SHAPE America 2017 National Convention: 50 Million Strong by 2029 Forum

For New England-headed SHAPE America convention participants, it was almost unbelievable to learn that five years after a power outage cancelled the last Boston convention, a major snowstorm threatened to derail this one. Sadly, weather-related flight cancellations messed up the travel plans of some people, but for those able to get to Boston it turned out to be a hugely successful convention.

Tuesday’s high-energy 50 Million Strong by 2029 forum included more than 30 presentations, four hours of opinion and idea sharing, and lots of notetaking. If you couldn’t attend maybe you saw some of the Facebook Live streaming?  Participants discussed topics such as “What does 50 Million Strong look like in practice?” “How can research support 50 Million Strong?” “How can we prepare future teachers to succeed with 50 Million Strong?” “How is teacher leadership vital to the success of 50 Million Strong?” “How will embracing diversity advance 50 Million Strong?” and “How can we measure and assess 50 Million Strong?”

Because the presentations were very brief, supporting materials were put online. I encourage you to download them and share them with your colleagues or future teachers.  You can find out more through the SHAPE America 50 Million Strong webpage or using this link. Information collected from forum discussions will be shared shortly. In the meantime, I’d encourage you to keep sharing ideas and asking questions via the SHAPE America member blog Exchange.

I’m hoping the forum answered many questions. But, if you are still asking “What exactly is 50 Million Strong?” I have three suggestions and one comment. First, go to the forum link I’ve shared above and find my name towards the end of the document. You’ll see links to 15 essays I’ve written about 50 Million Strong, six essays by teachers, six presentations, and one webinar. Second, go to SHAPE America’s 50 Million Strong web page and review the information posted. Finally, recognize that 50 Million Strong remains under development and that YOU are invited and encouraged to be a participant rather than spectator.

Let’s be clear. 50 Million Strong is a change movement folks! No one has all the answers. It’s like a journey where you know your destination but are unsure of the route to get there. The destination or outcome for 50 Million Strong is clear: Youth who choose to be regularly physically active and who are making healthy lifestyle choices. It’s not complicated or confusing. But of course, how to get there is much more difficult. If it were easy we wouldn’t be talking about it. We must keep in mind that just as every student we teach is different, how each of us approaches and contributes to 50 Million Strong’s outcomes isn’t going to be the same. There’s no one size fits all. Right now, the biggest challenge to overcome is the risk of handicapping our progress by allowing a “paralysis from analysis” mentality.

Below are a few topics from the forum I’d especially like to highlight:


Measuring, Assessing, and Reporting 50 Million Strong by 2029

The second most common question after “What exactly is 50 Million Strong?” is “How do you propose measuring, assessing, and reporting 50 Million Strong?” Personally, I don’t get so hung up on this concern because I think most people can distinguish between youth who are regularly physically active or regularly inactive, and who are making healthy or unhealthy lifestyle choices. But I get that it’s important to have some criteria to track and show progress.

For several months, SHAPE America has had a couple of member-composed task forces toiling over these questions. At the forum, Dolly Lambdin suggestions ways for tracking progress using national data.  Here’s a link to her presentation and what’s been proposed.  Additionally, Judy Rink, Kristi Mally, and Tammy Brant  shared ideas and invited teacher input into ways progress could be assessed at elementary, middle, and high school levels. If you teach at one of these levels please help your colleagues by clicking the link and responding to the survey.

Challenges and Opportunities facing 50 Million Strong by 2029

To succeed with this commitment to change the physical activity and health habits of America’s youth, we need to see both the opportunities and challenges we face. Some see 50 Million Strong as a wonderful opportunity to seize upon growing national interest in kids’ health, and use it to benefit both our students and our profession. Others fear that focusing on changing physical activity habits neglects and minimizes the traditional emphasis we’ve placed on teaching skills and knowledge. Could this change result in our profession being replaced by physical activity instructors? Bruce Pietz pointed out challenges and Hans van der Mars shared thoughts on both topics.  I encourage you to think hard about both issues and help us to resolve them.

It Starts with Us (Movie)

A short while ago Kris Fritz wrote an essay for PHE America entitled “50 Million Strong by 2029 – It Starts with Us!” Chris explained that when she first heard about 50 Million Strong she asked herself, “What can I do as an individual to further this vision?”  In Boston, Collin Brooks one of the forum planners shared an interview with Jessica Shawley a physical education teacher from Idaho.  Jessica talked about change and her belief that each of us has a personal responsibility for creating the future we would like to see. Here’s a link to the video.

What 50 Million Strong by 2029 Means to Me: Student Perspectives (Movie)

In all the discussion about what we should and shouldn’t do in our teaching, it’s easy to lose sight of the purpose for doing what we do. Our WHY. Tracy Krause, who also help to plan the forum interviewed students in his school district to try to understand how they see physical education connecting with their daily lives. Here’s a link to the video.

50 Million Rap (Movie)

Unfortunately, one of the casualties of the weather was cancellation of an in-person performance by Andy Horne, former SHAPE America Health Education Teacher of the Year, of a remastered rap song about physical education and 50 Million Strong. Here’s the link.

In honesty, that’s just a taste of what went on at the forum and I hope you’ll visit the presenter page and download the materials that were created to help you better understand and contribute to advancing the commitment SHAPE America has made to 50 Million Strong by 2029. Thanks to those of you who participated in the forum and to everyone committed to joining us as we navigate this challenging, uncertain, but exciting professional journey into the future.


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. It sounds like you had a great time of idea exchange and synergistic motivation. I am sorry I wasn’t able to attend. I hope that others and I can be involved in the actions that will take place going forward to make 50 Million Strong the new normal going into the future.

Join the Discussion