Posts Tagged ‘SPARK PE’


Announcing the Inclusive PE Workshop Contest Winner!

Wednesday, May 31st, 2017

PE Class

In partnership with Let’s Move! Active Schools, we hosted the Sportime featuring SPARK Inclusive PE Workshop Contest to provide schools with a chance to win a new SPARK Inclusive PE Workshop, Guidebook, and Sportime Equipment Package. The hands-on Inclusive PE Workshop provides strategies to create an inclusive environment, adapt activities and equipment, and accommodate students during skill-based instruction. Entries were open 3/14/17 – 4/30/17.

We received over 400 entries for the Inclusive PE Workshop Contest! Thank you to all of the teachers who spent time completing the form for a chance to win.

Congratulations to the winning school!

Palm Valley Elementary

Litchfield Park, Arizona

Application submitted by: Kelly Jordan, Physical Education Teacher

 

Palm Valley Elementary implemented “Inclusion Revolution” during the 2015-2016 school year to create a more inclusive environment throughout the school. The school also practices Reverse Mainstreaming in the Adapted PE class, so non-disabled peers join Adapted PE as tutors. The peer tutors provide physical support and positive social interactions. While the physical education program has strong administrative support, the school faces challenges with limited professional development for teachers working with students with disabilities.

“The opportunity for our physical education staff to attend the Inclusive PE Workshop focused on our students with disabilities will be incredibly beneficial…it will help us better meet the needs of all the students that we educate through the creation of a more inclusive environment where all students can be successful. Overall, this opportunity would benefit the thousands of students that attend schools in our district through the creation of a more inclusive environment in PE class where students are supported, practice healthy habits, create positive relationships with peers, and increase physical activity. The hope is that the successes and the acceptance of students with disabilities will continue throughout the rest of our schools and in the entire school district, which in turn will make a positive impact into our community.”  — Kelly Jordan, PE Teacher at Palm Valley Elementary

Palm Valley Elementary is planning their Inclusive PE Workshop for September so that the teachers can begin implementing the SPARK Inclusive PE resources with the new school year.

The Winning School Receives:

Total award value = over $3,500!

Looking for funding for your school’s Inclusive PE program? Search for funding opportunities on the SPARK Grant-Finder.

 

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

Tuesday, June 28th, 2016

IMG_0809

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

IMG_0440

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.

Does Evidence-Based PE Matter? Part 1: What Constitutes Evidence-Based PE?

Thursday, June 16th, 2016

IMG_3812

Author: Dr. Kymm Ballard, SPARK Executive Director

The term “evidence-based” is used frequently in education and, fortunately for all of us, is directly applicable to physical education (PE) as well. The team at SPARK feels that a program can claim it is evidence-based only if there is data demonstrating positive results on students and/or teachers linked to relevant outcomes (i.e., activity levels, fitness, skill development, etc.) and if those outcomes have been published in a peer-reviewed journal. Additionally, it is important that other content experts/organizations (i.e., CDC, N.I.H., National Cancer Institute, etc.) agree with the findings and support the group’s claim(s).

There is also the revelation of a fairly new term “evidence-informed” which sometimes gets confused with evidence-based. As a profession, we need to ask the questions and understand that all research is important. So how do the findings apply to your school and student needs?

We can all find lesson plans from free websites and books, but we should ask ourselves “Is this lesson evidence-based?” The lesson may implement a standard and reach an outcome. If this is the extent of what you want your program to be, there are many lessons to choose from. What makes SPARK so unique, different, and evidence-based, is if you implement the lesson after being trained in the methodology, you will not only implement a standard and outcome, increase the physical activity time a child is active during the day, and help to obtain national recommendations for children to be active, but you are replicating something that has been proven to work.

With a direct link to research, a teacher knows she/he has aligned his/her curriculum choices with public health recommendations that address childhood obesity. SPARK is more than an effective PE program; it is a marriage of quality, SHAPE America Standards-Based PE and public health recommendations, and this makes it the most evidence-based program available in the U.S.

I was a Consultant for the Dept. of Education in North Carolina (NC) for 11.5 years. While serving in this capacity, I wanted to provide my physical educators in NC a foundational framework leading to excellent curriculum and resources for implementation. I saw too many times that my teachers had to start from scratch, basically trying to write their own lessons, on curriculum revisions where Math, Science, and others were reviewing updated texts, assessments, and supplemental materials. Some of the lessons were good, some were not, but it was all they had. I wanted them to have a solid base as a foundation for them to start from, and build their house of curriculum from there. Unfortunately, as a State employee, it was not feasible for me to provide a “statewide” curriculum. Luckily, our partners NCAAHPERD received funding from several sources which were able to help establish this groundbreaking effort (see success story here). In deciding what to do to support NC physical educators, some areas of importance surfaced.

Click here to read Part 2 of this blog series on Evidence-Based Physical Education, and click here to read Part 3.

[INFOGRAPHIC] SPARK 25 Years of Success! Countering Childhood Obesity Since 1989

Monday, June 16th, 2014

For 25 years, SPARK has made it our commitment to reduce childhood obesity. Follow us on our journey back to where it all began. Without you, this wouldn’t be possible, so thank you for all the support you have provided to help us achieve our dreams!

SPARK PEs 25th Anniversary Infographic

Share This Infographic On Your Site

Parent Tips: Helping Your Child Overcome PE Anxiety

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014

If your child experiences anxiety about PE class, you can make a huge difference—not just in their PE experience, but in their life as well—by helping them through it. Not only will your child learn to overcome fears and gain self-confidence, but they’ll get the all the benefits of PE too. After all, physical education is an important aspect of any child’s life, teaching them long-term healthy lifestyle habits, reducing sedentary time, increasing academic performance, and teaching other valuable lessons like teamwork, persistence, and goal setting.

Your child is not alone—many kids experience anxiety about PE for many different reasons, and the best thing to do is help them overcome their fears to grow and learn. Keep reading to learn how you can help your child feel confident when it’s time to go to physical education class.

Determine the Reasoning

Whether you begin to notice your child’s grades slip in PE or he even voices the fact that he does not like physical education class, it is important to first determine the reason why this is the case. Getting to the bottom of your child’s source of anxiety or animosity towards physical education class can help you to come up with the proper solutions.

There are many common causes of PE anxiety in children and teens. Some of the most common include:

  • Lack of confidence in physical ability
  • Fear of being picked last for teams
  • Self-consciousness about one’s body
  • Being bullied in school

If you are unsure of your child’s reasoning for disliking physical education class, have an honest and open conversation. It is important to be as open and non-judgmental as possible so that your child will have a better chance of opening up to you.

Speak with the PE Teacher

Once you are sure of your child’s reasons for having anxiety over PE class, it may be a good idea to schedule a conference with his or her physical education teacher. The teacher may be able to tell you things about your child’s performance that you were unaware of. For example, perhaps your child voiced to you that he does not like PE because he hates running. To your surprise, the physical education teacher may tell you that your child is one of the best runners in the class but fails to reach his full potential because he is worried about being made fun of or looked at differently because of his abilities.

Furthermore, speaking with the physical education teacher can be a great way to alert the teacher to problems he or she may not be aware of. Perhaps the teacher does not know that the child has PE anxiety. By working with the teacher as a team, you may be able to form a game plan together to make your child feel more comfortable and perform better in PE. After all, your child’s physical education teacher ultimately wants your child to perform well in the class.

Work on Stress-Relief Techniques

Consider working with your child to develop some techniques for relieving stress and calming down when feeling anxious about PE. Practice taking deep breaths with your child, explaining how taking even just three deep, cleansing breaths can help them on the spot when those anxieties pop up.

Help Your Child Find a Niche

If your child has anxiety because of a perceived lack of athletic ability, start by explaining that they don’t need to be excellent at sports to fit in at school. Help your child understand that they aren’t alone by describing uncomfortable moments you had in PE—being picked last for a team, not being able to get the hang of a sport, etc.

To help him or her gain confidence, however, do what you can to help your child find physical activities that he or she truly enjoys. Whether it is playing a game of soccer, going for a jog, or signing up for karate or dance class, making sure that your child has at least one physical activity that he or she truly enjoys is important. Not only will this help them feel more confident at school, but it teaches the value and joy of exercise.

On that note, it is also important to make sure that your child has plenty of time to explore different physical activities. If his or her schedule is jam-packed with music lessons, homework, church, and other activities, take a step back and re-assess your child’s schedule. He or she may be feeling understandably overwhelmed. Make sure that your child still has time to be a kid and have fun while getting a workout in the process.

Boost Your Child’s Confidence

The reality is that most children tend to overthink social situations, especially ones in which they are worried about being embarrassed. This is especially true in PE class. So what if your child cannot do the most sit-ups in the class? More than likely, nobody else is counting expect for the teacher.

Teach your child that it doesn’t matter if they are the best, worst, or somewhere in between at a sport or skill—the only thing that matters is giving it a good try. Confidence isn’t about knowing you’re the best. It’s about knowing that you can give something your best shot—or even just a shot at all.

Lead by example. Be open and willing to put yourself in positions that test your own confidence. Show your child that you don’t take yourself too seriously—that you are free to be yourself in any situation, whether people might be watching or not.

Practice Together

If your child feels anxiety about certain sports or skills, take time to help them improve—even if you aren’t so great at it yourself. In fact, this can be better because you will be learning together and showing your child that it’s okay to be a beginner.

Having someone to learn and practice with—especially a parent—can make a world of difference.

Overall, many children face PE anxiety; it is especially common among middle school and high school aged children, but it can happen at any time. It is important that you are proactive in helping your child tackle his or her anxiety for maximum success in physical education class. By finding out what the root of your child’s anxiety is, consulting with his or her teacher, and working one-on-one with your child to develop stress-handling techniques and self-confidence, you can get your child on the path to success in no time.

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?

Fun Winter Break Activities to Stay Fit

Friday, December 21st, 2012

Despite our mammalian heritage, humans do not hibernate. Still, during winter break it’s difficult for you and your kids to resist the urge to hunker under the covers all day and escape the cold.
The weather might not permit an all-out workout routine, but if you think snow is a big downer, it’s time for an attitude change. There are still plenty of fun activities you and your kids can partake in to stay fit and work off those winter blues. Cold, snowy weather offers all new avenues of safe thrills and fun, so long as you and your kids bundle up for warmth.

winter trees
•    Sledding/snow tubing: Head to your local park or sledding hill with a sled or inner tube and ride on down the slope. Many cities have designated tubing hills. Climbing a hill with your sled in tow offers plenty of exercise and your kids won’t even know it. If you don’t have a sled, don’t fret. No high-end, fancy sleds needed (although those are fine too), a simple inner tube works great!

•    Skiing and snowboarding: Head to your nearest ski resort and strap on your skis or snowboard. Winding down slopes is a full-body exercise for your kids and works their balance, coordination, and core, arm, and leg muscles.

•    Snowshoeing: Dress warm and explore the local wilderness. Check your local nature centers and state or national parks for trails. For heavily snowed areas, you can rent a pair of snowshoes, which help distribute your weight over a larger surface area to prevent you from sinking into the snow. Many national parks offer snowshoe rentals during winter seasons.

•    Build a snowman: Or make a whole family of snowmen and women. Rolling up balls of snow is sure to work out your kids’ arms, legs, and imaginations. Top it all off with a carrot nose, scarf, and top hat.

•    Snowball fight: Choose sides, set up base, and let the snowballs fly. Dodge and maneuver your way to better positions. You can adjust this to a game of capture the flag. Just make sure the kids use soft balls of snow, free of rocks, ice, and debris—and faces are off limits.

•    Ice skating: Some cities’ parks and rec departments will actually flood parks in the winter to create outdoor rinks, but even non-freezing cities have indoor ice rinks. Your kids can exercise their balance, coordination, and leg muscles.

•    Hockey: Once your kids have their basic ice skating moves down, join in on a quick pick-up game of hockey. If your kids get into the sport, they can join a team and play all season.

•    Neighborhood stroll: During the holidays, your neighbors invest a great deal of time and money into all kinds of lights, inflatables, and décor. Take a night time stroll with the kids to see all those amazing holiday decorations and displays of imagination and creativity. You can get better acquainted with your neighborhood and enjoy some brisk exercise all at once.

•    Caroling: Memorize the family’s favorite holiday tunes and take the show on the road. This is a great way to meet the neighbors, exercise your lungs, and get your heart pumping. Include a charity can and donate the funds to your charity of choice.

•    Free play: If all else fails, let your kids have unbridled free play in the snow. They can create snow castles or forts, play their favorite summertime sports (with a twist), or imagine and act out grand, epic stories. As long as they’re having fun and not lazing about idly inside, your kids are doing enough to stay fit.

•    Shovel the driveway: At the end of all that snow play, you can incorporate even more physical activity by having your kids shovel the driveway and front walkway. Chores are chores. Treat them to some healthy snacks when they’ve finished.

•    Indoor fun: If the outsides are looking a little too harrowing, take the fun inside. There are a whole host of things you can do inside to stay active, or take the family over to the gym for indoor versions of your favorite sports, including swimming soccer, and rock climbing.

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Photo Credit: Winter Trees by Christmasstockimages.com

Healthy Holiday Eating Tips

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012

Thanksgiving is gone and past, which means the holiday season is creeping up. The holidays are a time for celebrating what you have with your friends, family, and other significant persons. Festivities usually center on giving gifts and, of course, eating a ton of delicious food—the latter of which can pose a big problem for those kids and adults looking to stay fit. Here are a few healthy holiday eating tips for you and your kids this holiday season.thanksgiving-dinner

  • Cook with healthier substitutes. Cooking a healthy holiday feast for the family doesn’t mean turning everything into boring, tasteless mush. With some simple substitutions, you can still enjoy your holiday favorites without as much of the bad stuff.

–   A little salt is fine, but too much sodium can lead to hypertension and a variety of other issues. Cut back on the salt and replace with some more creative flavorings. Use more herbs, spices, garlic, and lemon or other citrus juices to tickle the taste buds. Rosemary and sage are two particular herbs that go perfectly with holiday meals.

–   Whether you’re baking up some holiday treats or making your classic noodle casserole, opt for whole wheat flour instead of white flour. Refined carbohydrates like white flour aren’t sustaining and cause a drastic spike in blood sugar. Not the best combination.

–   Sugary sweets are a staple of the holiday season. Spice cake, cookies, pumpkin and pecan pies, and oh-so-much candy. Too much sugar can only cause trouble. If you’re mixing up any batter for baking, cut down on the sugar and replace with vanilla, nutmeg, or cinnamon. A great sweet substitute in cake recipes is apple sauce—it keeps cake moist as well!

  • Have a plan when holiday shopping. Long bouts of shopping inevitably lead to some hunger pangs. Instead of dashing for the food court or drive thru, have some snacks on hand or make sure your kids eat before the shopping trip. If you must eat out, choose a proper sit-down restaurant over anything in the food court. Sit-down eateries offer healthier choices and menu items that can be altered to fit a healthier diet.
  • Eat something before the party. You and the kids will no doubt be heading to a whole host of parties, soirees, and get-togethers throughout the holidays. Before you head out, enjoy a healthy meal or substantial snack at home. This may fill your kids up so they don’t eat as much at the party, but primarily, it will allay any stress or worries. You know your kids ate something healthy to balance out all the snacks and cookies they enjoy at the party.
  • Don’t single out the kids. You may primarily be concerned with your kids’ weight, but the whole family could use some healthy eats over the holidays. Singling your kids out while you enjoy all those rich holiday foods will only discourage and alienate them. Practice healthy eating with all the family members, regardless of size or fitness level. This will be easy if you…
  • Focus on the size of portions. Instead of restricting foods—difficult with such a diverse mix of delicious foods and ingredients—focus on portion sizes. Make sure each dish contains a balanced assortment of veggies, fruits, protein, and whole grains. Controlling portions also means avoiding overeating. Enjoy as much as you can to reach satisfaction; you should not feel morbidly full after every meal.carrots-and-snow-peas
  • Make each bit of food count. Teach your kids to make every bit of food count. Instead of piling food on their plates willy-nilly, your kids should choose their favorite treats and foods that are special and only available during the holiday season.
  • Incorporate plenty of physical activity. With the family around, take part in some fun physical activities. This doesn’t mean just heading to the gym. There are tons of ways to stay active without even realizing it. Instead of sitting idly around the house, take part in some classic snow activities, like ice skating, sledding, skiing, snowboarding, building snowmen, or partaking in snowball fights. Throw around the pigskin. Take a stroll through the neighborhood to check out all your neighbors’ Christmas lights and décor. Go on a short day-hike and come back in time for a delicious, healthy meal.
  • Enjoy the holidays. Take the focus off health and fitness during the holidays and concentrate on enjoying fun times with family and friends. Stress will only lead to overeating, poor choice of food, and grumpy spirits. It’s okay to let loose and indulge just a bit during the holidays.