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Articles: PE

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.

Adventure to Fitness
Polar GoFit Heart Rate App, by Polar Electro
CATCH Early Childhood Kit, by Flaghouse
Thumball, by Answers in Motion

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.

R.J. Neutra Elementary School students play Dance Dance Revolution on individual mats during physical education classes.
Students hit lights on the SMART Trainer wall using their entire body.
 In the Makoto Arena, students can use their hands, beanbags, medicine balls and more to hit light patterns that appear on the three towers.
R.J. Neutra Elementary students play an interactive, virtual skiing game through an Xbox during a physical education class.
Admiral Akers Elementary School students play Dance Dance Revolution.
A physical education teacher at Admiral Akers Elementary shows students how to navigate a virtual river on a raft, using just their body and a controller.

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.

Second graders at William Green Elementary School in Lawndale, Calif., stretch and move in between learning in what is called Instant Recess (IR).
As part of Activity Works programs, third-graders at Alexander Street School in Newark stretch after taking a virtual 10-minute tour of the United States.
At the Nexus Academy of Indianapolis, students complete coursework online or at the school, and work at their own pace. Above, a junior is jumping rope while other students stretch on mats and pull rubber bands for a quick physical break during the day.
Another class exercises between lessons at  at William Green Elementary School in Lawndale, Calif. Teachers received special training for the program.

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.

Students who are physically active during school get better grades, even as nearly half the nation’s administrators have cut time from PE classes and recess in the last decade to focus more on math and reading, a new report found.

Some 44 percent of administrators have made the cuts since the passage of NCLB in 2001, putting students further at risk for obesity, says “Educating the Student Body: Taking Physical Activity and Physical Education to School,” a report by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies.

Students in a high school science class are excited about their upcoming class project in the school pool. The teacher has emailed the parents, sharing details about the project, but no permission forms to participate are sent home.

Red Bull, Rockstar and Monster are multibillion-dollar leaders in the energy drink industry. Touting empowering names and containing nearly 80 milligrams of caffeine per eight ounces, these drinks have become staples in the diets of young, active and stressed-out students. National health associations, however, warn that these drinks can be hazardous, particularly among student athletes.


The Rio Grande City Consolidated (Texas) Independent School District is located in Starr County, a poverty-stricken area that has a history of high death rates from diabetes. Located on the Mexican border, RGCCISD serves a 99 percent Hispanic population on 14 campuses. Of the nearly 10,800 students, 88 percent qualify for free or reduced-price lunches. On top of that, Texas is ranked worst in the nation for health care coverage, with 26 percent of residents lacking insurance.

A North Mecklenburg Vikings player.

One of the controversial issues of late has been the rise of "pay-to-play," in which parents pay user fees so that their children can participate in interscholastic athletics.