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 

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!


Core Academic Subjects... to Ad Nauseam

Over the years, non-core subjects have lost their ground in the K-12 school day. Reading, writing and math are considered core since our national leaders in education believe that in order for the USA to be most competitive we need to teach and test these core subjects to ad nauseam. But what's happening is that physical education and my beloved health is being cut at alarming rates. I'm unsure that focusing less on the whole child and more on these 3 golden subjects will really lead to higher test scores.

A national survey of teachers found that 3 out of 4 teachers believe social and emotional learning will improve student academic achievement. Those who reported successful social and emotional learning programs in their schools were half as likely to say their school has a negative school climate.
— The Missing Link, A Report for CASEL

I mean, it makes sense that if you spend more time on a subject, your ability in that subject will improve. But what draws students to school everyday? What if you're a student who is most satisfied learning about interpreting history over time? Singing and dancing in monthly performances? Analyzing which chemical makes a concoction fizz? What if you love learning about sportsmanship and being active in the middle of the day? What if you are interested in going into the healthcare field, but you go an entire year without hearing the word health at school? Interest in school plays a role. How do increase the graduation rate of our high school students in the USA? There are many factors, but interest plays a role. 

Systems change is what really needs to happen. At the top. A whole child approach to educating our youth would be the best case scenario. In the meantime, however, one less expensive way to address the issue of bringing back more subjects is to support teachers integrating subjects. Do you remember 'back in the day' with art, PE, music in all elementary schools? Most elementary teachers aren't able to effectively teach all topics since their pre-service education didn't touch on everything. How can we train and educate our teachers to create classrooms that address a variety of subjects? Wouldn't it be nice if we took the resources and time for our teachers to work in professional learning teams/communities to effectively integrate math and science? Art and health? Social studies and PE? Language arts and music? The public has an issue with professional development days, but I suggest as educators, we do a better job advocating and marketing the need for professional development and support, even though that means time away from our students. The return on investment would be enormous.

If most parents support health and physical education overall, let's build off that support and bring awareness and education to the public that our schools are doing a disservice by cutting back to an extent that the curriculum is actually depriving our citizens of a well-rounded educational experience. Advocacy and support for professional development would take us a long way.

Opinions of parents about Health and Physical Education have shown that 84% said that health education is either more important than or as important as other subjects taught in school and 74% said schools should spend more time or the same amount of time teaching health education as they do for other subjects taught in school.

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!