Klea Scharberg

Physical Activity and Physical Education Roundup

Many U.S. schools and districts have minimized or eliminated health and physical education programs; reduced the number of school nurses, counselors, and other health professionals; and focused on "the basics," largely in response to No Child Left Behind (NCLB). We know that students do better in school when they are emotionally and physically healthy. They miss fewer classes, are less likely to engage in risky or antisocial behavior, concentrate more, and achieve higher test scores, so how do we reconcile children's developmental needs and schools' diminishing resources and focus on testing?

For the last two months, we looked at why physical activity and physical education are crucial to ensuring that students are healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged. We examined the research about the need for physical activity and physical education; explored some of the recent criticism; examined the relationship between physical activity and physical education and academic achievement, engagement, and social and emotional health and learning; and considered how physical activity can be expanded across the day.

Listen to the Whole Child Podcast with moderator Sean Slade, director of ASCD Healthy School Communities, and guests Charles Basch, Richard March Hoe Professor of Health Education at Columbia University; Charlene Burgeson, executive director of the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE)—a whole child partner—and Let's Move in School; and George Svejda, a physical education teacher at Sargent Shriver Elementary in Montgomery County, Md.

Question why children are less active today: is it because of increased traffic, neighborhoods with fewer parks, and cuts in school recess as the researchers suggest? How much physical activity per day is recommended for children and teenagers?

Learn the facts about child obesity from Whole Child Partner SPARK. What does it mean if a child is obese and what is the effect on long-term health? What factors contribute to the childhood obesity epidemic?

Think about why physical activity and physical education has been reduced or eliminated in schools. Steve Jefferies, professor of physical education at Central Washington University, past president of NASPE, and the publisher of pelinks4u takes a look at whether it is our ignorance of the benefits of physical activity or our arrogance in achieving adult goals at the expense of child development.

Discuss recent criticism of physical education in schools. Why do we need physical education, physical activity, and even recess? Is it just about giving students a break from academics? Is it just about developing fitter kids who can then do better on standardized testing?

Explore integrating standards-based instruction into physical education and physical education into standards-based instruction with this example of a project-based learning project from Andrew K. Miller, an educator and consultant for the Buck Institute for Education. By engaging them in a relevant and authentic task, students see why they are learning and what they are learning.

Read about coordinated school health programs and their eight essential components—health education; physical education; school health services; counseling, psychological, and social services; nutrition; staff wellness; a healthy school environment; and family and community involvement—and one Tennessee school district's success.

Watch how one California school emphasizes personal growth and development with transfer value to leisure time activity in its physical education program. The middle school content standards emphasize working cooperatively to achieve a common goal, meeting challenges, making decisions, and working as a team to solve problems. How does your school engage students through physical education to learn these skills?

Consider active gaming as a way to use appropriate, modern tools that children may find enjoyable and motivating and in which they will develop a desire to voluntarily be physically active. Lisa Hansen, PhD, assistant professor at the University of South Florida (USF) in the College of Education in the School of Physical Education and Exercise Science, codirector of the USF Active Gaming Research Labs, and PE Central’s Active Gaming managing editor looks at the need for student engagement—having fun—in physical activity in order to develop lifelong healthy habits.

Find ways to include and integrate physical activity and physical education in a well-rounded, whole child approach to education from Whole Child Partners NASPE, National Education Association, National Parent Teacher Association, Society of State Leaders of Health and Physical Education, and SPARK.

Join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter to find more resources, research, and stats, including links to

Earlier today, the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance and NASPE hosted a national Let's Move in School webinar that brought together leading education, health, and sport organizations to advance school-based physical activity. Learn more from the press release, watch the archived webinar, and get information on standards and practical resources.

Have you seen a decrease in physical activity and physical education in your school and community? What is the effect on young people in your community?

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