We Must Teach Students That Walking is a Form of Transportation

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In most of the world, people walk to get places. They walk to school, they walk to work. If they don’t walk, they ride a bike.

However, in North America, our car-culture has given us a generation of children who don’t consider their feet to be a mode of transportation.

The bus takes them to school. If the bus doesn’t stop at their front door, parents give them a drive to the bus stop. Mom and Dad drive them to activities – including sports activities. Their friends drive them to the mall.  They have the impression that anywhere worth going to is too far to walk, when in fact, that walk might take only 15 minutes. It may not actually BE a long walk, but it might seem far when you’ve only ever driven it.

One of the best things you can do in PE class is to make your students walk around your neighborhood. Show them how long it takes to get places.  Tell them to walk to the mall and time how long it takes. Walk for 15 minutes down a street. How far did they get?  Have them walk in the rain with umbrellas. Have them walk in the snow. Make these classes an exercise in transportation.

Show them that their feet weren’t just designed for standing…or even for sports. They were designed to get them places. And amazingly, their feet can get them places in bad weather. Show them that walking is basic human transportation…in addition to one of the best fitness activities they can perform.

These classes will give them a feeling of freedom when they realize they don’t have to depend on Mom and Dad to drive them everywhere. Tell them to think of it as an exercise in personal freedom and emancipation from their parents. That’s an easy sell for most kids!

Heck – during these activities, they may even walk by their house. The house they take a bus from every morning.

P.S. And yes, when I was a child, I DID walk 20 miles to school, in the snow, barefoot, both ways uphill. But that’s a story for another posting 🙂

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Dick Moss, Editor,
PE Update.com

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[tags]physical education,fitness,walking,youth fitness,[/tags]

Physical Education Waivers Make No Economic Sense

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Here’s an excellent example of politicians not understanding the benefits of physical education – cutting physical education as a way to reduce costs, but penalizing the taxpayer millions of dollars as a consequence.

The Ohio legislature, which currently requires only one-half of a PE unit for high school, has further softened this requirement by allowing school districts to waive the PE requirement for students who participate in two years of varsity sport, cheerleading…or band!

Well, unless it’s a marching band, there’s not much fitness involved in playing the flute. And more to the point, neither band, cheerleading nor varsity sports are as effective as PE in developing the skills and knowledge needed to pursue a healthy lifestyle throughout the lives of their students.

That’s because it’s possible for students to participate in varsity sports, yet gain an incomplete skill-set for maintaining a healthy lifestyle throughout their adult years. A good physical education class develops the skills needed for lifetime fitness: the eye-hand coordination and familiarity with racquet sports needed for a  XC runner to play badminton or squash; the nutritional knowledge needed for a football lineman to maintain his body weight after this playing days are done; the confidence needed for a former wrestler to attend an aerobics class or a soccer player to join a golf-club.

It’s possible for a former swimmer to end up working in a town that has no pool, but has tennis courts available. An ex-basketball player may not have time to play hoops but could fit in a jog…if she knew how to approach it without causing injury. Both would benefit from the knowledge about health, flexibility, fitness and nutrition that PE classes provide.

The irony is, the cost of inactivity in Ohio is estimated to be $3.3 billion per year!!! Statistics show that almost 2/3 of Ohio adults are overweight or obese and only 47% of Ohio adults get a sufficient amount of physical activity.

And the Ohio legislature thinks that eliminating PE jobs will save money? In fact, good economics indicate that they should be INCREASING the numbers of qualified physical educators and mandating daily physical education. That’s a measure that would save the taxpayers millions of dollars!

References:

1. Elin Walsh, “Falls Schools weigh means of saving, making more money.” Cuyahoga (Ohio) Falls News-Press, March 22,  2009,

http://www.fallsnewspress.com/news/article/4550402

 

2. Ohio’s Physical Activity Plan,  2009

http://www.foryourhealthohio.org/

 


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Dick Moss, Editor,
PE Update.com

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[tags]physical education,physical education waivers,PE,PE waivers,physical education and economics[/tags]

Where Are All the Soapbox Cars?

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My most memorable childhood playthings weren’t factory-made. When I think back, I had the most fun swordfighting with poplar saplings, sliding down snowy slopes on cardboard boxes and playing battleships with homemade graph paper.

I‘ll never forget our day-long sod fights up in the woods—protecting  forts hammered together from old crates and using ammunition made from clumps of grass with dried soil still attached—or the satisfying puff of dirt that signified a direct hit on an opponent’s clean shirt.

But when was the last time you saw a child playing with a soapbox racer made from scrap lumber or a crystal radio set that they had assembled themselves?

Maybe it’s just me, but it’s been quite a while since I’ve noticed any kid in my neighborhood using homemade playthings—such relics have all been replaced by space-age technology from the toy factory.

Nope—a poplar sapling doesn’t stand a chance against a battery-operated Jeddi sword with sound effects and luminous plastic blade. Why rely on gravity to move your soapbox car when a mere $500 will buy you a fully operational miniaturized electrical sports vehicle.  Graph-paper Battleship games are now computerized, and air-powered splatter guns with washable die pellets have replaced our hand-tossed dirt sods. Crystal radio sets have been supplanted by 400 pound boom-boxes with enough power to stuff the Toronto Skydome with thumping, stereophonic sound.

Let’s face it, this is not the decade of do-it-yourself kids.  And while I must confess that I had my share of high-tech gizmos as a kid, including a T-V ping-pong game and a slot car racing track, none of them occupied much of my play-time.

Today, many kids have the attitude that if it isn’t store-bought and doesn’t have a peer-accepted designer label, it isn’t worth using.  And that’s a shame.  Our children are missing the great satisfaction of playing with one’s own creations. And with this, they’re losing the ability to improvise, to innovate, and to create something usable, if not perfect, out of nothing.

Perhaps as physical educators, we should provide more encouragement for creative improvisation. Check the “Equipment” section of the PE Update website and you’ll find dozens of ideas for home-made sports and PE equipment: everything from tin can walkers and 2”x4” balance boards, to garden-hose quoits and  pizza box hurdles. Here are some other ideas—some tongue in cheek and some not— that might improve our childrens’ dearth of plaything creativity:

  • Make MacGyver re-runs required television viewing for all school-age children.  Although our students may never need to know how to make an atomic bomb out of a comb and a lipstick tube, the program’s emphasis on creativity and improvisation is valuable.
  • Allow each student one hour a week in the school dumpster to find materials to build their own game or sports implement.  This “dumpster time” will also reduce the school’s waste output.
  • Provide an extra classification for school waste materials included in blue-box programs.  One box for glass and metals, one for paper products, one for organic material…and one for kids.
  • Use P.E. class as a “market” for your students’ creative efforts.  Sometimes all it takes to get a child’s creative juices flowing is an expressed need for it.  Scoops made from bleach containers, tin-can walkers, home-made hoola hoops, broomhandle aerobics implements—these are all examples of phys-ed equipment your students can make and use in class.

Perhaps our growing awareness of the environment and the trend towards recycling will make home-made playthings more acceptable to young people.  And as teachers, we can use this new attitude to develop our students’ ability to improvise and innovate.

P.S. In case I’ve given you the impression that I was a combination Huck Finn/Thomas Edison as a child, I have a confession to make…I never was able to  get my crystal radio set to work, and I’d personally like a light-saber.

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Dick Moss, Editor,
PE Update.com

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[tags]physical education,children's play,games,sports equipment[/tags]

Romanians Have Physical Education Problems Too

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In the early mornings, my clock radio kicks off the day with “Radio Romania” as part of the Canadian Broadcast Company’s morning programming (depending on how long I stay in bed, I can also hear English broadcasts from South Korea, Australia and Poland).

Not long ago, while rubbing the sleep from my eyes and nudging the dog off the bed, I overheard the Romanian announcers discussing the state of physical education and youth fitness in their country. The situation sounded familiar, yet different.

While a quick check in Wikepedia shows that physical education is mandatory in elementary school and that their system includes specialist PE high schools, Romanian physical education does have its problems – just as it does in North America.

Here is a short list of some of the problems they discussed. See how they compare to your own situation:

  • Sports and PE facilities are becoming less available as schoolyards are sold to developers for apartments and other developments.
  • When facilities do exist, they are often off-limits to students. Schools rent them out to clubs as a way to raise funds.
  • Many students don’t take PE because they don’t wish to carry their gym clothing with them during the school day. The problem is that few Romanian schools have lockers.
  • Kids prefer to take city buses to school when they could easily walk.
  • Children often spending recess time playing video games.

From Radio Romania International, 2/12/09
http://www.rri.ro/index.shtml?lang=1

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Dick Moss, Editor,
PE Update.com

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[tags]physical education problems,Romania[/tags]

Physical Education Training Produces Better Academic Teachers

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One thing about physical educators is that they realize the value of making lessons fun. They also realize that an active child is a child better able to learn.

This often applies for those physical educators who teach academic subjects. A great example is Marilyn Rodgers of Hernando High school in Desoto Mississipi, an experienced physical educator whose teaching skills were considered too valuable to be wasted on “gym.” Instead she was placed in a history classroom where she remains to this day.

However, Rodgers incorporates her PE training – and the love of games that first attracted her to the profession – into her history classes to keep her students involved and her lessons fun.

One example is a game she plays in which students must correctly answer history questions in order to get the chance to take a shot with a basketball. (I’m not sure whether she had to does this in the gym, or with crumpled piece of paper in the trash can in the classroom).  The class is broken up into groups, with the team scoring the most baskets winning the contest. It’s popular, it keeps the kids involved, and they have fun while learning history.

It’s a great example of the physical education attitude and training applied to academic teaching.

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Dick Moss, Editor,
PE Update.com

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[tags]physical education,teaching,history[/tags]

Food Container Rant

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This is a tale of an invention that has been rendered useless because of corporate greed.  Strictly speaking, it’s not a physical education issue, but it does affect any teacher who packs a lunch for school or team trips.

What invention am I talking about? Plastic food storage containers.

I’m the king of leftovers. I eat them for most lunches. And when I pack for team trips, I usually pack my travel munchies in a plastic storage container so they don’t get scrunched.

Several years ago, a company (Glad or Ziploc, I believe) came up with a wonderful invention. Small rectangular storage containers that held one or two leftover portions. My grocery store stocked only one size and they all used the same snap-on top. It was so easy – you knew every top would fit, and the containers all stacked perfectly inside each other, making a nice, compact pile inside your cupboard.

I was in food storage heaven.

Alas, my happy days were not to last.

Soon other companies got into the act. They began innovating, and added numerous sizes and shapes. They redesigned the containers so the old tops no longer fit the new containers.

The result – where once there was a compact pile of plastic containers in my cupboard, there now lies a big old mess. And, finding the top that actually fits a container is now a test of patience, often requiring me to  spread a selection of tops on my counter and using trial-and-error until I find one that fits.

What brought on this diatribe? Last Friday morning, as I was packing for a team trip to Toronto for an indoor track meet, already late, I was delayed to the point of growling as I tried to find a top for a food container. From such frustrations are revolutions born!

Food container companies… I curse you now!

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Dick Moss, Editor,
PE Update.com

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[tags]physical education,plastic food containers[/tags]