Q & A with SPARK – Part 1
February 1, 2010
The U.S. Surgeon General and First Lady are challenging our nation to eat healthy and get more physical activity. Healthy Kids Challenge knows that there are many questions people have about physical activity, so we have enlisted our exclusive Healthy School Environment and Physical Education partner, SPARK, to give some advice and answers to this topic.
SPARK is a nationally recognized, research-based organization that disseminates Physical Education, After School, Early Childhood, and Coordinated School Health programs to teachers and recreation leaders serving Pre-K through 12th grade students.
Q: I hear about physical education and physical activity during the school day, are they the same?
A: No, they are not synonymous. “Physical Education” (PE) refers to a structured class taught by a Physical Education Specialist or Classroom Teacher (in instances where there are few or no PE Specialists) designed to address specific physical education standards (see below). Daily Physical education is recommended by many organizations, but is not required. There are minimum amounts of PE required by law in most states.
“Physical activity” (PA) during the school day can include any structured or unstructured activities involving physical movement. This may include Physical Education class, recess, before and after-school programs, activity breaks in the classroom, jog-a-thons, dances, field events, etc. that take place at school before, during, and after the school day.
SPARK encourages a combination of both quality physical education and physical activity opportunities through out the school day and week. We also have seen the importance of having a certified physical education specialist work as the champion for both PE and PA within their school community.
National Physical Education Standards from the National Association of Sport and Physical Education (NASPE)
Standard 1: Demonstrates competency in motor skills and movement patterns needed to perform a variety of physical activities.
Standard 2: Demonstrates understanding of movement concepts, principles, strategies, and tactics as they apply to the learning and performance of physical activities.
Standard 3: Participates regularly in physical activity.
Standard 4: Achieves and maintains a health-enhancing level of physical fitness.
Standard 5: Exhibits responsible personal and social behavior that respects self and others in physical activity settings.
Standard 6: Values physical activity for health, enjoyment, challenge, self-expression, and/or social interaction.
Q: I would like to incorporate some physical activity into my classroom during breaks or free time, but I am at a loss! Could you give me a few ideas to use for my 5th graders?
A: Sure! There are so many things you could do with 5th graders to get them moving in the classroom throughout the day! SPARK divides these types of limited space activities into 3 categories – SPARK Space Savers, SPARK Plugs, and SPARK Anchors.
“SPARK Space Savers” are activities from the SPARK PE curriculum that can be adapted for limited space to keep students active during inclement weather or when the usual activity area is unavailable.
SPARK Space Saver Sample #1: Centipede Bucket Brigade (Click Here)
SPARK Space Saver Sample #2: Limited Space Circuit (Click Here)
SPARK Space Saver Sample #3: Grab the Apple (Click Here)
“SPARK Plugs” are used to quickly energize your students throughout the day. When students are not engaged, their brains will likely tune out within 10 minutes. Use these to promote readiness for learning, create excitement and overcome the effects of fatigue.
SPARK Plug Sample #1: Around the World (Click Here)
SPARK Plug Sample #2: Hand Pat Relay (Click Here)
SPARK Plug Sample #3: Odds and Evens (Click Here)
“SPARK Anchors” use movement to help “anchor” learning. Integrating other subjects with movement can be accomplished with minimal effort and maximum benefit. Use these samples as a guide to assist in creating additional support teaching the whole child, mind and body.
SPARK Anchor Sample #1: Odd Hops and Even Jumps (Click Here)
SPARK Anchor Sample #2: Sentence Detectives (Click Here)
Q: My child isn’t really very athletic. What is a good way to help him enjoy being active?
A: It is important to acknowledge that athletics and physical activity are not the same thing. Athletes are usually gifted with traits such as speed, agility, endurance, etc. needed to succeed in a specific sport or sports and choose to pursue that sport in a competitive forum.
The rest of us non-athletes enjoy participating in all sorts of physical activities suited toward our tastes and physical attributes. These are usually done for reasons other than competition such as health, making friends, feeling good, losing weight, or just pure enjoyment among many. First thing to do is find out what your son enjoys. Is it hiking? Swimming? Dancing? Jumping on a trampoline? Bike riding? Jumping rope? Whatever it is, that is what he should be doing. To increase enjoyment during any activity, have your son play his favorite music or invite a friend to join him. Providing your son with support and encouragement will go a long way to promoting a lifetime of physical activity.
Q: Is warm-up and cool-down really necessary with exercise?
A: The safe answer is “Yes.” However, if your students have just come from recess or some other type of physical activity, your warm-up has probably been taken care of. The purpose of a warm-up is to increase blood flow to the muscles, tendons, and ligaments so they are ready for vigorous activity. This blood flow helps the body by making it more “elastic” and less likely to tear when overstretched or pushed too far too fast. If you don’t have much time for PE, have your students walk/jog to your activity area to warm them up during transition.
As far as cool-down, it is not so much necessary as it is a great opportunity. During this time students can work on increasing flexibility through stretching exercises as well as bringing the body back to pre-activity levels to move back into the classroom. It is also the perfect time to have students demonstrate understanding of movement concepts, principles, strategies, and tactics as they apply to the performance of physical activities done in the lesson (NASPE Standard 2).
Q: What are some good motivational tools to help fit physical activity into each day?
A: Everyone has different motivations for staying physically active, although we hope that most of those motivations are centered on personal wellness. In a school setting it is important to know that research has shown a number of benefits for including more physical activity and physical education into students’ schedules. At a minimum – more minutes for PE & PA has not been shown to decrease testing performance, and many studies suggest that students are better prepared for testing and learning after physical activity. Further, new brain research shows that aerobic conditioning is very beneficial to brain development and performance. Both California and Texas have shown a direct relationship between performance on fitness tests and academic achievement test.
We’re not suggesting that Test Scores should be the primary motivation for keeping children active throughout the day. However, in most schools where we have worked – academic achievement is the still the primary indicator of a school’s success.
Our core belief is that staying active and physically fit can keep students mentally and emotionally balanced as well. We strive to educate the entire child for a life of success, productivity and happiness. A life free from many of the burdens brought about by diseases caused by sedentary lifestyles.
Let us know what you think of these question and answers! If your school needs to develop a healthier environment, together, SPARK and HKC offer an “Ignite a Healthy Environment” Program (Click here and here for more info).