Why do kids need P.E.?

November 4th, 2013 | By Katie No Comments

A dialogue between Dr. Bryan McCullick, professional of kinesiology, UGA College of Education, and Gary LeFeuvre, executive director of Athens MOVE

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G: Why should parents care about a quality PE education for their children?
B: A child’s education is a strong predictor of his/her future quality of life. Thus, as a school subject, PE is no different than math. PE is where children can learn the skills, knowledge, and dispositions necessary to remain physically active for a lifetime, all from a trained specialist. It is the same as math being the subject where children learn the skills, knowledge, and dispositions to be competent in life skills such as calculating, reasoning, and estimating, also from a trained specialist. The bottom line is that parents care about the quality of their child’s education because of its correlation to its impact on that child’s quality of life, so they should care about PE as much as you care about other subjects.

G: What are the short-term benefits that
students can get from a good PE program?
B: At the elementary level:

  • Acquisition, development, and refinement of gross-motor skills
  • Learning of game-skills, strategies, and problem-solving tactics
  • Knowledge about the body and health-related physical fitness concepts and principles
  • Learning of social responsibility skills such as cooperation, consideration, and negotiation

G: What are the long-term life benefits that a student can get from a good PE program?
B: They will be equipped with the skills, knowledge, and dispositions that will allow them to feel competent and confident enough to lead a life-long physically active lifestyle – whether it is because they like to walk, run, bike, swim, dance, or participate in recreational or competitive sports.

G: How can these benefits impact the student, family, school and community?
B: People who are physically active are so because they have the competence and confidence to be physically active, and physical activity is a remedial and preventive action for and against obesity. It is well-documented that obesity increases the risk of many health conditions, including the following (from CDC): coronary heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, some cancers and respiratory problems, mental health conditions, and more. We don’t need research, though, to tell us that when children are sick, they aren’t at school learning (attendance is the number one predictor of academic performance).
The entire community benefits with adults are healthy, which helps them be happier in their homes and with their families and more productive at work. Good health is also linked directly to our costs for medical care, so being active and healthy is good for all of us.

G: What makes a PE program effective and successful?
B: The National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) clearly lays out the Four Components of a High-quality Physical Education Program:

  1. Opportunity to Learn – No standing in lines; elimination games that keep kids from engaging are kept to a minimum; kids are there to learn physical skills and not sit and wait; emphasis is on participation and learning.
  2. Meaningful Content – PE is more than sports and fitness testing; content includes a variety of choices at the middle and high school levels so students can choose based on their skill-level and interest; the elementary PE program equips
    students with a spectrum of skills and knowledge necessary, with lots of content from which to choose.
  3. Appropriate Instruction – Teachers are specialists; schools and states have different standards, so parents should investigate to see how qualified their school districts’ PE teachers are
  4. Student and Program Assessment – Assessment is ongoing; student assessments are aligned with state/national physical education standards; PE programs are evaluated periodically.

G: What are the challenges facing PE teachers and school administrators as they try to implement quality PE programs?
B: The number challenge is the way school effectiveness is currently measured. Standardized testing is such a focus that even subjects like science and social studies are often short-changed in elementary schools, not to mention PE, music, and art. School leaders are under pressure to increase academic performance, so the contributions to academic performance that come from subjects outside of math and reading are often overlooked.
The good news is that the policy for Georgia at the elementary school level states that 90 hours of health and PE are required over the course of a school year. It can seem tough to find time, but it can and is being done successfully in many schools.

G: What can students do to make the most of their PE classes?
B: Participate! Come ready to move and learn. Wear the appropriate footwear and clothing. Talk with your PE teacher about what’s being taught. Let the teacher know if you have a measure of skill higher or lower than what is being taught. A good PE teacher will want and be able to tailor the content to meet each student’s developmental level.

G: What can parents do in and out of school to help children meet the goals of a quality PE program?
B: Be active with your kids! Be role models, and support their desires to pursue atypical physical activities. Be careful not to ‘gender’ sports (e.g., cheerleading is for girls, wrestling is for boys); let your kids do what interests them. “Doing” is the important thing!

G: What can parents, family, friends, and community organizations do to supplement school PE programs?
B: Support the PE teacher as you would any other educator. Ask the PE teacher what he or she needs, and then do your best to provide it.

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