Tag Archives: Physical Education

In the rush to produce geniuses, are we forgetting the value of play

10 Mar

Children are not “mini mes” or short adults. They are children and they should have time to play, to dream, and to use their imagination. Dan Childs of ABC News reports in the story, Recess ‘Crucial’ for Kids, Pediatricians’ Group Says:

The statement by the American Academy of Pediatrics is the latest salvo in the long-running debate over how much of a young child’s time at school should be devoted to academics — and how much should go to free, unstructured playtime.
The authors of the policy statement write that the AAP “believes that recess is a crucial and necessary component of a child’s development and, as such, it should not be withheld for punitive or academic reasons.”
“The AAP has, in recent years, tried to focus the attention of parents, school officials and policymakers on the fact that kids are losing their free play,” said the AAP’s Dr. Robert Murray, one of the lead authors of the statement. “We are overstructuring their day. … They lose that creative free play, which we think is so important.”
The statement, which cites two decades worth of scientific evidence, points to the various benefits of recess. While physical activity is among these, so too are some less obvious boons such as cognitive benefits, better attention during class, and enhanced social and emotional development. http://abcnews.go.com/Health/recess-crucial-kids-aap-policy-statement/story?id=18083935#.UOZ606zIlIq

The goal of this society should be to raise healthy and happy children who will grow into concerned and involved adults who care about their fellow citizens and environment. In order to accomplish this goal, all children must receive a good basic education and in order to achieve that goal, children must arrive at school, ready to learn.

Debbie Rhea wrote the thoughtful Education Week commentary, Give Students Time to Play:

It seems counterintuitive to think that less classroom time and more outdoor play would lead to a better education for kids. After all, what many in our country, including most recently New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, have prescribed are longer days in the classroom. But longer days on task don’t equate to better results. Instead, they translate into more burnout, lower test scores, and more of the same. All work and no play really does make dull boys and girls.
For years, educators have tried different strategies of more testing and of more time on task to reverse these trends, but they have proved to be unsuccessful. The answer is not additional in-class sitting time. What kids need is time to move and have unstructured play.
On a recent sabbatical, I spent six weeks in Finland studying how that country practices education. Reading, science, and math are important in the Finnish education system, but so are social studies, physical education, arts, music, foreign languages, and a number of practical skills. The school day in Finland looks much different from the school day in the United States.
“We should not sacrifice recess time for classroom time, and neither should be used to discipline students.”
In the United States, for example, a 1st grader attends school 35 hours a week, seven hours a day. In Finland, a 1st grader spends 22.5 hours a week in school, or 4.5 hours a day. Three hours each day are spent on content in the classroom, and another 1.5 hours are spent on recess or “unstructured outdoor play.” Some elementary schools in the United States do not have recess time built into their schedules, let alone outdoor recess.
Kids are built to move. Having more time for unstructured outdoor play is like handing them a reset button. It not only helps to break up their day, but it also allows them to blow off steam, while giving them an opportunity to move and redirect their energy to something more meaningful once they return to the classroom.
When a human sits for longer than about 20 minutes, the physiology of the brain and body changes. Gravity begins to pool blood into the hamstrings, robbing the brain of needed oxygen and glucose, or brain fuel. The brain essentially just falls asleep when we sit for too long. Moving and being active stimulates the neurons that fire in the brain. When you are sitting, those neurons don’t fire.
Getting students out of their chairs and moving outdoors is essential. A 2008 study published in JAMA Opthamology found that 42 percent of people in the United States between the ages of 12 and 54 are nearsighted. But 40 years ago, that number was only 25 percent, a change that can’t be explained by heredity. Time indoors can weaken our vision, especially if we are staring at computer screens and not looking away for long periods of time. Additional studies have also shown that when people have inadequate daylight exposure at work, particularly in areas that have poor indoor lighting, it can disrupt their circadian rhythms—the cycle that allows for healthy sleep. When these rhythms are thrown off, it can have a negative impact on academic performance.
I’m such a believer in more unstructured outdoor play and recess throughout the day that I’ve launched a pilot program called Project ISIS—Innovating Strategies, Inspiring Students—that is being implemented in two Texas private schools, with an additional three public elementary schools in that state coming on board by the fall. While the program doesn’t reduce the number of hours spent at school, it does build in more outside recess time. Students get two 15-minute unstructured outdoor-play breaks in the morning (one is right before lunch, the other is a full lunch with a short recess afterward), and then two more 15-minute recess breaks in the afternoon. These schools will continue to have physical education as a content area.
We should not sacrifice recess time for classroom time, and neither should be used to discipline students. The more movement children have throughout the day, the better they will be with attentional focus, behavioral issues, and academic performance…. http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2014/02/26/22rhea.h33.html?tkn=VRYFMBKESIDvZIGHetFWpKk1lBN%2FPqxFrjSh&intc=es

We must not so over-schedule children that they have no time to play and to dream. Our goal as a society should be:

A healthy child in a healthy family who attends a healthy school in a healthy neighborhood ©


The ‘whole child’ approach to education

Childhood obesity: Recess is being cut in low-income schools

Louisiana study: Fit children score higher on standardized tests

Seattle Research Institute study about outside play

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Oregon school finds success with the ‘Fit to Live and Learn’ physical education program

22 May


The goal of this society should be to raise healthy and happy children who will grow into concerned and involved adults who care about their fellow citizens and environment. In order to accomplish this goal, all children must receive a good basic education and in order to achieve that goal, children must arrive at school, ready to learn.There is an epidemic of childhood obesity and obesity is often prevalent among poor children. The American Heart Associationhas some great information about Physical Activity and Children http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/Physical-Activity-and-Children_UCM_304053_Article.jsp#.TummU1bfW-c


An Oregon school has had success with a physical education program called “Fit to Live and Learn” which is based on the book the book “Spark” by Dr. John J. Ratey.


Portland Public School News reported about the success Benson school has had with the “Fit to Live and Learn” program in the article, New Benson PE/Health curriculum is fat-burning success:



Benson teachers have redesigned their PE/Health curriculum with pound-shedding and academic-performance-enhancing results for students.


PE/Health teachers Katie Meyer and Linda McLellan began talking last year about re-designing their curriculum. After reading the book “Spark” by Dr. John J. Ratey, they decided to blend PE and Health into one course taught daily for a block period. Fit to Live and Learn was born.


The book presents a strong argument for the connection between brain function and physical activity. Benson’s Fit to Live & Learn program provides physical activity for freshmen everyday as well as lessons on how to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Students set physical and academic goals and track their progress.


Benson has a full time Health Corps staff member, Amy Barras, who has also been instrumental in the design of the program and has assisted in forging community partnerships and writing grants. Nike has contributed $20,000 and a Nike fuel band for every freshman to use the second semester to track their exercise. Approximately 30 staff members are also participating in the fuel band activity.


Decisive results


The results in the first three months of the program have been compelling:


  • 240 freshmen lost a total of 868 pounds – 3.6 pounds per student on average – with one student losing 39 pounds.

  • Endurance has improved with 300 total minutes cut from the mile run time, an average improvement of 1.3 minutes per student.


In addition, compared to last year’s freshmen, there is preliminary data that shows an increase in the number of students who successfully earned credit the first semester and a decrease in freshman referrals for disciplinary reasons compared to last year.


“Health Corps is very interested in the design of the program and will potentially use it as a model for other high schools,” said Principal Carol Campbell. “The teachers are using the data as part of their professional development this year in the form of action research. Congratulations to Katie Meyer, Linda McLellan and Amy Barras for their collaboration and hard work, thanks to Nike for being such a great partner and way to go Benson freshmen!”


Benson students “weigh in” on experience:


It helps me stay fit and also teaches me that if I don’t exercise in the future, a lot of health issues could come up.”

“I have become very responsible since I started this class.”

“I love the fact that I have good sleep, I feel stronger and it releases my stress….”

“It really does help my mental strength and endurance. Even if I really hate exercising sometimes, I get through it and improve.”

“I actually want to exercise now.”

“Because of this class, my work ethic, my attitude and how careful I am about my health has changed.”


See the class featured on KGW Feb. 25. http://www.pps.k12.or.us/news/8381.htm


Here is information about the physical education program on which the Benson program is based,Exercise before and fitness activities interspersed with lectures lead to a state of heightened awareness and improved academic performance:


Discover how Sparking Life can help your students achieve their maximum potential


While Naperville’s model of scheduling PE before academic classes (Math, Science, English) and achieving robust levels of exercise has increased focus and boosted cognitive abilities for those students, other programs have found success by incorporating movement during lessons or frequent breaks.


What model is right for your school?


Consider the outlines below and then call us at Sparking Life: We’ll help you develop programs tailored to the needs of your school and your students. Join our fitness movement by calling 857-221-1839 or click athornton@sparkinglife.org.


1) Naperville P.E. Model


  • Mr. Phil Lawler pioneered this model at Naperville, IL

  • Moves P.E. class away from a “sports-driven” model to an “individual student fitness” model

  • Skill development no longer the primary goal of P.E.; rather, focus shifts to facilitating each student in raising heart rate at his/her own individual ideal pace

  • Elements of student autonomy in both the selection of daily activities and the maximum heart rate achieved (duration and intensity)

  • Primary focus in P.E. class involves high-intensity interval training two days per week, and motor development and recreation/play the other three days

  • Use of heart rate monitors by every student to enable and ensure participation at each individual’s personal optimum peak activity level

  • Use of heart monitors by students to assign grades for P.E. class (i.e., student needs to raise heart rate to a zone between 145–185 bpm for twenty minutes to receive an A grade for that day – based on individual student heart rate target levels)

  • Use of heart monitors by P.E. teacher to direct individual exercise programs and for overall class evaluation

  • By scheduling P.E. before academic classes (Math, Science, English) and achieving robust levels of exercise, program increased focus and boosted cognitive abilities (specifically in the hour immediately following P.E.)

  • Represents an excellent first step along an evolution that fully incorporates exercise’s benefits throughout the school day


      Subsequent adaptation at Naperville: Zero Hour P.E. Model


  • Students voluntarily participate in high intensity exercise BEFORE the school day begins

  • Model initiated for lower-performing students in order to create optimal brain chemistry BEFORE school starts

  • P.E. Teacher coordinates activities and exercises for students, performed on their own time with no grades attached

  • Grew out of awareness that P.E. before the toughest classes of the day was as useful as Naperville’s New P.E.

  • Guidance counselors suggest to students that they should schedule P.E. before toughest classes

  • School administration had known about the academic power post exercise

  • Not just for lagging/poor but also high achieving student


Naperville’s latest exercise innovation Learning: Readiness P.E. Model (L.R.P.E.)


  • Classroom for reading class, as well as its curriculum and class rules, designed to allow students to choose the physical manner of their daily participation in class (i.e., sitting at a conventional desk, standing, balancing on a ‘bo-so’ ball, ‘kick-boards’, balancing on an exercise ball, or riding a stationary bike either slow or fast)

  • Voluntary program that targets students in grades nine and ten who are underperforming in reading

  • New P.E. scheduled immediately prior to an L.R.P.E. reading class

  • Optimum heart rate zone raised to between 160–190

  • Hybrid of the Saskatoon Model and the Naperville P.E. model in combination with advanced teaching techniques that encourage movement during classroom content instruction


2) Saskatoon “In-Class” P.E. Model


  • Model adopted in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan school system

  • During teacher instruction, students have ability to choose to sit, stand, walk, run, or cycle while listening and doing their work

  • Allows use of treadmills and stationary cardiovascular equipment within the classroom during instruction time

  • Incorporates weight training two days per week


3) Finnish P.E. Model


  • Allows students and teachers time to exercise or play between every class for twenty minutes, with encouragement and support

  • Enables exercise’s benefits on the brain to be sustained throughout the school day


4) Proposed Concept P.E. Model


  • Promote physical fitness as a central and underlying school theme

  • Co-curricular learning involving interdisciplinary synergy of P.E., science, and mathematics departments

  • Re-design curriculum to maximize benefits of physical activity on brain function and learning throughout the school day, encouraging genuine school-wide subscription and universal participation

  • P.E. focuses on principles of personal physical fitness and its impact on cognition and well-being, as well as student mastery of personal activity data collection (electronic or manual heart rate diagnoses)

  • Science class touches on Krebs cycle, brain composition, and cardiovascular components

  • Mathematics class curriculum includes understanding, review, and analysis of empirical evidence, tables, equations, and statistics

  • Increasing heart rate does not have to be an expensive proposition, funding demands can be minimal; while heart rate monitors are seen as beneficial and desirable, they’re certainly not essential


Re-design curriculum to maximize benefits of physical activity on brain function and learning throughout the school day, encouraging genuine school-wide subscription and universal participation  




Physically fit children are not only healthier, but are better able to perform in school.




Louisiana study: Fit children score higher on standardized tests    https://drwilda.wordpress.com/2012/05/08/louisiana-study-fit-children-score-higher-on-standardized-tests/


School dinner programs: Trying to reduce the number of hungry children https://drwilda.wordpress.com/2012/01/28/school-dinner-programs-trying-to-reduce-the-number-of-hungry-children/


Children, body image, bullying, and eating disorders                https://drwilda.wordpress.com/2012/01/09/children-body-image-bullying-and-eating-disorders/


The Healthy Schools Coalition fights for school-based efforts to combat obesity https://drwilda.wordpress.com/2012/05/12/the-healthy-schools-coalition-fights-for-school-based-efforts-to-combat-obesity/


Seattle Research Institute study about outside play https://drwilda.wordpress.com/tag/childrens-physical-activity/



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Can’t yoga be watered down like Christmas was? Is there a ‘happy holidays’ yoga?

24 Feb

Here’s today’s COMMENT FROM AN OLD FART: Remember when the forces of secularism pushed the “Happy Holidays” maximum because no one should be offended by the expression of “Merry Christmas.” The forces of tolerance and celebrate diversity did not want YOUR religion forced on ME. So much for that “celebrate diversity” thing. Let’s fast forward to the yoga movement and the attempt to spread love, joy, and flexible limbs into the education setting.

Marty Graham of Reuters reports in the article, Parents sue school for teaching yoga to children:

SAN DIEGO—The parents of two California grade school students have sued to block the teaching of yoga classes they complain promote eastern religions, saying children who exercise their choice to opt out of the popular program face bullying and teasing.

The Encinitas Unified School District, near San Diego, began the program in September to teach Ashtanga yoga as part of the district’s physical education program — and school officials insist the program does not teach any religion.

Lawyers for the parents challenging the yoga program disagreed.

“As a First Amendment lawyer, I wouldn’t go after an exercise program. I don’t go after people for stretching,” said lawyer Dean Broyles, who heads the National Center on Law and Policy, which filed the suit on Wednesday in a San Diego court.

“But Ashtanga yoga is a religious-based yoga, and if we are separating church and state, we can’t pick and choose religious favourites,” he said.

The lawsuit is the latest twist in a broader national clash over the separation of religion from public education that has seen spirited debate on issues ranging from the permissibility of student-led prayer to whether science instructors can teach alternatives to evolution.

The lawsuit, which does not seek any monetary damages, objects to eight-limbed tree posters they say are derived from Hindu beliefs, the Namaste greeting and several of the yoga poses that they say represent the worship of Hindu deities.

According to the suit, a $533,000 grant from the Jois Foundation, which supports yoga in schools, allowed the school district to assign 60 minutes of the 100 minutes of physical education required each week to Ashtanga yoga, taught in the schools by Jois-certified teachers.

Broyles said that while children are allowed to opt out of the yoga program, they are not given other exercise options.

“The kids who are opting out are getting teased and bullied,” he said. “We have one little girl whose classmates told her her parents are stupid because she opted out. That’s not supposed to happen in our schools….” http://www.thestar.com/news/world/2013/02/22/parents_sue_school_for_teaching_yoga_to_children.html

See, Promoting Hinduism? Parents Demand Removal Of School Yoga Class http://www.npr.org/2013/01/09/168613461/promoting-hinduism-parents-demand-removal-of-school-yoga-class

The Free Dictionary summarizes yoga:



The term yoga comes from a Sanskrit word which means yoke or union. Traditionally, yoga is a method joining the individual self with the Divine, Universal Spirit, or Cosmic Consciousness. Physical and mental exercises are designed to help achieve this goal, also called self-transcendence or enlightenment. On the physical level, yoga postures, called asanas, are designed to tone, strengthen, and align the body. These postures are performed to make the spine supple and healthy and to promote blood flow to all the organs, glands, and tissues, keeping all the bodily systems healthy. On the mental level, yoga uses breathing techniques (pranayama) and meditation (dyana) to quiet, clarify, and discipline the mind. However, experts are quick to point out that yoga is not a religion, but a way of living with health and peace of mind as its aims.                                   http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Ashtanga+Yoga

The problem for many Christians and particularly Christian parents is NOT that kids don’t need exercise, they do. The problem is the spiritual aspects which emphasize the “Divine.” That is not what Christians believe.  The majority of Christians believe in the Trinity. Guess what, the FIRST AMENDMENT protects those beliefs.

So, what is a “celebrate diversity,” we are soooo tolerant, and hip to boot school district supposed to do when confronted with the “yoga conundrum?” Well, bucky, one waters down the concept as with “happy holidays’ and the new name is ” yocise,” the divine becomes your healthy life. “Yocise” focuses on YOU and fits with the culture’s philosophy of ME and we are no more tolerant with “yocise” than we were with “happy holidays.” “Celebrate diversity.”

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Childhood obesity: Recess is being cut in low-income schools

15 Dec

The goal of this society should be to raise healthy and happy children who will grow into concerned and involved adults who care about their fellow citizens and environment. In order to accomplish this goal, all children must receive a good basic education and in order to achieve that goal, children must arrive at school, ready to learn. There is an epidemic of childhood obesity and obesity is often prevalent among poor children. The American HeartAssociation has some great information about Physical Activity and Children:

Why is exercise or physical activity important for my child?

Increased physical activity has been associated with an increased life expectancy and decreased risk of cardiovascular disease.  Physical activity produces overall physical, psychological and social benefits. Inactive children are likely to become inactive adults. And physical activity helps with

  • controlling weight
  • reducing blood pressure
  • raising HDL (“good”) cholesterol
  • reducing the risk of diabetes and some kinds of cancer
  • improved psychological well-being, including gaining more self-confidence and higher self-esteem 

How do I promote physical activity in my child?

  • Physical activity should be increased by reducing sedentary time (e.g., watching television, playing computer video games or talking on the phone).
  • Physical activity should be fun for children and adolescents.
  • Parents should try to be role models for active lifestyles and provide children with opportunities for increased physical activity.

What if my child is uncoordinated or overweight?

All children, even less-coordinated ones, need to be physically active.  Activity may be particularly helpful for the physical and psychological well-being of children with a weight problem.

The American Heart Association recommends:

  • All children age 2 and older should participate in at least 60 minutes of enjoyable, moderate-intensity physical activities every day that are developmentally appropriate and varied.
  • If your child or children don’t have a full 60-minute activity break each day, try to provide at least two 30-minute periods or four 15-minute periods in which they can engage in vigorous activities appropriate to their age, gender and stage of physical and emotional development.


Unfortunately, many low-income children are having access to physical activities at school reduced because of the current recession.

Sandy Slater is reporting in the Education Nation article, Low-Income Schools Are Less Likely to Have Daily Recess

Here’s what we know:

Children aged six to 17 should get at least one hour of daily physical activity, yet less than half of kids aged six to 11 get that much exercise. And as kids get older, they’re even less active.

The National Association of Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) recommends that elementary school students get an average of 50 minutes of activity each school day – at least 150 minutes of PE per week and 20 minutes of daily recess.

• Kids who are more active perform better academically.

As a researcher and a parent, I’m very interested in improving our understanding of how school policies and practices impact kids’ opportunities to be active at school. My colleagues and I recently conducted a study to examine the impact of state laws and school district policies on PE and recess in public elementary schools across the country.

During the 2006 to 2007 and 2008 to 2009 school years, we received surveys from 1,761 school principals in 47 states. We found:

On average, less than one in five schools offered 150 minutes of PE per week.

Schools in states with policies that encouraged daily recess were more likely to offer third grade students the recommended 20 minutes of recess daily.

Schools serving more children at highest risk for obesity (i.e. black and Latino children and those from lower-income families) were less likely to have daily recess than were schools serving predominantly white students and higher-income students.

Schools that offered 150 minutes of weekly PE were less likely also to offer 20 minutes of daily recess, and vice versa. This suggests that schools are substituting one opportunity for another instead of providing the recommended amount of both.

Schools with a longer day were more likely to meet the national recommendations for both PE and recess.

So what does this mean?

We need strong state laws and district policies for PE and recess to help more of our youngest students meet the national recommendations for physical activity.

What can be done?

First, Congress should consider making PE a core requirement of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. This would help ensure that all students get adequate amounts of exercise and that PE classes follow evidence-based guidelines and are taught by certified teachers.

Second, states should adopt and/or strengthen their PE and recess policies so they align with the national recommendations.

Third, school districts should continue to strengthen their policies by requiring time for PE and recess that aligns with the national recommendations.

Finally, given competing time demands and other issues schools face, increasing the amount of time for physical activity during the school day may be challenging. That’s why it’s critical for schools to help kids make the most of the time they do have for physical activity. Schools can do this by increasing the amount of time kids spend in moderate-to-vigorous activity during PE, recess and brief classroom breaks (you can find some resources here and here) and by offering intramural sports and physical activity clubs before or after school.


The gap between the wealthiest and the majority is society is also showing up in education opportunities and access to basic health care.

Moi said in Race, class, and education in America:

Many educators have long recognized that the impact of social class affects both education achievement and life chances after completion of education. There are two impacts from diversity, one is to broaden the life experience of the privileged and to raise the expectations of the disadvantaged. Social class matters in not only other societies, but this one as well.

A few years back, the New York Times did a series about social class in America. That series is still relevant. Janny Scott and David Leonhardt’s overview, Shadowy Lines That Still Divide describes the challenges faced by schools trying to overcome the disparity in education. The complete series can be found at Social Class


To quote Yogi Berra, It’s deja vu all over again


US Department Of Education Helping Series which are a number of pamphlets to help parents and caregivers

Related AHA Scientific Statements:
Physical Activity

Related AHA publications/programs:

See also:
Body Mass Index
Cardiac Disease in Children Statistics
Cholesterol in Children
Dietary Guidelines for Healthy Children
Exercise (Physical Activity) and Children
High Blood Pressure in Children
Infants and Diet

Overweight in Children
Obesity and Overweight


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