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it’s been quite a while since I’ve noticed any kid in my neighborhood using homemade playthings—such relics have all been replaced by space-age technology from the toy factory.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

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]

Be on the Lookout for Students Who Play “The Choking Game”

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I have just read about a disturbing activity that may affect students in your school. It’s called the “choking game.” This game has killed at least 82 students in the USA and sent at least 72 Canadian kids to the hospital. In fact, a newly released survey has found that 79,000 students – just in the province of Ontario alone – play this dangerous game.

The survey, called the Ontario Student Drug Use and Health survey, was conducted in 2007 by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. Involving Ontario students in grades seven to twelve, it found that seven per cent had played the choking game. There was no difference in participation level between girls and boys or among grade levels.

What is the choking game? Kids either choke themselves – or get someone to choke them – until they begin to pass out. This state of oxygen deprivation produces a temporary feeling of euphoria. The game has other names: the scarf game, space monkey, the pass-out game, blackout and five minutes to heaven.

However, it is easy to go too far with this game and a slight miscalculation can be deadly.

What signs may alert teachers to students who are playing the choking game? Bloodshot eyes, frequent headaches, marks on the neck, and the possession of strange items such as ropes, collars and dog leashes.

As Physical education teachers, you are in a position to prevent a tragedy. You can discuss this game and its dangers during health classes. And the T-shirts that students wear in class will expose marks on a student’s neck that is an indicator of game-play.

References:
1. The “Choking Game”, Psychological Distress and Bullying: Ontario teens continue to exhibit troubling behaviour. Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, May 1, 2008.

2. “Almost 80,000 Students Play “choking game.” The Canadian Press, May 3, 2008.

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Dick Moss, Editor,
PE Update.com

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[tags]choking game,physical education,coaching,health,school,students[/tags]

Do Teachers Deserve All Their Holiday Time?

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It’s almost March break and teachers will soon be getting a long-deserved week of rest and recovery.

Now, there are those who claim that teachers are overpaid for the amount of time they work and the number of holidays they receive. I, of course, disagree. Teachers are in a highly stressful job – a job in which they’re on-stage, performing in front of an audience, throughout their entire working day.

How many actors, disc jockeys, weathermen, or talk-show hosts perform for six or more hours in a row? Few radio announcer’s shifts last longer than three to four hours…because it’s hard to stay “on” for longer than that.

Teachers must be “on” for an entire school day. Then stay after hours to coach or supervise extracurriculars. Then go home to mark papers, tests, and essays and prepare for the next day’s lessons. And spend weekends away from home taking other people’s children to tournaments and games.

In fact, most of a teacher’s vacation time is really just reimbursement for time worked outside of the classroom. Do teachers deserve their holidays? You betcha!

The alternative is a generation of burned out teachers – teachers who don’t have the energy to entertain, to motivate, to intrigue, to capture the attention of students. Bored students don’t learn as well. Bored students drop out of school.

Want to hear a real example of poor value for wages paid? How about the $240,000 paid to an advertising agency for creating Scotland’s new slogan. “Welcome to Scotland.” Where can I get THAT job?

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Dick Moss, Editor,
PE Update.com

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[tags]teaching,holidays,teachers[/tags]

Teachers Beware – Animal House is Now Ancient History

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Animal House poster design by Ralph Hogaboom, photo provided by 7th Street Theatre, ℅ Flickrr

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had a visit from one of my former runners the other day. She was in her first year of university and told me that her social activities included parties at a fraternity house.

In my own incredibly funny way, I asked her whether the fraternity looked like Animal House and if she had danced with Blutto .

After wiping the laughter-tears from my face, I noticed that she hadn’t indulged in the levity. In fact, she was looking at me with the squinty-eyed expression you’d use during an encounter with the fellow who sits on the park bench babbling about alien visitors while wearing tinfoil on his head .

I responded with ” You know, Animal House? The movie?  Blutto..John Belushi?  You must have heard of John Belushi?

She really had no idea what I was talking about and said that maybe it was time for her to go home.

Then it hit me. While it seems like just yesterday to me, in fact, Animal House was first screened in 1978. That’s 35 years ago!! Belushi died in 1982. It had all taken place years before Rebecca was even borcn.

Talk to any North American in their 40’s or 50’s and they’ll know the terms “Animal House” and “Belushi.” They are cultural milestones for us. But for someone who is only 19, they are ancient, obscure history. Not unlike the Sonderbund War or Napoleon Bonaparte’s sister.

It’s tough to take, but my youth is apparently now part of the unknown history of today’s students. And unless their parents are nostalgia buffs, students really won’t learn about Fonzie and Belushi and Laverne and Shirley and a large number of my other comedic and cultural references.

For example, yesterday, I mentioned that one of my runners, who was a little sore, should probably train on the treadmill. I told her she could watch the Boob tube while running. “The what?” she said. “Boob tube,” I responded. She had no idea what I was talking about. So, I think generational slang might be the first verbiage to disappear as the years go by. No matter that the title, YouTube is probably derived from Boob tube. Your current students may not realize this at all.

So, if you’re a teacher in your 40’s or 50’s, watch your jokes and cultural references in class. Your material might be hilarious to me, but your students may not know what you’re talking about.

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Dick Moss, Editor,
PE Update.com

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[tags]physical education curriculum,Animal House,John Belushi,teaching,humor in the classroom[/tags]

Obesity, Hunger, Inactivity and the Search for Hidden Answers

Hi Readers,

I just received this email from long-time reader and physical educator, David Flax of South Africa. It raises some interesting questions about our perception of the causes of obesity, hunger and lack of activity.

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“Hi Dick,

This is the newsletter written by the Principal of our High School… It is what Prof Tim Noakes had to say. Tim is the leading sports scientist in S.A. and the author of The Lore of Running. A kitkat is the name of a chocolate bar that we have. At most road races the participants are given a goodie bag with wine gums and a kitkat.

If you want to use it you are most welcome to it….Keep well

David”

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“Dear King David Community,

Boy Eating CandyThis week 250 school leaders, representatives from over 600 independent schools in this country and some from Australia and the UK, collected in Cape Town at the annual SAHISA conference to compare notes – in both formal and informal forums – on educational best practice. As is often the case, some of the most helpful discussions happened at mealtimes or in the bar before and after meals…

Many of the talks were inspiring, some challenging and I am happy to say that some of them very affirming. One, however, in particular is worth mentioning. It was delivered by professor Tim Noakes, Head of the UCT Exercise Science and Sports Medicine Research Unit and involved a book published in the early 1860s by a very fat undertaker, William Banting. (Banting’s information came from a certain Dr Willian Harvey, who in turn got his ideas from a Parisian, Dr Bernard.) This was the first recorded modern publication to do with a diet based on limiting the intake of refined, easily digestible carbohydrates.

At one point Tim Noakes held up the contents of the little goodie bag we had been presented at the beginning of the conference: a bag of wine gums and a kitkat, simple carbohydrates which he informed us would have so spiked our insulin and disrupted healthy nutrition that we would almost certainly notice a change in our energy absorption and our vitality for the rest of the day. Should we eat that amount of useless calories – he informed us – we could expect to increase our BMI significantly and experience a expansion of our mass by as much as 5kg in three months – just from consuming these two items every day. (I felt chastened – I had eaten the Kitkat before I got to the top of the stairs and the wine gums long before I eventually found my room.)

The really interesting part of Prof Noakes’s discussion though, was to do with the counter-intuitive notion that if insulin production results in one’s body storing as fat the energy presented as simple carbohydrates, the body would not then release this stored energy. This person would then be stimulated to feel hungry – since not enough energy was released. And also because the body was in conservation mode, there would be a significant drop in the fat person’s willingness to participate in physical activity.

Noakes’s point is that fatness causes hunger and lack of activity – and I had always believed that the causal links worked in the opposite direction: that one was fat because one ate too much and exercised too little. Surely this was as obvious as night following day?

On how many occasions did I hear my white-eye browed colleague tell all his pupils that we were lazy or stupid or incompetent, that we just could not…? I now know that he may have often been right, but I also know that he (and many others of his generation) was very often wrong and that he did a great deal of damage to many pupils.

From Noakes’s argument it is no great leap to question our educational models, to re-evaluate how learning happens and to think about what it is that makes a child a happy and successful pupil and a school leaver who takes on the world believing that she can.

There are so many occasions when the obvious and apparent answers not always the correct ones and that as parents and teachers, our job is sometimes think like fat undertakers and to look for processes and functions that are far from the evident. This may be to do with learning styles, recognizing different intelligences in children, helping children to plan or, as in my daughter’s case, simply to stop procrastinating for fear of failure and to get on with the job at hand.”

 

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Dick Moss, Editor,
PE Update.com

To check out the PE Update.com website, Click Here!
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[tags]physical education,obesity,childhood obesity,inactivity,exercise/code>[/tags]