Moonshining Techniques to Achieve a Moonshot Idea in Physical Education

A moonshot, in a technology context, is an ambitious, exploratory and ground-breaking project undertaken without any expectation of near-term profitability or benefit and also, perhaps, without a full investigation of potential risks and benefits.

When I think of moonshot thinking, one name always comes to my mind, Elon Musk. He is a billionaire that continues to invest in companies that are impacting change in the world. He is the founder of Spacex, Tesla Motors, and co-founder of Solar City. He is working on developing reusable rockets for space missions, cars that don’t run on combustible fuels and working on lessening our dependence on fossil fuels.  He is always exploring groundbreaking concepts and is working to stop the development of artificial intelligence. Musk has even questioned if we are already living in a computer-generated world created by machines. His ambition keeps pushing science and technology past the current standard set by humanity.

If SHAPE America’s 50 Million Strong commitment is a moonshot idea for health and physical educators, then how will we achieve this moonshot goal? According to SHAPE America “Approximately 50 million students are currently enrolled in America’s elementary and secondary schools. SHAPE America wants to ensure that by the time today’s youngest students graduate from high school in 2029, all of America’s children are empowered to lead healthy and active lives through effective health and physical education programs.” But what is our functional tool that will measure growth? What instrument are we going to use to gather data? Is SHAPE America going to create developmental milestones for this campaign? And what happens if we don’t have success by 2029?

The problem with moonshot thinking is that ambitious projects and ideas demand framework and funding. Funding to reach the goal needs to be focused like a sniper rifle. Presently we have adopted more of a shotgun approach to fixing physical education. Some believe that if we shoot enough rounds of ammunition we can say that we successfully hit the target of empowering students to live healthy active lifestyles.  But in my mind, for this moonshot project to succeed we need to act like bootleggers of moonshine.

The art of making moonshine has been around since the Revolutionary War starting in the Appalachian Mountains. Many who made moonshine weren’t happy about the government’s taxation of alcohol. Many corn farmers that had unprofitable farming seasons turned to making moonshine to pay farm expenses. When prohibition hit the 1920’s, moonshiners were making big profits and developed networks to distribute their goods to all the major cities. So can we take SHAPE America’s 50 Million Strong commitment and develop a moonshine grassroots movement towards our goal in 2029? I believe for this goal to succeed we need to focus on three areas of improvement just like Marcus Lemonis of CNBC’s The Profit. We need to focus on the people, product and process that will strengthen our brand to make our business successful and reach our moonshot goal.

The Appalachian moonshiners always had partners when producing moonshine. One moonshiner would focus on making the moonshine with their copper still and the other moonshiner would be making sure they didn’t get caught by the local authorities. SHAPE America needs to partner with the bootleggers of physical education content on social media to give focus to the campaign. The innovators of physical education are already present on social media taking simple concepts and transforming them to meet the educational needs of today’s learners. These educators are taking traditional education models and reinventing concepts with 21st century learning practices. We (#PHYSED) want to have a vested stake in the future of physical education but need partners. Can SHAPE America be our partner in making physically literate learners in the United States? Can we get all 200,000-plus physical and health educators working towards a single vision for physical education?

The finished product of moonshine has a 100 proof of alcohol content. To make sure the product has the proper alcohol content, many moonshiners use fire to test the product’s flammability since it is similar to ethanol.  We too have the materials to make a propellant but need the right balance of chemicals to create a reaction that will affect change. We have three key materials to focus on for the future. We must focus on advocacy, programs, and professional development. If we focus on these three areas with sniper rifle accuracy we can hit our goal of 50 Million Strong.

The best moonshine came from people like Marvin “Popcorn” Sutton. He made a good product that people appreciated and wanted in the Appalachian Mountains. He had a passion for good likker (liquor). Similarly most physical educators want their students to grow and succeed but they don’t have all the guidance they need to develop a quality program. Our current process in place with SHAPE America and within the profession is – to quote an old military expression – a bit of a “SNAFU.”  Most people know we have five standards, yet most only use the trifold grade level outcome scope and sequence with their current curriculum or only align with their state standards. Many also just adapt their sports units that they have been teaching for 20 years and call it a standards based program. We need a bootlegging professional development series to educate our professionals and to adapt our teaching styles to current models. If the change starts with “US” then all of us need to be working towards the same guidelines by 2019 to meet our goal in 2029.

Here are some of the processes that need to be in place by 2019:

  • Develop a program measurement tool to evaluate the current state of our programs similar to the old NASPE stars recognition program that is free to members.
  • Develop regional networks of professional development so that all will be educated on current best practices and models.
  • Give members the resources they need to be successful for free.
    • National grade level standards and outcome book
    • Critical elements of skill progression
    • Advocacy toolkit
    • Selecting power standards guidelines for regional participation in physical activity and exercise.
    • Sample lessons and assessments that meet 21st century learning standards
  • Develop monitoring system for growth and feedback system to help members with challenges.
  • Develop a relationship with the Aspen Institute to create local models of physical literacy in urban, suburban and rural areas to build a school to community connection.
  • States need to communicate with surrounding states and develop shared best practices reports.

With the proper leadership and guidance of SHAPE America, if we integrate some moonshine techniques into our moonshot concept we could possibly reach our 2029 goal. If we don’t, I fear we could see the death of our profession by 2029. What remains unclear is which direction you, I, and our professional society will choose to take in the next two years.


50 Million Strong Case Studies

Read how your teaching colleagues are showing their commitment to increasing physical activity and bringing good health to their students! Remember - It begins with US (and that includes physical and health educators everywhere!)  


1 Comment
  1. Thanks for sharing Rich. There’s obviously many things that need to happen for any moonshot vision to succeed. But above all else is I believe a very singleminded determination that focuses all activities on the desired outcome. Continuing to do things the same way won’t change much. Expecting others to change but not changing what we do ourselves will not work. I can’t help but believe that with all of Elon Musk’s endeavors he started out with a vision of what he wanted to achieve and planned accordingly. I can’t imagine he accepted the status quo and kept hoping activities and people would change and achieve his new vision. People in the HPE world are very reluctant to change and rarely even engage in imagining a different future and what it’s going to take to get there. Look at almost all the discussion and professional development and it’s mostly about this or that activity. It’s about the what and how and almost never about the why.

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