Originally published Oct. 10, 2018 in the Pilot Tribune.
The Iowa Department of Education has commissioned a team of education professionals to review and recommend statewide standards for physical education and health. Teachers and administrators with Spencer Schools welcomed the effort and shared the school’s current approach to these subject areas.
“There are multitudes of research that relate to how getting that physical movement allows you to perform better academically,” Spencer Schools Director of School Improvement Will Dible said. “Our education and health departments do a fantastic job of making sure that kids are not only aware but provide them with an opportunity to get that exercise in a great way that they can replicate in different facets of their own life. Realistically, we find that it is really integral and meshed in with the needs in our academic respect as well.”
For more than a decade, Spencer Schools has been using its own physical education standards. Schools in the district modeled the five core standards after the national physical education standards.
“We work backward,” Spencer Middle School PE teacher Marcia Klett said. “We start with the standards and then build our curriculum activities around those to make sure that we are addressing each of them throughout the year at each grade level. Shape America has also come up with grade level outcomes that break the standards down into smaller parts which are very beneficial and we incorporate all of that into our curriculum.”
“We want to do something a little bit different,” Spencer High School PE teacher Todd Maschino said. “Things like biking outside. We get out and do archery. We have disc golf, the climbing wall, and badminton as well. We have rollerblading we do along with our biking unit. We try to give them the opportunity to do some things they normally wouldn’t get to do.”
Another aspect of Spencer Schools approach to physical education is an attempt to work with struggling students one-on-one and to emphasize the understanding of each activity over competition. Teachers are also trying to integrate technology such as heart rate monitors into classes to improve students awareness of their own personal fitness level and focus on providing a welcoming environment for students of all fitness levels.
“We certainly see struggles every day,” Maschino said. “I think in the last 22 years that I have been teaching, socially it is becoming a bigger task for the kids. That is why we think it is so important to stress social skills. We do a lot of different things in PE to encourage the kids to work together. A lot of times this day in age, kids won’t communicate face-to-face.”
Dible suggested the district’s approach to promoting active and healthy lifestyles contributes to the fight against other issues children are facing across the state such as mental health struggles and increasing levels of obesity.
“One of the biggest issues nowadays is stress,” Dible said. “You can talk to parents, and their kids have so many things going on and so many aspects of their live that are just going to cause many stressful situations. Providing that daily exercise and healthy living helps address some of those issues. Anxiety is rampant, especially in high school.”
Maschino and Klett agreed state standards are a step in the right direction and encouraged the review team to consider further integration of technology into classrooms, to seek input from many PE teachers across the state and to use the national standards as a guide when making final recommendations.
The Iowa Department of Education will make its recommendation to the State Board of Education next year. If adopted, physical education and health standards will be optional for school districts.