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Articles: PE

A school in Georgia made national headlines when parents opposed using yoga to help students relieve stress and increase focus. They said it promotes a Far East religion, though many practitioners disagree with that view.

On Kids Yoga Day this spring, children across the nation learned downward dog, the tree and the frog, among many other positions. One instructor says that students need just five minutes of bending and breathing to shed stress and re-focus on classroom instruction.

For Portland Public School students in Oregon involved in The Circus Project, tumbling, acrobatics, juggling and conditioning activities help them learn to trust each other and themselves more.

Kicking a soccer ball might feel a bit like poetry—the power of your foot sending the ball curling through the air to a teammate or into the back of a net. Washington, D.C., teacher Julie Kennedy has for the past 20 years paired verse with the world’s most popular sport to provide a safe haven for thousands of urban students.

Eagle Mountain Elementary, part of Eagle Mountain-Saginaw ISD in Texas, adopted a Finnish model pilot program structured around four short recess periods each day.

Multiple studies affirm the importance of play in children’s physical and mental health. At four Texas elementary schools, students have more time for swings, monkey bars and outdoor games after administrators adopted a Finnish model structured around four short recess periods each day.

A physical education program that brings commercial-grade fitness equipment to under-resourced schools—along with a curriculum based on boosting confidence and fun—dramatically increases students’ performance on California’s standardized physical fitness test, according to a UCLA study titled “Targeting the Body and the Mind: Evaluation of a P.E. Curriculum Intervention for Adolescents.”

Two students at the Shaker Heights City School District help tend to their high school garden project—part outdoor learning lab and part “market” for their school lunches.

Students ease stress with stretches in elementary school yoga sessions. In another district, students taste vegetables they’ve never tried before after growing produce in a school garden. Elsewhere, more students eat healthy breakfasts they’ve grabbed from convenient to-go carts in the morning. This kind of innovation is evident across the country, as district leaders find new ways to promote health and wellness.

From sports to exercise routines, the latest programs and activities in physical education aim to get students motivated and excited about being fit.

Fitness monitors and other new technology allow teachers, parents and students to track progress or stream fitness videos to mobile devices. These programs offer the flexibility to work out inside or outdoors.

Adventure to Fitness

Adventure to Fitness

La Habra City School District Superintendent Susan Belenardo has made fitness a priority.

California’s La Habra City School District, under the leadership of Superintendent Susan Belenardo, motivates its students to get up and moving with several wellness programs that are part of a countywide health and obesity prevention initiative.

Students at Central Union Elementary School District, located on a military base in Lemoore, Calif., are using 21st-century technology in an unexpected place: gym class. Last fall, the district was awarded a three-year Department of Defense Education Activity grant for more than $680,000 to improve physical education and enhance parent, family and community engagement at two schools located on Naval Air Station Lemoore in California’s Central Valley.

Each afternoon between social studies and math, Marilynn Szarka’s third-grade students start to get droopy. Szarka instructs everyone to stand up and spread out while she dims the lights, closes the door and flips on the interactive whiteboard that will take them on an aerobic adventure.

As part of Activity Works programs, above, students in the “Food on the Farm” episode demonstrate how to be popping popcorn kernels for 10 minutes.

Keep activities short so teachers can easily incorporate them into busy school days. “Once teachers experience the rewards from just a few minutes of activity, they realize it’s worth it,” says Marilynn Szarka of Loesche Elementary School in Philadelphia.

Give students the reins. “Younger kids like to be led by older students. Let students choose music and activities. Let them take ownership,” says Jesus Mejia of Creating Opportunity for Physical Activity in California. “Increasing options to be engaged increases motivation to participate.”

Superintendent Samuel DePaul exercises with third graders at Colquitt Elementary Schools in Georgia.

Third-grade students from five Colquitt Elementary Schools are doing something different with their PE class.

Thanks to the “Action Packed Family” program made possible by a grant, these kids are learning how to fight obesity by eating healthy and being active at home. The $2.5 million, five-year grant was given by the University of Georgia to its School of Public Health, to study childhood obesity.

The names of professional sports teams like the Washington Redskins have generated national controversy in recent years—to the point that three news publications will no longer publish the word “Redskins,” and instead refer to the team as “Washington.” In this political climate, some states have enacted laws to ensure K12 school mascots are culturally sensitive.

Studies show kids learn better after they had exercise.

As study after study finds students who exercise regularly perform better in the classroom, school systems like Los Angeles USD are working to enhance elementary and middle school physical education programs.

LAUSD is funding a new program in which 17 physical education instructors are sent to five elementary schools to train classroom teachers to lead their students in an outdoor PE class, in addition to their regular classroom learning, says Chad Fenwick, the district’s K12 physical education advisor.

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