Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The World According to SPARK

The blog contributors, Dr. Jim Sallis, Dr. Thom McKenzie and Mr. Paul Rosengard, have been conducting SPARK research and disseminating those findings worldwide (with the help of MANY of our friends) since 1989. 

In the weeks and months to come, we hope to share stories of what we've learned, people we've met, and how our work-life experiences have shaped the thoughts we have today.  Our observations will cover a variety of public health topics: Childhood obesity, physical activity promotion, coordinated school health, healthy eating, best practices and resources, the latest research, behavior and environmental change, and much more. 

We'll tag team this task and have a different contributor each week. Please plan to join us every Wednesday when a new blog is posted!

The World According to SPARK- Saipan, Portugal, England, Norway, Canada, China -- all trips that I was able to make because of SPARK.  I know, tough job but someone had to do it... 

Besides sight seeing, learning about different cultures, trying new foods (ever had duck tongue in China?), and thoroughly enjoying the people, it was fascinating to meet and speak with physical educators in each of these places.  I was surprised to see firsthand that physical education (PE) around the world looks very much like PE in the US.  Students are doing many of the same activities and using the same manipulatives and equipment at grade levels as they do here.  Movement is truly the universal language and maybe something else that can bring us closer together.  

Yet, the story is not completely positive.  Teachers complaints mirrored those we hear often in America:  They don't feel their subject is valued like other subjects instructed, administrators are less than supportive of PE, PE days and minutes are insufficient, facilities are too small, too cold, or somehow subpar, and classes can be too large. 

I also saw some of the same instructional traits, that could be improved.  A lot of fitness without purpose or enjoyment, direct and command style teaching and little student choice or empowerment.  Differentiated learning was almost non-existent as classes take a "one-size fits all" approach to instruction, and teachers all over the world, just like here in the U.S., talk too much.  I know these are generalizations, and there are many outstanding PE programs in the US and certainly all over the world.  But my contention is there are still too many in need of improvement. 

If you have traveled and seen PE programs in schools around the world, please write and share your views. 

-Paul Rosengard

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Thom’s Cruise

It’s good to get out every now and then to see how the other half lives. To avoid the pressures of the Winter Holiday Season my wife and I took our first (and perhaps last) cruise. It was an 8-day venture from San Diego to Acapulco, planned strategically so we could avoid airplanes, crowds, and temperatures below 60 degrees.

It was a large ship (13 decks) with lots of places to be physically active (the walk around Deck 10 took 5.5 minutes) and eat (24 hours a day). One actually could continue to have a healthy lifestyle if they had the appropriate avoidance skills. Because of my good behavior management training, I was able to exercise every day and accumulated an average of 13,233 steps and avoided the three elevators except to occasionally amuse myself.

The plusses were that I had lots of quiet time to grade my papers and plenty of opportunities for cultural experiences at each port of call. I got neither see- or sea-sick, so that was positive. Nonetheless, I found the midnight chocolate buffet, paying $54.00 an hour for internet service, and having tour guide in Acapulco who was from Germany a bit much. It did just not seem authentic--sort of like having a physiologist as a PE instructor—the background was there, but things just did not translate well.


Have any of you taken a cruise and found it was easy to stay active -- or did you find it difficult to maintain your workout routine?  What about weight gain -- could you resist overeating or did you take a holiday from moderation?  If you share your thoughts with us we'll place your name in our raffle for a free dessert (kidding).

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Welcome to our first SPARK Blog!

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun: I heard this Cyndi Lauper song on the drive to SPARK this morning, and thought about how much we are asked to quantify and evaluate every little thing our students do these days. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for assessment and having standards to guide instruction, yet I wonder if sometimes we're losing sight of what makes kids (and Cyndi) want to be active in the first place -- having fun? 

Sure, that's one of the differences between physical education and physical activity, yet, as physical educators, isn't it possible for us to get so caught up in assessment and demonstrating student learning that our classes become counterproductive?  Ultimately don't we really want students to move and enjoy it without feeling we're counting every little step they take (last pop culture reference I promise...)?  And I think Cyndi knows boys just wanna have fun too. 
Please think about the mixed message and share your thoughts with us.  

Fitness for Fitness Teachers: I always enjoy my annual trip to Florida AAHPERD and spending time laughing with Patty Lanier. Patty is one of our terrific SPARK trainers and after a 20-year career teaching elementary PE, she went to the University of Central Florida where she instructs methods classes to future teachers -- among many other things. Patty and I workout together in the am before the conference and discuss our pet peeve: Why aren't more of our colleagues in the gym with us?  It's obvious when you attend conferences that many of our best and brightest are not exactly scoring 10's in the role model department. Patty and I think we need to walk the talk.  What do YOU think?  Should NASPE sponsor some type of recognition for physical educators who maintain healthy lifestyles (consistent training schedules, BMI"s within respectable limits, etc,)?  Should we have to submit to testing like our students and achieve a certain fitness standard?  Aren't fire and police people required to stay in shape to do their jobs?
Let us know YOUR thoughts.

-Paul Rosengard