Posts Tagged ‘Physical Education’


The Benefits of Physical Education for Children with Special Needs

Tuesday, November 15th, 2016

special needs

Exercise can provide significant benefits for children in all of the developmental stages of life. It only makes sense, then, that regular participation in physical education classes would also promote positive advancements in students with special needs.

Research has shown that physical education programs can do a great deal to improve the lifestyle of children with special needs; they can increase competency in gross motor skills, help to control obesity, improve self-esteem and social skills, encourage an active lifestyle, and maintain motivation in various areas of life.

Considerations for Physical Education Teachers

Often, there are challenges to including children with disabilities in a physical education program. Parents may be apprehensive about allowing their child with special needs to participate in physical education activities. Studies have shown that special education students are less likely to enroll in physical education, and consequently, further studies have found that special education students are more at risk of developing childhood obesity than their general education peers. Yet, many resources have begun to make it easier to include children with special needs in physical education endeavors.

Physical education teachers simply need to determine the abilities of students with special needs, and the measures that may need implementing to support their participation in sports and fitness. Some children with difficulties may need DAPE (developmental adapted physical education) to help promote physical fitness, fundamental motor skills, and more, whereas others will simply need the support and encouragement to participate in regular physical education activities.

Following, we’ll address just some of the amazing benefits students with special needs can experience with the right exposure to regular activity.

  1. Physical Improvements

A scientific study into disability groups has found that participation in physical activity and sport leads to improved levels of well-being and physical health. Children who have a diagnosed intellectual disability may have additional physical disabilities which can result in below age-level performance in typical motor skills. Regular involvement in physical education and sport can help them to develop the skills they need.

When encouraged to participate in frequent fitness measures, many students with special needs see improvements in everything from their hand-eye coordination and flexibility, to their muscle strength, endurance, and even cardiovascular efficiency. These are all simply the natural benefits of exercise — a development of better motor skills and enhanced physical health that helps individuals to fight back against problems such as obesity, and the health complications that follow.

  1. Mental Improvements in Confidence and Well-Being

Regular exposure to sports through physical education classes isn’t only good for a child’s body — it’s beneficial to their mind, too. Physical activity improves general mood and wellness in psychiatric patients suffering from anxiety and depressive disorders. What’s more, regular fitness links to improvements in self-esteem, social awareness, and self-confidence — all essential for empowering the lives of young people with special needs.

Providing a physical outlet may help students reduce or cope with anxiety, stress and depression — while interaction and involvement with other students will help to give children a sense of accomplishment and confidence. For students with special needs, developing a sense of self-esteem can be particularly important, as they may often feel isolated and removed from the group. These children (They)  need their physical education teachers to involve them in environments where they can feel as though they’re successfully contributing to a group (can feel successful or are successful), and their abilities in other areas will improve according to  (as a result of) their positive self-image and confidence.

  1. Behavioral Improvements in Attention, Relationships, and Academics

Finally, the hands-on nature of physical education leads to cognitive improvements in children with special needs, allowing them to access skills that they couldn’t challenge within a traditional classroom setting. The structure of sport – which comes with a set of rules and organization, can be a learning tool that helps children to practice self-regulation and enhance their decision making skills. On top of that, children with special needs can learn to focus on specific goals, and work on their verbal communication by interacting with peers through sport.

Physical education is about a lot more than simply learning how to engage in a particular sport — it teaches children a range of skills, from how to work as a team, to how to solve problems, increase attention span, and focus on task-based behavior. Eventually, those skills can transfer into other classroom settings too, so that students with special needs have a greater ability to learn and engage with their peers outside of physical education.

The Importance of Physical Education for Special Needs Children

Scientific research has demonstrated repeatedly that physical education can enhance academic performance and cognitive function. However, for children with special needs, it’s valuable for so many reasons, from providing an opportunity to build collaborative and social skills, to teaching individuals how to focus on specific goals and overcome obstacles. Parents and teachers are encouraged to find creative ways to implement reasonable accommodations to ensure that all students with special needs can be successful in physical education and the school environment.

The Benefits of Phys Ed for Students with ADHD

Thursday, November 10th, 2016

physical education

The positive effects of physical education are well-documented, but daily exercise is especially beneficial for those students with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

11% of all American children between ages 4 and 17 have ADHD, with that number projected to rise steadily each coming year. Children are usually diagnosed at the age of 7, the exact point in their lives when physical education curriculums can stand to have the greatest impact.

The mental benefits of physical activity could have a positive effect on students with ADHD.

Physical Activity and Attentiveness

A study published in the Journal of Pediatrics noted the effect of physical activity on the attentiveness and academic performance of 10-year-old boys and girls, half of whom had ADHD. That research found that after just 20 minutes of exercise and movement, the students were able to better regulate their behavior and focus, improving scores on math and reading comprehension tests.

The Canadian Fitness and Lifestyle Research Institute found that daily physical education can lead to a state of relaxation that can last for up to two hours, impacting a child’s ability to problem solve, concentrate, and be creative in class. In the long term, the institute says participation in one physical education class a day can increase confidence and self-esteem, which can be beneficial in environments where children with ADHD. aren’t always perceived the most positively. Daily exercise can also help relieve anxiousness, a symptom of ADHD.

So powerful are the effects of exercise on the brain that some experts say it could be as effective a tool as medication. Thomas Lenz, an associate pharmacy professor at Creighton University in Nebraska, told LiveScience that both exercise and medication release dopamine and norepinephrine, two chemicals that help students with ADHD. maintain better focus.

More Formal Physical Education

While unstructured movement and play can have a positive effect on students with ADHD, so too can more regimented physical education activities.

At University College Shaker Campus in Ohio, the physical education program incorporates a blend of exercise and discipline for students with ADHD. Students are asked to categorize their desired behavior in the class at one of five levels, ranging from irresponsibility to caring. Throughout the class, students are encouraged to remember the level they hope to achieve, in order to ensure they’re working towards the goal throughout the class. Over time, this combination of exercise and mindfulness is thought to extend beyond the walls of the phys ed class to transform the way an ADHD student treats their other teachers, family, and friends.

At the end of the day, there is no cure-all for students with ADHD, but there are definitely ways to better accommodate them in school. According to the research above, ensuring all students have access to regular physical ed class is one of them.

The Benefits of Teaching with Stations

Tuesday, November 8th, 2016

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There are many struggles that come with being a physical education teacher. Luckily, there are techniques and solutions to minimize some of the stress. One solution to managing your students and boosting their engagement is to teach with stations. This is a teaching method where you create three or more activities for the period.

Divide your class up evenly and start each group at a different station. Students get a certain amount of time with each activity and then rotate to the next station. It’s an alternative to whole-group instruction and can have many benefits. Consider these reasons you might want to teach with stations in your physical education class.

1. It Keeps Students Engaged

If you have students who dislike PE class, then use stations to create a more interesting and dynamic PE period. Students will be continuously moving, whether they’re performing exercises at their station or moving on to the next one. Because they only spend a short amount of time at each station, it’s less likely that they’ll become bored or distracted.

2. It Gives Students a Better Workout

Using different activities throughout the period helps students get a better workout because they’ll be using different muscle groups for the various activities. Plus, it gives you a chance to mix cardio and strength training into the day’s activities. When designing your activities, consider making each focus on a different part of the body. For example, one station could focus on sit-ups while another activity could be doing pushups.

3. It Divides the Class into Manageable Groups

It can be difficult to watch so many kids at once, especially in PE class where they’re expected to be highly active instead of sitting behind a desk. Splitting the class into groups so all stations are filled at once makes it easier to manage groups and focus on each individual student’s performance. With this method, you can have one teacher or aide help watch over each station or divide the stations up.

Downsides to Teaching with Stations

While there are many benefits of teaching with stations, there are a couple of downsides, too. For one, it takes more manpower because you need an adult at several stations to watch over and instruct their group. It can also take more setup and teardown time for each station. Because of this, try to plan the same stations for all your classes throughout the day so that setup and teardown is easy.

Tips for Teaching with Stations

If you like the idea of setting up stations for your classes, consider these tips:

  • Set up the stations on the outside perimeter of the gym or in a circle in an outdoor field. This makes it easier for students to move from one station to the next in a circular progression.
  • Use Sportime ShoulderFolders on the cones to hold station cards with instruction for each station. If you have the SPARK curriculum, station cards are included in the SPARKfolio or available to download and print with your SPARKfamily.org membership.
  • Plan a signal — such as the start and stop of music — that will tell kids to move onto the next station. This will keep things flowing smoothly and save the time and hassle of going from one station to the next.
  • Before you begin the rotations, briefly explain the purpose of each station to the whole class, and demonstrate the activity if needed. This saves time once each group arrives at the station so you don’t have to repeat the instructions as often.
  • Keep music playing during the period so students can keep up with the fast pace of the rotations. Music also keeps them energized to make the activities more enjoyable.
  • Need materials to set up stations in your PE class? The new Sportime Middle  School and High School Fitness Packs include hand-selected fitness equipment and SPARK digital curriculum with station cards.

With these benefits and tips in mind, you can create a fun, interactive physical education period for your students. What types of stations and activities are you thinking about setting up in your PE class?

Including Children with Special Needs Physical Education Plans

Thursday, October 27th, 2016

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With physical education programs being reduced across the U.S., the crunch on activity in school is felt even more acutely by children with special needs. Research shows that students with disabilities receive 4.5 times less physical activity than their non disabled peers. And when they are in physical education class, children with special needs are often less likely to be selected for teams and directed to sit on the sidelines. This leads not only to a lack of social interaction, but also develops a negative association to the physical activity that can keep them healthy.

An inclusive physical education plan has the ability to shape the relationship a child with special needs has with sport and activity. Below are a few techniques to make sure no child gets left behind.

Create Smaller Groups

Large class sizes make it hard to give each student personal attention, not to mention a student with special needs.

Whether your physical education class is 20 students or 150, it’s important to break into smaller groups to ensure everyone participates and gets the attention they need. This can involve utilizing the skills of teacher helpers, special needs assistants, and student leaders, assigning them to supervise different groups of activities.

Team sports with a low number of players-per-team such as ball hockey can also better ensure all students are involved and active.

Adapt Existing Activities

Physical education teachers don’t need to reinvent the wheel in order to be inclusive. Adapted physical activity involves updating traditional team and individual sports in order to make the game better suited to students with motor and intellectual disabilities.

Adapting existing activities is a valuable tool for physical educators since the games can be played by all students as part of inclusion and universal design for learning.

Have the Right Equipment

This is another element of adapting activities for students with special needs.

A variety of specialized equipment can greatly impact a student’s ability to be involved in physical education activity. For example, children with coordination issues may have a difficult time with standard issue balls. Bean bags, nerf balls, and other options may be good alternatives that promote inclusion and success. Cones and spot markers may also be helpful in providing spatial boundary definition and play space area for students with sensory motor issues.

Consider padding play area surfaces for students with dyspraxia, and ensure an area is easy for students in wheelchairs to maneuver.

All-In Participation Activities

Another way of including children with special needs in physical education plans is to select team building activities that require participation from every student. Simple obstacle courses and relay races can be options, as can having small groups of students coach one another through basic yoga and aerobics moves. Having students help one another will create leadership skills and bonds between special needs students and their peers.
Before reworking any physical education plan, meet with your school’s special education team and the parents of students with disabilities. They will have a better sense of a child’s unique needs and how you can best accommodate them in your class.

5 Reasons to Take Your PE Class Outside

Tuesday, October 25th, 2016

PE

Kids, on average, don’t play outside as much as their parents did. Children spend more than six hours every day on screens, from televisions to tablets. Even school settings offer more screen learning than even a decade ago. All of that technology has its place and purpose, but without opportunities to get outside children face issues like obesity, inability to focus, and even depression.

Taking a PE class outside accomplishes two things: student exposure to fresh air and sunshine, and a connection to nature through exercise. Both can combat that six-hour screen time statistic and impart skills that encourage healthier lifestyles in children.

Take a look at the major reasons you should take your PE classes outside whenever possible:

1. Improved Mood

Kids, by nature, don’t belong indoors all day long. Studies have found that exercise that happens outside incites greater feelings of rejuvenation and energy. Getting outdoors is refreshing, especially since only 10% of children say they spend time outside each day. Vitamin D3 absorption releases feel-good endorphin hormones, boosting mood and elevating brain health. In fact, 90% of kids who spend time outside say it relieves stress. Having the release that goes along with all of that running, jumping, and enjoying the outdoors improves behavior and outlook for the rest of the day, and beyond.

2. More Activity

There is evidence that exercise that happens outside is physically better. In other words, doing the same activities inside and out can have very different results. A study that looked at runners who used a treadmill inside versus those who ran the same distance outside found that the outdoor people used more energy to account for things like wind direction and uneven terrain. The elements outdoors makes working out there harder. Students in a PE class that meets outside will burn more calories and work harder than those in a class that lasts the same amount of time inside.

3. Greater Enjoyment

When kids can associate their exercise routine with something else they enjoy – like going outside – there is a better chance they will want to repeat the activity. A PE class that happens outdoors has the added perk of getting outside the school walls, which is a task that is normally reserved for recess. Teaching kids the connection between physical health and enjoying nature has the potential to increase their motivation for fitness activities for life.

4. Heighten Environmental Awareness

A PE class that happens outside offers opportunities for cross-discipline learning. The Nature Conservancy reports that children who spend time outside are more connected to and invested in the planet. Even if the only time students spend outdoors is less than an hour in your class every week, this time matters from an environmental standpoint.

5. Opportunities for Creativity

When adults walk into a gym, the equipment is already prescribed. The treadmills are in one spot, the free weights in another, and the exercise classes in a designated room. The same is true for a PE class that is held inside. The equipment may change based on class but there is less room for kids to create their own fitness routines. Going outside frees the creative process to work in bigger ways and removes the limits from what kids can accomplish during the learning process. Try to offer a mix of instructional activities and some exercise that allows kids to make decisions. This builds greater ownership of fitness for the students who find their own path to enjoying it.

Creating an outdoor PE lesson plan combines fresh air and fitness in a way that kids will embrace. The allure of a class outside is a luxury for many students and PE is the perfect area to accommodate it.

East St. Louis School District 189 – PEP Grant Case Study

Friday, October 7th, 2016

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Putting Some PEP in Their Step

The East St. Louis School District didn’t have much of a PE program in its elementary schools; in fact, for over five years, it didn’t have any PE at all. Budget cuts and limited local funding for a school with a 100% free and reduced lunch rate led to the cutting of PE, which did not serve to improve an already high obesity rate among students. Things were about to change for the better in 2014 when the district applied for, and won, the Carol M. White PEP Grant.

East St. Louis School District 189 was in great need of evidence-based programming to transform their near non-existent PE program and student health statistics into an active, thriving, healthy program and student population. When they won the two-year grant, they sparked transformation right away in Year 1. Working with Cassie Wolvington, Sportime featuring SPARK Sales Representative, they ordered:

  • SPARK Curriculum Materials for K-12 Physical Education and After School,
  • Healthy Kids Challenge Nutrition Curriculum Materials for K-8
  • 5 Premium SPARK trainings for K-2, 3-6, Middle School, High School, After School
  • Modified Sportime equipment sets for K-12 and After School
  • Accusplit pedometers to track steps for grant reporting

To implement the new curriculum, training, and equipment, the district used PEP funding to hire four competent, creative, and energetic PE teachers.

Keeping up the positive momentum in Year 2, the district ordered:

  • Additional Curriculum Materials and Physical Education Equipment
  • SPARK Booster Trainings for K-2, 3-6, Middle School, High School, After School

Impressed with the great customer service and personal attention provided to them by their Sportime featuring SPARK Representative, they ordered an additional $145K worth of equipment.

Boys Track & Field Head Coach and PEP Grant Director Barry Malloyd commented on the experience, “Our district’s experience with SPARK has been life-changing for our PE teachers, students and parents. There is now a SPARK in our physical education programs like never before. The SPARK curriculum and trainings have provided our district with a SPARK of hope. The supplies, equipment, curriculum, trainings, and webinars that you provided us have catapulted our district’s PE program into the 21st Century. Our district administrators, PE teachers, students, and parents have given our PEP program a standing ovation because of our students’ drastic improvements in all areas of the GPRA Measures. It’s because of this SPARK that our district has some ‘PEP IN OUR STEPS!’”

Mr. Malloyd continued, “The benefits that our district is most excited about are the Fall and Spring SPARK trainings given to all of our district PE teachers and after school partners.  Also, the awesome supplies and equipment that you provide has made PE once again fun, exciting, and relevant in our school district. I could not and would not ever ask for another provider other than SPARK.”

From having no PE program to sparking a thriving, healthy, active PE program that is the envy of peer school districts – now that is a success story! Congratulations East St. Louis School District 189!

To learn more about the SPARK and PEP grant, click here.

East St Louis Blog pic 4

USC Students Excited about SPARK Physical Education Curriculum

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2016

By: Dr. Kristy Hilton, Adjunct Professor at the University of Southern California

When I signed on to teach the “Movement for Children” physical education class to current and prospective K-6 teachers at USC earning their Masters of Education degree and/or California Teaching Credential, they were using a quality, often-used textbook in these types of graduate classes. Although an excellent textbook, I knew it would end up on the shelf gathering dust once the student completed the class. I suggested to the Department Chair to switch to the SPARK research-based curriculum for a long career value for these teachers. Now that the faculty has taught it for the past six years, the positive outcomes have been widespread.

Students in these USC “Movement for Children” classes are often overwhelmed with the volume of required academic content to crunch in the framework of a typical teaching day. To then add more content time for teaching physical education, plus their often lack of comfort teaching physical education, and possible lack of supplies and facilities just send them “over the top.”

The SPARK curriculum binder provides the students with standards-based, easy-to-read and execute lesson plans. They also receive access to online videos, assessment, and skill cards.

When the students at USC use SPARK lesson plans to provide their teaching videos, they quickly build their confidence to teach a quality, content-based physical education class. Not only are their physical education classes demonstrating excellent quality, but they inspire their Guiding Practice Teacher to begin teaching physical education, as well.

My students have written many testimonials to me about how the culture of their school with modeling the SPARK physical education program has changed. Some of these schools wrote grants and adopted using SPARK. Here is one of the student testimonials:

“At the end of class at USC, I just wanted to say thank you! SPARK has really changed classroom management for me. My students know that Thursdays are SPARK days, and they are extra good those days in order to earn SPARK time at the end of the day. I honestly feel more confident in teaching physical education even though I was no good at it when I was in school. Dr. Hilton, thank you so much for all of your patience and understanding, kindness, passion, and wisdom!! I know this class was only one credit or unit, but I learned so much about classroom management and instructional strategies. It blows my mind!

Rebekah Hwang – Student
University of Southern California – Los Angeles, CA”

SPARK has not only changed my students’ teaching quality, and the communities they teach, but has changed my perspective of how valuable SPARK is. If the bottom line is for our classroom teachers to incorporate physical education, then SPARK is the biggest bang for the buck.

Click here to learn more about SPARKuniversity resources!

Which Type of Physical Educator Are You? [QUIZ]

Thursday, July 14th, 2016

Phys Ed teachers gather ’round! Take this quiz to find out your fitness teaching style.

Does Evidence-Based PE Matter? Part 3: Is Evidence-Based PE Easy to Implement?

Tuesday, June 28th, 2016

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Author: Dr. Kymm Ballard, SPARK Executive Director

Click here to read Part 1 of this blog series on Evidence-Based Physical Education, and click here to read Part 2.

What is the current evidence? Is it evidence/research-based or evidence-informed (we believe things are happening but may not be enough formal research to show it, like PE improves academic performance)?

Numerous refereed publications (over 45 to date) have reported SPARK physical education (PE) program effects, including papers showing evidence of achievement and/or significant improvement in the following variables:

  • Physical activity (MVPA)
  • Physical fitness
  • Lesson context and teacher behavior
  • Academic achievement
  • Motor skill development
  • Student enjoyment of the program
  • Adiposity
  • Long-term effects/institutionalization
  • Process measures (parent behavior, teacher acceptance of program)

Click here for our complete list of research & publications.

How feasible is it to implement and sustain?

Though the SPARK lessons are written with the certified teacher in mind, it was proven to be feasible and simple to implement and sustain. Through the SPARK trainings, teachers learn management techniques to increase MVPA as well as strategies for varying lessons based on an individual’s needs. This change in teaching leads to sustainability.

SPARK also has developed an effective Train the Trainer model, leading to a district adopted method of teaching that is a foundation for institutionalization, district empowerment, and leadership. Years of dissemination in the real world have shown that SPARK’s “return on investment” is outstanding when implemented correctly in the recommended doses and with fidelity. There have been papers also published on the sustainability of the program you can find here.

In conclusion, I eventually chose to work with SPARK because I saw the incredible difference it was making in the way teachers were doing their jobs day to day. I had coordinators tell me they had teachers now actually teaching that were previously described as “rolling out the ball.” They attributed this – in part – to the management skills learned during SPARK trainings. This wasn’t all new practice, but it was a way to disseminate best practices and improve the health of our children.

The research stands for itself on SPARK with 4 specific NIH studies and numerous others that utilized SPARK in their studies. There are also over 45 publications and 100’s of articles verifying the research still today. SPARK is being translated currently in several other countries and studied overseas — with one of the newest studies occurring in Iran.

If you want to see a tremendous improvement in your students and teachers and care about implementing an evidence-based physical education program that’s linked to public health objectives, SPARK is a proven choice.

For more on SPARK research and special projects, click here.

* Criteria adapted from Chalkidou, K., Walley, T.,Culyer, A., Littlejohns, P., Hoy, A; Evidence-informed evidence-making; Health Serv Res Policy July 2008 vol. 13 no. 3 167-173.

Does Evidence-Based PE Matter? Part 2: Why is Evidence-Based PE Significant?

Tuesday, June 21st, 2016

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Author: Dr. Kymm Ballard, SPARK Executive Director

Click here to read Part 1 of this blog series on Evidence-Based Physical Education.

Suggested criteria for prioritizing physical education research-based programs:

You might begin by asking yourself: What is its relevance to the field? Will it help advance and improve the field of physical education?

SPARK was and is a program that links effective and proven physical education pedagogy and concern for rising childhood obesity. One of the goals of the original studies was to determine that if the SPARK approach increased MVPA, could teachers still effectively instruct physical education so their students successfully gained the skills, concepts, and confidence needed in a quality PE program? This was proven to be true along with increases in students’ motor and sports skills, fitness, MVPA, academic achievement, enjoyment of PE, as well as the quality of teacher instruction (i.e., less time managing, more time promoting fitness, teaching physical skills, etc.). SPARK evidence helped advance and improve the field of physical education.

Furthermore, it has since been examined with in a variety of settings and populations, including variances in race, gender, and poverty, and shown to be adaptable and effective. And for NC, a State that has some of the highest obesity rates among children, SPARK was an excellent fit. For more on various relevant research click here: http://www.sparkpe.org/physical-education-resources/relevant-research/

Is it important to school, community, parents, field in general? Is it important to the student outcomes?

In NC, we felt the State’s physical educators needed resources aligned to what were the NASPE standards, although there were no national grade level outcomes at the time. However, SPARK did show how their lessons could be used as a resource to align to our state standards and outcomes (objectives), which provided that critical link. It was important to the community who funded the project and the field in general having approximately 97% of the school districts wanting to be trained in SPARK PE. Our state had high levels of childhood obesity so it was important that we not only teach effective PE but address the public health concern of obesity via increased PA and nutrition education. SPARK helped us with all this and more.

Does it align or assist in national priorities (i.e., National PA Plan, Lets Move Active Schools, Whole Child, Whole School, Whole Community, etc.)?

At our time of exploring curricula and resources for the teachers in NC, national initiatives were just coming on the scene. However, the alignment today is amazing. It was aligned to the CSHP, PECAT, and National PA Plan, which helped to lift NC’s foundational platform. Now, our physical educators had a common ground to teach from, then add their own good ideas, and accelerate their professional growth. It was then up to each district and teacher to set goals to improve their programs, their content selection, and their instructional strategies over time.

Today, SPARK partners with all the groups mentioned above, investing and/or participating together on Hill events, meetings, or sponsorships. The relationships continue to grow because it is extremely important that SPARK continues to align with national priorities. One of SPARK’s many strengths is the reach it has to grassroots teachers. Through SPARK, we are able to execute many of the action steps from awareness to implementation of these national priorities, and in turn, help improve the quantity and quality of physical education for children and teachers everywhere.

Click here to read Part 3 of this blog series on Evidence-Based Physical Education.

* Criteria adapted from Chalkidou, K., Walley, T.,Culyer, A., Littlejohns, P., Hoy, A; Evidence-informed evidence-making; Health Serv Res Policy July 2008 vol. 13 no. 3 167-173.