Thursday, April 23, 2009

PE's Unlikely Champion...

Why am I interested in improving physical education?  Two main reasons.  The first is professional.  I am very aware of the need for excellent, daily, active, fun PE and the long way we have to go to get there.  The second is personal, and that’s what I want to write about today. As a kid growing up in the 1950s and 1960s I enjoyed many of my PE experiences, but I also experienced just about every kind of “PE malpractice” you can think of.  I was often picked last for teams, running and pushups were used as punishment, we seemed to play dodge ball mainly to amuse PE teachers’ twisted sense of humor, and I spent countless hours “playing right field” but mainly looking for 4-leaf clovers.  In junior high and high school we played the same team sports each year, but I never really learned how to play them better.  I don’t remember doing any particular skill, exercise, or activity frequently enough to improve.  When we were active I had fun, and it was great being outside to escape classroom boredom, but I didn’t understand the point of it. 

When I understood the important role PE COULD play in getting children active and prepared for a lifetime of activity, I also became motivated to help kids avoid my negative experiences.  I have learned from Thom McKenzie, Paul Rosengard, and other visionaries and dedicated teachers and researchers that PE can be active, educational, and fun. 

When we designed the original SPARK study, our goal was to create and evaluate a program that could be a model of health-related PE used around the country.  Happily, that has come to pass in many ways.  The SPARK story, going from a modest research project to a program improving the lives of more than 1 million children per day, has certainly been my most gratifying professional experience.  I am grateful to the people who have worked at SPARK and the many around the nation who have adopted and implemented the program for all these years.  I am humbled to have played a role in this wonderful program that so many children learn from, benefit from, and enjoy every day.  It has been a long way from my inauspicious start in PE. 

Jim Sallis

Friday, April 17, 2009

Scout had a bad day

You might remember our precocious 11 month old (now) female labradoodle Scout from a recent blog entry (“Man’s Best Friend – and Personal Trainer”).  Her beautiful long hair (reminiscent of Farrah Fawcett in the 70’s) was recently shorn (like a sheep on the Australian plain) during her first visit to the groomer.  We dropped our Rastafarian looking “big dog” and 3 hours later, picked up a French poodle looking “skinny chick.” 

We were shocked – (Scout, we hardly knew ye) and from the way Scout acted the rest of the weekend, so was she. 

Personally, as much as I love dogs (and all critters for that matter), I have a problem having a poodle.  I know, I know, it’s not supposed to be about looks and superficiality (“Oh, that’s the cutest dog I’ve ever seen,” I’d hear and smile with a sense of fatherly pride.) but about love, loyalty, and companionship.  So why do I feel I need to adopt a Rottweiller to compensate? 

Scout and I used to be most popular pair on the trail (“What kind of dog is that?  Love her hair!)” at the yogurt store (“Can I pet your dog -- oh her hair is so soft!”) and at dog beach (It that a boy or a girl?  Her coat is so pretty and long I can’t tell.”) Now, we’re ignored like two door to door salesmen with vacuum cleaners in toe. 

I know, I know, it’s only hair and it will grow back -- eventually.  Scout is still the same sweet dog I know and love.  I’ll get over it and try and dig deeper; even move below the shallow surface and my 8th grade mentality (Wendy’s descriptor for my current attitude). 

But for now, if you happen to see Scout and I out for our run, you can call us,

The Hairless Pairless in San Diego.

-Paul Rosengard

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Is it time to Tampa with your curriculum?

I’m just back from 6 rigorous days at the AAHPERD Convention in Tampa. Rigorous, not because I was physically active! Rigorous because I made 5 presentations and participated in 2 additional national meetings that contributed an additional 9 hours of sedentary living to my week. I was again reminded that if we don’t plan for physical activity it will not happen—even if the weather is superb and the beach is next door.

I was also reminded that lots of physical educators are unaware of how many others are attempting to get moving. For example, in October the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the first ever National Guidelines for physical activity.  These guidelines describe the types and amounts of physical activity that offer substantial health benefits to Americans. These follow the Surgeon Generals Report on Physical Activity by 12 years (in 1996), and are a BIG deal!

The 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans can be found at

Briefly for children and adolescents, the guidelines call for 60 minutes or more of physical activity (PA) daily. Most of this should be of moderate- or vigorous-intensity, and include vigorous intensity at least 3 days a week. Additionally the activity should include muscle-strengthening PA at least 3 days a week and bone-strengthening PA at least 3 days a week.

These guidelines were derived for a thorough review of the evidence related to physical activity and health. This evidence is summarized (if 683 pages can be considered a summary) in a document titled Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee Report 2008. It is also available free from Health and Human Services

Based on these new Guidelines, a National Plan for Physical Activity is being developed. This national plan will not only involve Education, but 7 other Sectors:

         Public Health

         Transportation/Urban Design/Community Planning

         Mass Media




         Not for Profit Organizations

Wouldn’t it be nice if all these sectors came together to help promote physical activity?  Actually they are! Each sector is producing a “White Paper” which will be presented at a national meeting in DC in early July [].

Daryl Siedentop, former dean and professor emeritus at The Ohio State University, will produce the white paper for the education sector. It will have 10 important recommendations regarding how schools can be helpful in promoting physical activity. Stay tuned to see if your school program is aligned with these recommendations. If not, perhaps you will need to “Tampa” with it.



Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Got PE?

Like milk, isn’t physical education (PE) “essential” for kids?  Doesn’t it contribute to their growth and development?  So why are so many deprived of it? 

Myth vs. reality:

“Time in PE is time away from academic pursuits – and that’s what the kids are tested in.”

The latter is true – too bad because PE should be a part of standardized testing – but the former is false.  No study has ever shown that more time in PE has a negative impact on academic achievement.  The good news?  Students don’t have to sacrifice their health for the core subjects – they can have their math and move it too.  Need proof?  Go to 

“We don’t have enough money to afford daily, quality, PE – or the credentialed teachers we need to instruct it.”

Budgets are tighter than ever.  However, it’s not a money issue – never has been.  There is money to spend – not much, not enough, but there IS money.  Budgets are always a pie to be consumed and the issue is how do you slice it?  How large a piece does PE receive -- deserve?  I believe its section should be the equivalent of the other core subjects and not a penny less – and that includes equality for class size too.  Class size for PE should be linked to class size averages for other subjects.

“Parents care about grade point averages and want their students in class and learning.”

A national survey of parents and teachers concluded that over 75% opposed eliminating PE due to budget constraints or to meet increased academic standards (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 2003).   

There are more myths and contradictory realities.  The issue is clear and the time is now.  When PE programs and teachers are placed on the budgetary chopping block – speak up.  Ask if they plan to stop serving milk in the cafeteria too.  Got PE?

We’d like to hear YOUR opinions on this subject.  Wipe that milk mustache off your face and speak up!  (smiling)

-Paul Rosengard