This is a follow up to my (Feb. 6, 2017) “50 Million Strong by 2029 –It Starts with Us!” essay. In that essay, I explained that I had connected a class of Pre-K Head Start students with twelve high school ‘PE Buddies’ in a special 50 Million Strong project – ‘Play, Learn, Grow’. At that time, we were only a few weeks into our adventure together but had already received many positive comments.
The project ran on Tuesday mornings and into lunch time. These were green shirt days and moments of huge anticipation where young Pre-K students met and spent time with older PE Buddies. As a result, over the course of this school year, we have become ‘Stronger Together.’
The ‘Play, Learn, Grow’ program was designed so each high school volunteer had one to two Pre K children with whom they were paired (Buddies). High school students helped to facilitate instructional PE lessons involving fundamental skills, integrated curriculum, inclusion, adherence to the school PBIS goals and just plain having fun during physical activity. Special bonds developed between all and these turned routine skill acquisition into magical experiences.
Balance is often an overlooked skill to practice unless teaching or coaching gymnastics, the very young, or students who have disabilities that effect mobility. But maintaining and improving balance is essential for all students and should be a regular part of any PE, Adapted PE, or sports program. Adding a few balance skills during warmup takes little time and benefits other activities. For students with balance deficits, more time, emphasis, and practice can be allocated to improve balance. Some of these suggested activities and techniques will not only help improve balance but also athletic performance.
Balance Defined and Explained
Balance can be defined as an even distribution of weight that enables someone or something to remain upright while remaining stable and achieving equilibrium. In general, there are three main elements that help in achieving balance:
I admit it. I’m disappointed, confused, and more than a little bit frustrated. It’s now two-plus years since SHAPE America announced 50 Million Strong by 2029 (50MS) and some people still say they don’t know what 50MS is. Well, okay, “some people” (as in, those outside our profession) I can understand. But physical education and health education professionals, really? I don’t get it. So, let me give it another try with a teaching example:
In your mind, think about a school location you are familiar with. You are the elementary physical education teacher and teach 400 different students annually. Now imagine a world in which each and every one of your students is regularly physically active and doing their best to make healthy lifestyle choices. What are your students doing to live this lifestyle? What does the school day look like that supports this vision? What are you doing in your classes and outside of your classes to help your students succeed? What are your students choosing to do before and after school that keeps them physically active and healthy? What is happening in their homes, with their families, on weekends, and during holidays that supports this vision? Close your eyes and take a moment to visualize what this new and very different world looks like.
Welcome to the world of 50 Million Strong. It’s not hard to imagine. It’s not hard to understand. And it’s not hard to commit oneself to creating a classroom, a school, a state, and a country in which all school-aged students are choosing and doing their very best to live physically active and healthy lives. And isn’t this new world precisely what most physical educators and health educators would agree is the best measure of teaching success? Why else do we do what we do? If getting our students to be active and healthy is not our purpose what is? Surely this is our reason for being?
Three years ago, I had the pleasure to invite some of my favorite elementary physical education friends to share the center stage at the 2014 National Physical Education Institute. Included were three of the biggest names in our business – Dr. George Graham, Dr. Bob Pangrazi, and Jean Blaydes. Rounding out this trio were three younger professionals – Dr. Guy Le Masurier, Baker Harrell, and a young third year physical education teacher from Canada – Joey Feith (pronounced “fight”).
Each of the keynotes were web-streamed live for the broader physical education community to watch. Bob Pangrazi ended up with a huge number of off-site viewers (5,900+), Jean was next (5,200+), and George and Guy each had 1,500+ views. Baker, our lone non-PE person had less than 500 views. However, Baker’s keynote was probably the most insightful and provided us (in my humble opinion) with what really needs to happen to make physical education a “cause-to-action” in the United States.
The top view-getter turned out to be the youngest person there – third year teacher Joey Feith (now at 6,400+ views). Think about this for a moment, 6,400+ views is more than the total number of attendees at this year’s SHAPE America Convention in Boston. Even if there wasn’t any snow! So what does this mean? To me, this means that we have entered an entirely new way to be connected to our craft – the Internet!
Health and wellness teaching is rapidly becoming a vital part of the school day. More and more children and youth are coming to school with conditions that are negatively impacting their lives. No longer can health and wellness be considered an “if we have time we’ll get to it” part of a school day. As evidenced by the data, children and youth are increasingly entering our classrooms anxious, lacking self-confidence, and suffering from a litany of social, emotional and physical health concerns. Therefore, it’s more important than ever for schools to continue to find ways to effectively provide students with opportunities to develop essential health and wellness skills.
One Way…Sharing the Responsibility
One of the most effective ways to impact health and wellness behaviors in students is through comprehensive programming (Joint Consortium for School Health, 2010). For example, Canadian authorities have attempted to approach this challenge through Comprehensive School Health (CSH) programming. It is widely accepted that CSH supports student learning, while simultaneously addressing school health and wellness in a planned, integrated and holistic manner (Berg et al., 2017).