Time to Include Nutrition Ed into PE?

I'm responding to an article written in Strategies: A Journal for Physical and Sport Educators, in the January/February issue called, It's Time to Include Nutrition Education in the Secondary Physical Education Curriculum.

The authors did a good job of 'making the case' to increase both physical activity and nutrition education in schools. We have a childhood obesity problem and schools do play a role in awareness, education and prevention of this issue. The authors advocate for PE teachers to include a 17-week nutrition program within their PE class. Now, I see that suggestion as a  two-fold problem. First, I'm not a PE teacher, but I assume that PE courses in high school do not have a ton of time leftover if addressing and aligning their program to the National PE Content Standards. Secondly, although incredibly supportive of more nutrition education and integrated learning, the article wasn't written or apparently reviewed by a health educator.  I'm concerned the authors, Susan L Bertelsen and Ben Thompson, associate professors in the Human Performance and Sport Department at Metropolitan State University of Denver in CO, did not work with a health educator. And, here's how I know this. They don't mention the importance of alignment to the the National Health Education Content Standards. They don't talk about the Health Education Curriculum Analysis Tool and developing a sequential health education program integrated to what their health teachers are teaching and aligned to the Healthy Behavior Outcomes (HBOs) within the HECAT. What they have in the article as a suggested 'curriculum' (which it's not by definition a curriculum, but rather a scope and sequence, or list of topics), is not all function knowledge. I recently blogged about functional knowledge. It means- what are the concepts students REALLY need to know to change their behavior or intend to stay healthy? What the authors have listed there isn't all functional knowledge. The authors also state nothing about reviewing your local or state Youth Risk Behavior Survey Data... using data to drive curricular decisions. Instead they just suggest nutrition topics that don't necessarily lead to behavior outcomes. 

I hate to pick on these two authors. I mean- I get at the core of what they are saying is that we need more nutrition ed (amen!) and integrated learning (amen!). But, next time, please advocate for strong implementation of ideas using what we know is best practice in health education.


It's Like Throwing Water on a Fire

Blog post by regularly guest blogger, Jamie Sparks, Director of Coordinated School Health at the Kentucky Department of Education. Twitter handle: @JamieSparksCSH

I want to start with an analogy that I see year after year in government. The analogy starts with a fire, with the obvious goal being to extinguish it or at least reduce it in size.  The apparent logical solution is to use water, however, increasing the volume of water to put the fire out many times has little effect. It may put out the fire, but the damage is done. At times, the conclusion is that there is not enough water to put the fire out, and rather the solution should be on reducing the fuel that is the source of the fire. In this illustration, the fire represents disease, specifically that associated with obesity. Our government systems annually and increasingly try to fund more and more "water" to treat the many obesity related health problems (I.e. Heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, respiratory illness). The "water" represents funding for treatments and screenings. It is a band-aid approach.

Just as with a wildfire, it is never quite possible to obtain enough water to fix the issue. The strategy is always about controlling the environment to reduce the fuel for the fire. This has to be where we apply our strategies for obesity prevention and thus ultimately reducing health care costs for everyone! To change the landscape for obesity prevention, there has to be an investment and prioritization in changing environments schools, communities and worksites.  This means that the primary agent of change for our society has to start with school requirements for physical education. Investment for instructional priority in quality physical education programs will contribute to increasing physical literacy and ultimately increased physical activity. The recommendation from the Institute of Medicine says it this way, "strengthen schools as the heart of health", both our PHYSICAL health and our FISCAL health as a nation depends on this!

Tune in TONIGHT! Feb 12, 9pm EST for Jamie's Southern District AAHPERD PE Twitter Chat! Follow #SDpechat 

Olympics, Culture and Peace

The other night I was having a conversation with a friend about where he grew up and how people in his community are so sheltered. The gist of the conversation was on how people living in more rural communities in the US tend to be more conservative and fear or even hate people who are different. My response was, it's really about exposure. Once you get out, whether that means education, traveling or broadening your social network, your world grows, it blooms, it becomes richer. He was saying that even exposure to Jewish people is minimal where he's from. But, once you meet someone that is different from you and you experience a positive exchange/interaction… whether that person is from a different country, or of a different ethnicity or religion or sexuality, your initial beliefs may turn into respect and understanding. I find that a variety of friends makes my life richer. I wouldn't want to hang out with only white, originally from the east coast, straight, 38 year old progressive woman. That actually sounds unbelievably boring!

So, what does the Olympics have to do with this? I watch the opening ceremonies and think, look at these amazing athletes from all over the world. Some grew up on estates, some in modest apartments, to say the least. They are all different ages, from all different religions, different experiences, different languages. But they are all there because they are determined, and the best at their sport in the entire world. And, that enough should bond them. And, therefore, bond the participating countries. A lesson that we should all question the stereotypes we have, the fears we have of others, the phobias we have and learn about others. Travel, get out of your comfort zone. It's well worth it!

GO USA!  I hope by watching the Games, even if thousands of miles away, people from all over the world hear stories of grit, determination, endurance, strength and become more open to the differences that really make this a better world. 

My First Twitter Chat #SDpechat

I started getting information on this thing called a Twitter chat about a week ago. And, I assumed what it was, and my assumptions were right. You reading this may have experienced one, or maybe you lead them all of the time. I had no idea what is was going to be like. 

So, for those of you who have no idea what it is, let me explain, since I participated in my first Twitter chat on Wednesday night.

The overall intended goals for this chat, moderated by Jamie Sparks, Kentucky Department of Education (Twitter handle @JamieSparksCSH), Robin MeMe Ratliff (@meme3rat) and Jacy Wooley, Alliance for a Healthier Generation ( @jacysproverb), was to establish lines of communication amongst those attending Southern District American Alliance for Health, PE, Recreation and Dance (AAHPERD) Conference, promote higher level professional discussions (although the first one this week was meant to introduce people), spark interest in sessions, share common topics of what people would like to see/hear, and motivate people to attend sessions they might not have thought about attending otherwise.

What do you do on a Twitter chat? Well, you login into your account, go to search and type in the hashtag of the chat. This hashtag was #SDpechat. And, if you look that up now, you can scroll back and review the entire chat we had. Make sure to click on "All" versus "Top" or else you won't get all the results, only the top trending. So, at 9pm, the time of the meeting, I typed in the hashtag and did a search. The chat leaders posted directions that they would be posting a series of questions (they ended up asking 6 over the course of the hour) and to tweet (post) your answer, tag the 3 moderators and use the hashtag #SDpeChat with the question number. See example below.

#SDpechat Q1 – Are you attending SD? How many conventions have you attended? "Yes, & I have attended 9 conventions. @jacysproverb @meme3rat @JamieSparksCSH #SDpechat Q1."

Then, you see what people write as you 'refresh' your page and you have the opportunity to respond to people's tweets (you may know them, or start following them now, or they begin following you), retweet or favorite. After about 5-8 minutes, another question was posted. Below are the other 5 questions we chatted about.

#SDpechat Q2 – Have you been to Kentucky before? If yes, share a highlight.
#SDpechat Q3 – Who is your favorite PE group/person to follow on Twitter?
#SDpechat Q4 – Are you presenting at SD? If so session/time etc?
#SDpechat Q5 – What session or activity at SD you most looking forward to?
#SDpechat Q6 – What specific topics do want discussed for #SDpechat #2 on 2/12? 

As a result of last night's chat...

  • I have 21 new followers (some that were part of the chat, some that picked up on a tweet theme or tag and began following me)
  • I started following about 15 new people that were referred to during Q3 from others
  • I engaged with new people in the field that I'll meet in person Feb 19-22 in Lexington at Southern District
  • I become more knowledgable about offerings at the conference and learned something new about people on the chat. It was worth the hour and ton of fun!

Take note: next SDpeChat will be at 9pm EST, 2/12. Tweet with ya then!


Physical Activity Interventions

This is the first blogpost from new guest blogger Jamie Sparks! We are thrilled that Jamie will be a regularly featured blogger for Cairn Guidance. To hear Jamie verbally/visually present this blog post (audio-blog), click here

In March of 2013, I finally gave in and converted to Twitter (@JamieSparksCSH).  It was my second conversion to the world of social media, the other being LinkedIn.  I use both mediums for strictly professional purposes to increase awareness and advocate for school health issues.  Thus I am now thankful to Cairn Guidance for my next opportunity to increase advocacy through blogging.

This is my first attempt at sharing relevant experiences in written form, so let me start my official first blog with a parable: a farmer gives one set of farm hands a growing pot, soil, water and seeds.  The farmer gives a second group of farm hands a growing pot, soil, water and seeds, along with a box of MiracleGro.  Given the same variables in growing conditions, no one would argue that the second set of farm hands have an unfair advantage in what their seeds are capable of producing. 

Let me reword my parable to the modern day classroom: A principal gives one set of teachers a classroom, curriculum, quality instructional practices and summative assessments. The principal gives a second group of teachers a classroom, curriculum, quality instructional practices and summative assessments, along with physical activity interventions and movement resources.  The majority of the time in the education world I often hear excuses such as,  “We don’t have time.” “There are too many other things to do.” With competing academic pressures physical activity is minimized or even completely excluded in schools today.  However Dr. John Ratey, in his book SPARK: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, describes the physiological change of neurons during exercise as essentially MiracleGro for the brain.  So why is it that when you introduce MiracleGro in the garden, it is an unfair advantage, but when we talk MiracleGro for the brain we do not hear the same argument? Unfortunately, in this scenario there are too few educators that recognize physical activity as an “unfair advantage” for learning and achievement. 

This leads me to the importance and subtlety in words of how we advocate. One of my personal peeves is the terminology “brain break” or “physical activity break”.  In my profession of physical education and kinesiology I understand the intent, however, the gatekeeper for most school policies, programs and thus classroom practices is the principal.  The principal has an enormous and always growing list of priorities and accountability measures, so anything labeled as a “break” has an uphill challenge for inclusion.  Thus, the need to call physical activity what it actually is,… an intervention!  School professional development and professional learning is immersed with differentiating instruction for all students through the framework of response to intervention (RTI).   The reality for many schools today is that they are not only not including “brain breaks” as RTI, but oftentimes will remove students from physical education and recess for other so-called interventions.  This double-edged sword is a major reality. Students are not receiving the needed wellness benefits of physical activity nor are they receiving the much needed MiracleGro effect for academic achievement. 

The education system is about preparing students for a global economy through what we are currently calling college and career readiness.  I submit to you that any system that ignores the benefits of physical activity is inadequate and will not succeed in producing true college/career readiness.  Today’s workforce often puts higher value on this than schools currently do.  Many major corporations incentivize their employees for physical activity because they understand the simple investment; it enhances production and does not take away from it.  They value the intervention! My hope is that education does not allow this intervention message to be “choked” out but hears this message and understands it.  Then we can produce students yielding a hundredfold our current efforts!


More about Jamie:

With a Bachelor of Arts in Health Education and Physical Education from Morehead State University and a Masters of Arts in School Guidance Counseling also from M.S.U., Jamie Sparks began his career as an elementary health and physical education teacher in the eastern region of Kentucky.

During the tenure of his teaching experience, he was able to start building an exemplary school wellness program through a variety of methods that centered on school/community partnerships.  He created a school wellness card was the early foundation for school wellness funding, which helped later pave a road for his district to become involved with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation.  As the district wellness coordinator Jamie began the district’s path of monitoring implementation and doing annual assessment for measuring the district’s implementation.

After working at the local district level for nine years, Jamie decided to pursue a career opportunity with the Coordinated School Health team at the Kentucky Department of Education, which is a funded state by the Centers for Disease Control.  In August 2010, he began as the Physical Activity, Nutrition and Tobacco consultant at the department. In March 2011, he assumed the role of Project Director for the Coordinated School Health initiative.  Kentucky was one of seven states funded by Robert Wood Johnson Foundation through the National Association of State Boards of Education.  This obesity prevention created the state’s first state board of education health subcommittee that was tasked with reviewing the states policies for nutrition, physical education and physical activity.  Jamie continues to be the chair of this Kentucky Board of Education School Health Committee, which includes a wide range of stakeholders from state-level agencies, advocacy groups, and the state Chamber of Commerce.  The health committee works alongside an internal working group within the Kentucky Department of Education that is made of staff members from all offices, representing each associate commissioner.  Together, they are working to enhance the state’s process of evaluating schools’ compliance with extracurricular programs, including health and physical activity.  The committee works to align their policy work with the College/Career Readiness accountability.

In July 2013, Jamie was named as Co-lead under the newly awarded CDC grant, State Public Health Actions to Prevent and Control Diabetes, Heart Disease, Obesity and Associated Risk Factors and Promote School Health that the Kentucky Department for Public Health received. Because of his prior teaching experience, he understands the challenges of school health and brings that local school perspective to his current position in state government and remains a strong advocate for the importance of communication and relationship building.

Jamie also serves as the Vice President for Physical Education within his state KAHPERD (Kentucky Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance).

Email: Jamie.sparks@education.ky.gov
Twitter: @JamieSparksCSH

Let's Move Active Schools!


This week I'm in Phoenix alongside 20 other invite-only trainers in the field of health and physical education to participate in the first ever national training of trainers (TOT) lead by a partnership between CDC, Nike, Alliance for a Healthier Generation, AAHPERD and the President's Council on Physical Fitness. The TOT is being facilitated by a longtime colleague of mine, Deb Christopher from Bolder Learning and the Physical Activity Leader (content) training is being facilitated by Aaron Beighle from University of Kentucky and Fran Zavacky from AAHPERD, other colleagues of mine that I've known for awhile. 

The training coincides with Arizona's AAHPERD, now called Arizona Health and PE so the regular training today will include another 20 educators from around Arizona. Tomorrow will be the TOT piece, where the original 20 selected trainers will take the next step and become trainers of trainers to help the initiative eventually over 5 years train over 20,000 educators in how to implement the Let's Move Active Schools work.  

The mantra of the initiative is "60 a Day!" and it includes a step by step process for creating sustainable systems change at a school implementing a CSPAP, Comprehensive School Physical Activity Program. A lot of people get recess, physical activity and physical education confused. They may be all different programs within in a school and the goal is that kids are physical active at least 60 minutes a day.

So, how does one implement a CSPAP in a school?  Best practice says, implement a coordinated school health process... 

Step 1: Establish a team. A SHAC, SWC, whatever you call it! Basically a council or team that works together so if that one champion leaves the following year, you have a committee

Step 2: Conduct an assessment of existing physical activity opportunities. Use the Alliance for a Healthier Generation's Inventory! Or the School Health Index! Whatever it is, use something out there that has been developed and tested.

Step 3: Create a vision statement, goals and objectives for your CSPAP and use data from the needs assessment to drive this. 

Step 4: Identify the outcomes or specific changes that will be direct results of the program implementation

Step 5: Identify and plan the activities for your CSPAP

Step 6: Implement! 

Step 7: Evaluate your CSPAP. Make change based on results and improve your programs! 

More to come after Days 2, 3, 4... but here are a few photos from yesterday's training.


Deb, keeping us out of our seats and active!

Deb, keeping us out of our seats and active!