On the SHAPE America website 50 Million Strong by 2029 is described as follows:
“SHAPE America wants to ensure that by the time today’s preschoolers graduate from high school in 2029, all of America’s students are benefiting from the skills, knowledge and confidence to enjoy healthy, meaningful physical activity.”
I like that our national organization has set a long-term goal that benefits all of America’s youth and requires a commitment from all physical educators across our nation. We live in exciting times where we have the opportunity to make an impact on future generations. So, “Count me in, SHAPE America – I’m planning to do my part toward succeeding with 50 Million Strong!“
Having decided to commit to the 50 Million Strong Team, I see one of my major goals as sending off my 5th grade students each year with the skills, knowledge, confidence and motivation they’ll need to continue on the path toward becoming physically literate throughout middle and high school, ultimately choosing to lead active and healthy lives.
That’s pretty easy to say but how am I going to actually get it done? Being a linear thinker, I decided to first break down what exactly in terms of behaviors and knowledge my students are going to need when they leave 5th grade. To consider myself successful, in 2029 I want to be able to look back and know that I was an engaged team member and got my part right.
Examining the SHAPE America statement, “benefiting from the skills, knowledge and confidence to enjoy healthy, meaningful physical activity,” the first thing my students are going to need are skills. But what skills? Fortunately, the specific skills all students need are clearly described in our National Physical Education Standards and Grade Level Outcomes. Here’s Standard 1 – the movement skill related standard:
Standard 1 – The physically literate individual demonstrates competency in a variety of motor skills and movement patterns.
I confess that by themselves I find our national standards and especially standard #1 so vast and broad that it’s hard to know where to begin. But digging deeper, SHAPE America’s Grade Level Outcomes (GLOs) make the challenge much easier by identifying smaller, specific, teachable skills and concepts. For example, according to the GLOs, my kindergarteners should be able to execute a “single jump in a self-turned rope.” The same students as first graders are expected to “master consecutive jumps forward or backward in a self-turned rope.”
What I find so helpful is that each GLO builds on what was learned the previous year, spiraling in difficulty and complexity. Clearly, it’s going to be vital that I plan my lessons carefully with specific learning targets so my students are ready to move toward the next achievement level. But it means that if I do my job well, if I get all of my students to master the 5th grade GLOs, they’ll possess a comprehensive movement foundation. More importantly, they’ll all be well on their way toward having the movement skills necessary to lead healthy and active lives.
In addition to having skills, if I’m going to achieve my 50 Million Strong commitment my students also need knowledge. Here’s what SHAPE America recommends:
“Students will have the knowledge to enjoy healthy and meaningful physical activity.”
A broad overview of the knowledge my students need to master is described in two more National Physical Education Standards.
Standard 2 – The physically literate individual applies knowledge of concepts, principles, strategies and tactics related to movement and performance.
Standard 3 – The physically literate individual demonstrates the knowledge and skills to achieve and maintain a health-enhancing level of physical activity and fitness.
Looking at the specific Grade Level Outcomes for these two national standards, I can find content that is scaffolded and sequentially spirals in complexity and depth. My kindergarteners who are just learning to jump once in a self-turned rope, should also understand that, “when they move fast their hearts beat faster and they breathe faster.” When those same students are in 5th grade, they will be “differentiating between skill related fitness and health related fitness.”
I’m determined that my 5th graders will leave my elementary school with a knowledge foundation that will prepare them to take ownership of their own health and wellbeing. But to be certain my students move on with the necessary knowledge, I’m going to need to weave these concepts and understandings into each of my lessons. I can see that this will take discipline on my part to ensure all of my students are challenged and supported physically and cognitively. I have to be sure not only to sequence my lessons so they lead my students to skill mastery but to knowledge mastery as well.
Ensuring that my students “have the confidence to enjoy healthy and meaningful physical activity” has me looking at the fourth of our National Physical Education Standards.
Standard 4 – The physically literate individual exhibits responsible personal and social behavior that respects self and others.
After closely examining the Grade Level Outcomes under Standard 4, I believe I can integrate these building blocks into my lessons. I think my students will first increase their confidence by demonstrating movement competency and depth of knowledge in the cognitive concepts. But I also believe that increasing my students’ confidence is going to require me to make an even greater commitment than just planning purposeful, sequential lessons. I must also consider the environment. I’ll need to make sure that the social emotional environment of the gym is a safe climate where students feel supported, challenged, and respected in their endeavors.
Finally, for my students, “to enjoy healthy and meaningful physical activity,” I need to address our fifth National Physical Education Standard:
Standard 5 – The physically literate individual recognizes the value of physical activity for health, enjoyment, challenge, self-expression and/or social interaction.
If I’m going to get my students to value physical activity and health I’ll need think beyond my classes and the boundaries of my gym walls. I must help my students find enjoyable physical activity opportunities outside of my physical education curriculum, activities they’ll enjoy pursuing as they get older.
To make this outside-of-class connection I’m planning to do the following:
- assist my students in finding accessible physical activity choices before and after school,
- provide physical education equipment for students to check out and take home,
- empower student voice through our Student Wellness Team,
- partner with our administration on physical activity initiatives like “Purposeful Movement in the Hallways,”
- host family health nights, and
- provide continual support to our school community on the use of brain breaks.
Teaching a standard-based physical education program, and providing a safe environment where students can develop skills, knowledge and a love for being active is a winning game plan for committing to 50 Million Strong by 2029. It isn’t very often a change movement occurs that offers us the chance to positively transform the future trajectory for 50 million children, but today America’s physical educators have that very opportunity before them. Please join me in telling SHAPE America, “COUNT ME IN!”