. Applicants are required to create a new program or improve an existing program that helps students make progress toward meeting state physical education AND one or more of the following initiatives:

  • Helping students understand, improve, and maintain physical well-being
  • Enhancing physical, mental, social, and emotional development through instruction in physical activities and motor skills
  • Development of cognitive concepts about fitness and motor skills that support healthy lifestyles
  • Education in healthy eating habits and nutrition
  • Professional development for physical education teachers to stay current on physical education research, issues, trends, and programs

Examples of Physical Education Programs

Past PEP Grants have been awarded to schools and organizations to implement programs ranging from innovative playgrounds to short-term auxiliary programs and after school programs. Some types of programs that have received PEP grant money in the past have included:

  • Evidence-Based Physical Education Programs
  • Community outreach programs
  • Integrating technology into PE
  • Purchasing equipment such as pedometers and heart rate monitors
  • Implementing “lifetime activities” rather than individual and team sports
  • Bringing in specialty organizations that help schools implement innovative PE lesson plans and programs
  • New, different, and innovative activities
  • Ropes courses
  • Adventure programs

Schools and organizations that are competitive in the application process include programs with elements that provide long-term benefits for students by encouraging a lifelong commitment to fitness that will decrease the costs of medical care associated with inactivity, poor nutrition, and obesity. Programs should include activities for all students, including those with disabilities. Competitive organizations and programs make a connection between physical activity, mental or academic performance, and general well being.

Over 150 PEP winners have chosen to implement SPARK Physical Education or After School programs in their schools. To see why so many schools successfully win PEP grants when they include SPARK as part of their proposal, Click Here.

PEP Grantwriting Information and Tips

If your school or organization does not have a grant writer on staff, consider hiring a professional grant writer with experience writing federal grants. If you use teachers or other staff members to write the grant, an outside consultant can help improve the grant by reviewing it and asking important questions about the essential elements of your grant. There are several websites and online documents available to assist you specifically with the PEP grantwriting process.

In your grant proposal, you must clearly outline a specific program, the goals of your program, and the steps your organization will take to reach these goals. It is essential to address how the program you plan to implement with the grant money will help students benefiting from the program to meet state standards for physical education. This should include a discussion of the PE standards in your state and how your program will help students work toward meeting these standards.

Assessment and evaluation are another significant part of the grantwriting process. Without a plan to evaluate the progress of your students, you will be unable to prove that your program actually met its goals. Having a way to assess the effectiveness of your program is the essential element of receiving current and future PEP grants. In your grant proposal you must outline a plan for the assessment of student progress that will show students met the goals of your program, and you must be prepared to implement this plan alongside the PE program you initiate.

In order to receive PEP Grant money, you are required to establish a need for that money within your proposal. This should include statistics your organization has collected that are specific to your school district, geographical area, or state. You will want to use statistics and data that prove there is a need for your organization’s program and that students will benefit from your fitness program on physical, social, mental, emotional, and/or developmental level. As a supplement to your local data, you may choose to use national research and statistics and professional literature.

  • For additional tips on preparing and submitting your 2011 PEP Grant Click Here
  • For Sample Text for PEP Grant Writers Click Here

To access the 2011 Carol M. White PEP Grant application Click Here.

SPARK Early Childhood Selected as 2011 Head Start Body Start Preferred Provider!

Friday, April 8th, 2011

Good news for all Head Start Centers: SPARK has been selected as a 2011 Preferred Provider for Head Start Body Start!

Nearly $2 million in Play Space Grants will be awarded to Head Start Centers across the country this year by HSBS to improve their outdoor play spaces.  Grant recipients will be able to purchase uniquely designed value-added packages created by the HSBS Preferred Vendors at a minimum discount of 20% off the retail price.

SPARK has included five (5) Value-Add Equipment Packages for Grant Applicants to choose from. Each equipment package includes a 25% discount from catalog list price & free shipping!

Please contact us with any questions about these equipment packages, and we look forward to continuing our work with Head Start Centers to support physically active and healthy lifestyles among Head Start programs nationwide.

Why Choose SPARK?
  • SPARK equipment packages have been selected by content experts specifically to meet the developmental needs of children ages 3-5 years old.
  • The items are age-appropriate and are designed to enable success for all skill and ability levels.
  • Combined with the Head Start Body Start program, SPARK’s specially designed equipment packages will increase physical activity, leading to the physical, cognitive, social and emotional development of young children, with the long-term goal of reducing childhood obesity.


Package 1: SPARK “Shining Star” Outdoor Equipment $3,505.63

Package 2: SPARK “FUNdamentals” Equipment Package $1,411.30

Package 3: SPARK “Dance with Me” Equipment Package $393.14

Package 4: SPARK “Have a Ball” $788.05

Package 5: SPARK “Balance & Scoot” Package $1,275.93

Next Steps:

Contact the SPARK office at:

800-SPARK-PE (772-7573)  or

2011 AAHPERD National Convention in San Diego

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

All of us at SPARK are very excited the 2011 AAHPERD National Conference is in San Diego this year! Make sure to visit the SPARK booth to see the latest and greatest, and you won’t want to miss these presentations:

1. Exergame Workshop: Oceans of Opportunities Active Games 4 Better Health:

Presented by: Aaron Hart

Tuesday, March 29, 2011: 8:00 AM-12:00 PM

Hilton Bayfront: Sapphire Ballroom CDGH

2. Are You Floating or Sinking on Lake Wellness?

Presented by: Julie Frank and Vickie James

Wednesday, March 30, 2011: 8:15 AM-10:00 AM

Convention Center: Room 29A

3. Your P.E.T. Project – Physical Education Technology

Presented by: Aaron Hart

Friday, April 1, 2011: 8:45 AM-10:00 AM

Convention Center: Ballroom 20D

4. Aristotle said, “Philosophize AND Exercise”

Presented by: Julie Green, John Hichwa, Aaron Hart and Paul Rosengard

Friday, April 1, 2011: 10:15 AM-12:15 PM

Convention Center: Ballroom 20A

5. Wanna be a Tech-guru but Can’t Turn on Your Computer?

Presented by: Paul Rosengard, Patty Lanier, John Hichwa and Aaron Hart

Saturday, April 2, 2011: 10:15-11:30AM

Convention Center: Ballroom 20A

6. Physical Education’s Role in Public Health: A 20-Year Retrospective

Presented by: James Sallis and Thom McKenzie

Friday, April 1, 2011: 4:00 PM-5:15 PM

Convention Center: Room 26B

We hope to see YOU in SPARK’s hometown!

300 Florida Middle Schools Implement SPARK

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

The Florida Department of Health has partnered with the Florida Department of Education to bring SPARK Middle School Physical Education (MS PE) to 300 Middle Schools throughout the state.

Funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “Communities Putting Prevention to Work” (CPPW) Cooperative Agreement, the Florida Middle School Physical Activity Project (MSPAP) is designed to implement sustainable research and standards-based physical education in all public Florida middle schools.

Florida Middle School sites will be some of the first schools ever to be trained in the new 2011 SPARK MS PE Program. Each site will receive research-based SPARK curriculum, training and equipment, as well as SPARK’s lifetime follow-up support.

SPARK is extremely excited to be a part of this project and have the opportunity to make a positive impact on the health and wellness of so many middle school students throughout the state of Florida!

For more information on MSPAP please contact Nichole Wilder at or (850) 245-0813 or Anna Holihan at or (850) 245-0881.

For more information on SPARK please visit

Help Save the PEP Grant!

Thursday, March 10th, 2011

Each year, the Carol M. White Physical Education Program (PEP) awards millions of dollars to schools and community-based organizations to initiate, expand, and improve physical education programs.

Funding for PEP is in serious danger and could be eliminated. Although the most recent Federal budgets (which did not include money for PEP) were not approved, there is still a good chance the final budget will not include funds set aside for PEP .

What can you do to help save PEP?
  1. Click Here to Send a letter to Congress today & show your support
  2. Click Here to download the “I Support the PEP Grant” button image (see below) to use on Facebook,Twitter, on your website, in flyers, and anywhere else you can think of!

Click Here for more information on the 2011 PEP Grant…

“Mission Possible – for YOUR Program”

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

“If you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know when you’ve arrived?”

This statement is obviously pre-GPS technology, but I think you know where we’re going with this…

At SPARK, we’re big believers in instructional alignment.  Sure, we have Standards, benchmarks, yearly plans, assessment tools, and activities, pedagogy, and equipment to coordinate.  Sheesh, isn’t that enough??!

Actually, there’s one more piece to the puzzle – and it really completes it.  A mission statement is what your district, or school, or physical education program believes in.  It’s at the top of the instructional alignment pyramid – IOW, you don’t include that instructional unit in your program if it doesn’t align with your mission statement.  You don’t grade students that way if it doesn’t align with your mission statement.  What you do daily, weekly, monthly, yearly should cascade up to your mission statement.

If you’re a physical educator at an elementary, middle or high school and your department (even if your department is only YOU) doesn’t have a MS, it’s high time to put the task in your queue.  If you already have a mission statement, when was the last time you re-visited it?

Here are 10 terrific tips for writing (a better word might be developing) a mission statement, followed by a few samples (not models) from other schools to review (sans school name for anonymity).

  1. Ask yourself or your team the right questions.  To begin, what do we do and why do we do it?  What do we want for our students, our school, our community?  What are the 3 or 4 objectives or attributes that define our PE program?  Think about the SPARK that initially ignited your desire to become a physical educator in the first place.  What will keep your SPARK alive?
  1. Say it clearly.  Your mission statement needs to clearly state your professional goals and objectives. It should explain how what you do as a department will make a difference in the lives of your students, school, and community.
  1. Decide what makes you different.  Never forget you are pursuing the same budget dollars as other subject areas.  How does physical education stand out from the other educational disciplines?
  1. Build your brand.  Use your mission statement to build your unique brand.  Make sure to communicate your program’s key values to your students, school, and community.
  1. Keep it short and sweet.  Ideally, you should be able to summarize your department’s mission in a few sentences.  Consider it your elevator pitch.  You should be able to state your department’s mission succinctly in the time it takes to ride an elevator from the ground floor to the top floor.
  1. Be honest.  Make sure when you read your own mission statement, it reflects what you/your colleagues truly believe.  Too much pomp and self-congratulatory language will turn off those who read it, so avoid saying your program is the “best” at this or the “world leader” at that.
  1. Make it a joint effort.  It’s incredibly helpful to get the input of others, both inside and outside your department.  Collaborators can help you to better see the strengths and weaknesses of your mission statement.
  1. Polish the language.  See to it that you have several pairs of eyes (ideally belonging to wordy, editor types) to review your mission statement many times until every word sizzles (perhaps, SPARK’s).  Your mission statement should be error-free, eloquent, and precise.  It should be dynamic and inspirational.  In short, it should be as close to perfect as you can get it.
  1. Spread the word.  Once your mission statement is complete, start sharing it by posting it everywhere you can.  It should be prominently displayed on your school website, in your locker room or gym, in correspondence that goes home with the kids, maybe even at the bottom of your school e-mails.  Be creative in spreading the word.
  1. Revise as needed.  Your mission statement, as wonderful as it might sound now, should not be set in stone.  As your program changes, so too might your department’s mission.  Revisit your mission statement on a regular basis to evaluate whether it should be revised or updated.  If it’s solid, you probably won’t need to alter it significantly as time goes by.

Samples of mission statements from physical education departments:

The _______ Middle School Physical Education staff believes that each and every student can achieve excellence regardless of size, maturity, coordination, body type, or other physical capability.

We as a department are concerned with developing a child’s positive attitude towards physical education that will last a lifetime.

_________ physical education strives to maintain an activity based program while teaching lifelong fitness in a safe and enjoyable environment.

There you have it, mission possible!  You can do this!  And you should.

So think about your next steps, put this assignment in your calendar so you begin to allocate time to make it happen, then enjoy the process.

Let’s Move! Celebrates 1-Year Anniversary

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

People often ask “What is Let’s Move! really doing?”  Well, as the First Lady has often said:  “We won’t solve our problems just by passing laws in Washington.  We know that stopping childhood obesity isn’t the job of just the government, or doctors, or community organizations.  We all have a role to play.”

Let’s Move! is an initiative [ih-nish-ee-uh-tiv] (Noun: an introductory act or step; leading action).  Initiatives can raise awareness and with awareness comes a call to action.  The First Lady and the Let’s Move! Initiative have been instrumental in several big steps so far, including:

  • Helping to organize communities to be the driving force behind Let’s Move! Where many Faith groups from across the country have committed to walking 3 million miles and hosting 10,000 community gardens or farmers markets.
  • Promoting health and wellness to reduce chronic conditions
  • Creating a new Prevention and Public Health Fund to build healthier communities, including preventing childhood obesity
  • Mandated that new health insurance plans to cover screening for childhood obesity and counseling from doctors without a co-pay or any other payment
  • Issued a call to action for healthier options in schools and other sites where children attend
  • Teamed up with athletic organizations including the National Basketball Association, the US Tennis Association and the National Football League, where some of our nation’s favorite athletes are working to inspire kids to play sports and get active
  • Helped to launch the new President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition. .
  • Just last month, Walmart, one of the nation’s largest retail stores, announced a new Nutrition Charter designed to bring healthier and more affordable foods to the 140 million customers that shop at their stores each week.

Let’s Move! has built momentum over the last year and we in communities need to be ready to build on these outstanding efforts in the year ahead.

-Kymm Ballard, SPARK Partnership Development Specialist

3 More Nutrition Education Questions Answered…

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

This week we’re excited to feature three more nutrition education questions answered by our partner Healthy Kids Challenge- enjoy!

1) Can what I eat (as a teacher) affect what my kids eat?

Yes, it can and it does! Research tells us that being a positive role model is important if we want to change behaviors. If you want children to eat right, then model healthy eating behaviors. And not just in the school cafeteria! Children see you before and after school and in the classroom, so you must “walk the walk” if you expect them to do the same. For simple tips on healthy role modeling at school see

2) Is it possible to integrate regular academic subjects into nutrition/health instruction?

You bet! And it’s simple, too! Healthy Kids Challenge offers curriculum, training, and resources to help you do just that. Our nutrition education curriculum, Balance My Day, is a research-based curriculum aligned with HECAT (Health Education Curriculum Analysis Tool) Healthy Eating Behavior outcomes and standards. With Balance My Day nutrition education doesn’t need to be an add-on, it can easily be integrated into math, science and language!

Also, HKC offers an exciting menu of nutrition themed workshops for you to choose from. All are designed to bring nutrition education to life for your students and staff. The workshop “Balance My Day” guides you through simple solutions of how to easily incorporate nutrition education into the school day. We offer an array of free downloadable and affordable resources as well. For more information, visit

3) Where can I find resources for a year-long nutrition education curriculum?

Healthy Kids Challenge is the source for nutrition education curriculum. Balance My Day- Nutrition Education Curriculum is research-based curriculum aligned with HECAT (Health Education Curriculum Analysis Tool) Healthy Eating Behavior outcomes and standards.

  • Offers 30 lessons, divided into 15-25 minute sessions.
  • Behavior themes focus on breakfast, snacks, beverages, portion sizes, fruits and veggies, active play, energy balance, body image, weight management and food skills
  • Nutrition education doesn’t need to be an add on, it can easily be integrated into math, science and language with Balance My Day
  • Goal setting, skill building, take home activities, parent tip sheets, food skills and tasting activities, logs, worksheets and student assessment included
  • Bonus additions are three nutrition education event guides and a set of 156 food picture cards for food identification, bulletin boards, or nutrition education games
  • Learn more

Healthy Kids Challenge (HKC), is a nationally recognized non-profit led by an exemplary team of registered, licensed dietitians with many years of school, program, and community wellness experience.