Children’s Health Over The Summer: Framing The Message Properly For Kids

I noticed this article from The Aiken Standard today, titled “HEALTH AND FITNESS:  Preventing summer weight gain in kids.” The message of the article is a good one:  Parents should me mindful of their children’s activity level and diet over the summer.  However, I think the emphasis on preventing summer weight game taps into a delicate issue.  In my K-5 PE classes, I intentionally avoid references to body-weight when discussing nutrition.  I do this because I think elementary age students are too young to manage their weight with the same degree of responsibility as an adult. Instead, I focus on a simpler, kid friendly message in my classes:  I often remind my students that they should eat healthy food and get an hour of physical activity per day.

I think the message of emphasizing to parents healthy body weight in children is fine. However, it’s worthwhile to mention that the message should be presented to kids in a way that’s appropriate.  Over the summer, kids may be less physically active away from school.  It would be totally ok to remind children that they should move throughout the day for a total of at least 60 minutes, while eating a healthy diet with lots of fruits and vegetables.

The Amazing Dr. Joel Kirsch Visits Rancho School

We had a very special guest earlier this week at Rancho School.  For years, I’ve been telling my students about a man named Dr. Joel Kirsch.  Dr. Kirsch is the President of the American Sports Institute in Mill Valley, California.  He is extremely passionate about fitness, and it’s his goal to open a K-12 school that emphasizes both fitness and academics.  In 2010, to gather support for his new school, Dr. Kirsch, performed burpee exercises with a push-ups, one step at a time, for 30 miles, from Novato to the Golden Gate Bridge. Dr. Kirsch did the burpees for 6 hours each day, for a total of 6 weeks!

On Monday, Dr. Kirsch visited our school and shared his personal story with our 4th and 5th grade students. Dr. Kirsch emphasized the fact that he was inspired to perform his amazing feat by others, and that our students should seek to set a positive example for others as well. And, yes…..he did perform some burpees! It was an absolute treat to host Dr. Kirsch!

To learn more about Dr. Kirsch and his amazing athletic feat, visit The American Sports Institute website by clicking here.

Dr. Kirsch answers a question from a student


Start Your PE Class with Structure: Tell Students Where to Stand While Listening to Directions

PE is about to begin. You’re walking with your students out to the yard. How should you start your class?

Your first item of business is to prepare your students to listen to directions. It’s tempting to ask students to gather loosely around you, but that’s not the best approach. All your students need to focus on you and be able to hear you. That’s easiest when each one has an unobstructed view of your face. Find a clearly defined area where your students can stand side by side in a simple formation—a single line, for example.

Here are some great ways to position your students for the listening-intensive start of your PE session:

  • Find a long painted line on the blacktop. Tell your students to stand with both feet on the line.
  • Tell your students to stand directly on the edge of the blacktop. If you have a grass field adjacent to the blacktop, tell your students to stand with their heels on the grass and toes on the blacktop.
  • If your blacktop has painted basketball courts, have your students stand along the curved arch of the key (which is near the free throw line).

Once the students are in position, and you have their attention, you can begin your PE class.

Our book, “PE by Design:  The Classroom Teachers Physical Education Program, Grades K-5” includes many more class management tips.  To purchase the book, click here.

California State Superintendent Opposes Federal Cuts to School Nutrition Programs

On Friday, California State Superintendent of Public Education Tom Torlakson spoke in opposition to federal budget cuts that could impact school nutrition programs throughout the state.  Torlakson was speaking at the Ninth Biennial Childhood Obesity Conference in San Diego.  An article from the Santa Clarita Valley public television (click here) lists several programs which assist children and needy families that could be reduced or cut if President Donald Trumps proposals are carried through. I want to applaud Torlakson for his positions.

California State Superintendent of Public Education Tom Torlakson


5 PE Activities That Require No Equipment, For K–5 Classroom Teachers

For many classroom teachers the thought of hauling equipment out and setting it up is a huge roadblock to teaching physical education. It’s enough to prevent some teachers from trying altogether. To counter their concerns, I tell them to focus on activities that use minimal equipment.

Are you wondering how to deal with this issue? Rest assured, there are plenty of fitness-based activities that require little or no equipment.

When you begin teaching PE, I recommend that you just bring your students out to the yard without equipment. Make things as easy as possible. Focus on simple activities, such as running. Once you are comfortable taking your students out, and the simple routine seems familiar and manageable, try adding activities that require equipment.

Here are 5 free activities for classroom teachers from the PE by Design website that require no equipment.  Click on the link to view and download the activity PDF:

  1.  The Big Tie  (2-5)
  2. Copycat Run (2-5)
  3. Bear Greetings (K-5)
  4. Foursquare Tag (1-5)
  5. Amoeba Tag (2-5)

Florida Woman Converts School Bus Into Mobile Gym For Kids

I recently read a news story that caught my attention.  (Click here for link)

A young woman in Florida purchased a school bus and spent a year refurbishing it, converting it into a mobile gym for kids.  The best form of exercise is the one that is enjoyed, and it looks like the children that use her mobile gym experience something completely unique and fun as well.

Cheers to this lady for her creativity and hard work!

5 Steps for Building a Successful PE Program: Tips for K—5 Classroom Teachers

Physical Education can be a challenging subject for classroom teachers. Here are five simple steps to help you start building a quality PE program for your class.

Step 1: Determine how many minutes you need to teach.

In most states, public elementary schools are required to provide physical education instruction to their students. If a school has no dedicated PE teacher to provide the instruction, classroom teachers must usually pick up the slack.

California, for example, mandates that students in grades 1 through 5 receive 200 minutes of PE instruction every 10 school days. If a dedicated PE teacher provides 60 minutes of PE instruction per week, someone else, usually a classroom teacher, must provide the remaining 40 minutes of instruction.

Find out how many PE minutes are mandated for your students. If your school has a dedicated PE teacher who meets part of the obligation, determine who is responsible for the rest. If you are, figure out exactly how many minutes per week you are responsible for. Make it your goal to provide at least that many PE minutes each week for your class.

Step 2: Familiarize yourself with fitness guidelines for children.

The ongoing childhood obesity epidemic forms an important backdrop to teaching physical education. Classroom teachers can play a proactive role in this crisis and help their students lead healthier lives by offering effective, fitness-based activities during PE. To prepare for teaching PE, you can explore reliable guidelines for children’s fitness. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), for example, outlines recommended fitness objectives for children on its website.

The most important CDC recommendation for children’s fitness is that children should engage in physical activity for at least 60 minutes a day. Those minutes don’t have to be consecutive. If your students have 10 minutes of activity in the morning, 20 minutes during lunch, and 30 minutes in the afternoon, they’ve met the daily goal. (Giving students multiple short periods of activity throughout the day benefits them in other ways as well. These breaks help students let off steam and stay alert and focused for the classroom activities that follow.)

Step 3: Make fitness your first objective.

What should classroom teachers teach during PE? Since most classroom teachers do not have a fitness or PE background, selecting activities can be a challenge. My advice is to keep things simple and to focus on fitness by choosing activities that keep your students moving. These activities can include locomotor movements (such as jogging), strength exercises (such as push-ups), or games that require students to be physically active a majority of the time (such as a tag game).

Be aware of your state’s physical education content standards for your grade level. However, attempting to meet all of those standards can be a challenge since there tend to be many state standards per grade level.  SHAPE America (Society of Health and Physical Educators) has developed a set of five national physical education standards. Four of the five SHAPE standards relate directly to fitness development, a fact that underscores the importance of focusing on fitness in PE classes.

A majority of the activities in PE by Design: The Classroom Teacher’s Physical Education Program, require students to stay in motion. These activities include tag games, jogging, fitness lessons, and jumping rope, all of which emphasize nonstop movement.

Step 4: Schedule time for PE, and take advantage of unscheduled time.

It’s good to schedule PE sessions in advance. For an ideal session, you might bring your students outside, give them a 5-to-10-minute warm-up, and lead them through at least one additional fitness-based activity. Give yourself 20 minutes or more for that load of activities. But remember that all physical activity during the day counts toward the CDC’s recommendation: 60 minutes of physical activity per day.

Even a brief jog will benefit your students. Take advantage of any short, unexpected breaks in your schedule—perhaps 5 minutes right after lunch or 5 minutes before the end of the day—and bring your students outside for a short period of exercise.

Step 5: Discuss the importance of exercise with your students.

Making sure your students get their mandated PE time is important. But a truly successful physical education program does more. It helps students understand fitness concepts and motivates them to continue exercising throughout their lives.

It’s therefore paramount for your students not only to exercise in your class, but also to develop an understanding of exercise and the motivation to continue exercising as they age. To create a good foundation for a lifetime of physical fitness, give your students simple, positive messages, such as “exercise an hour a day—every day.” Also, encourage your students to participate in exercises that they enjoy. Discuss these objectives with your students throughout the school year.

Such conversations do not have to be formal. Perhaps you went on a hike or a jog over the weekend. Talk about it with your students. Ask if they exercised over the weekend themselves. Praise the students who did, and remind your class that daily exercise leads to a healthier, happier life. Indeed, students who understand that their lives will be richer and more enjoyable if they are healthy, are more likely to stay active as they move beyond elementary school.

60 Minutes of Exercise Per Day: A Magic Number for Students

Official exercise guidelines are set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an organization within the Department of Health and Human Services. The CDC recommends that children engage in 60 minutes of physical activity every day. That’s 60 minutes total for the day—the activity does not have to take place all at one time. A 5-minute jog in the morning, 15 minutes of basketball during recess, a 20-minute bike ride in the afternoon, and a 20-minute walk after dinner—all of this activity adds up.

A great advantage of the 60-minute recommendation is that it’s such an easy figure to remember. Tell your students that they should exercise 1 hour a day and most of them will remember that figure the next day and beyond.

Encourage your students to meet this important fitness guideline!


Introducing a PE Resource for Classroom Teachers, Grades K–5

I’m passionate about children’s fitness. I’m an elementary school physical education teacher in Northern California, and I want to help classroom teachers feel confident enough to teach physical education.

I know firsthand how crucial PE is for kids. Children need to participate in physical education classes frequently—to let off steam, to build strength and endurance, to learn about fitness, to create good exercise habits that can last a lifetime. Most states require their public elementary schools to teach physical education, but many schools struggle to meet this goal. Some schools have too few dedicated PE teachers; some have none. Classroom teachers must often cover the gap.

The thought of leading a PE session is daunting to many classroom teachers, but I know they can meet this challenge and succeed. They do at my school, and I enjoy teaching them how to incorporate fun, easy to administer physical activities into their schedule.

I’m committed to creating top-quality resources to help elementary school classroom teachers teach physical education and encourage their students to lead healthier lives. That’s why I wrote PE by Design: The Classroom Teacher’s Physical Education Program, Grades K–5 (published by Student One Education). And that’s why I’m starting this blog.

In the coming months, I will use this space to post original essays regarding children’s health, fitness, and physical education. I’ll also share links to resources that I think are useful for elementary school classroom teachers. Additionally, I will use the blog to announce the release of new materials I’ve created for Student One Education.

Thank you for reading, and please stay tuned!