This post reflects a compensated editorial partnership with Voices for Healthy Kids, a joint initiative of the American Heart Association and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
I don’t remember a lot about my school days. They were (cough) a long time ago. But I definitely have vivid memories of my PE classes. Or, as we called them in the 70’s, “gym.” Today “gym” means a nice workout place with fluffy towels and trainers named “Cody,” but back then it meant smelly feet, grey sweatpants and an intense coach with a whistle around her neck. (Who may also have been named Cody, now that I think about it.)
I wouldn’t say that PE class was my favorite period of the day, or even my second or third favorite. It was, however, the most fun and weird hour a middle school girl in North Dakota could ever hope to have because of the (controlled) freedom to be active. Here are just a few of the unforgettable highlights:
- My PE coach blasting Hava Nagila and leading the class of mostly Lutheran kids in the Israeli folk dance The Hora for some inexplicable reason. (But this actually came in handy for me just last fall when I was at a Jewish restaurant in New York City and everyone got up to dance. Shalom!)
- Being called an “inside agitator” by the coach during our classes’ tumultuous floor hockey unit simply because I encouraged the high sticking of the snotty girls.
- Mandatory showers after our swim sessions. Yes, they were probably necessary, but there weren’t any hair dryers in the locker room. And since it was the last class of the day, I had to walk home in negative North Dakota temperatures with wet hair that immediately froze into a blonde ice sculpture.
- Rope climbing. I know everyone has a PE rope climbing story, but did yours involve careening down the rope and incurring massive chafing to your inner thighs while girls laughed and your friend Kristi yelled Billy Squire lyrics to cheer you up? Yeah, didn’t think so.
The reason PE is on my mind isn’t because I just heard “The Stroke” on the radio, rather it’s because I recently learned that many of today’s school kids don’t get a lot of physical education. Some don’t get any. In fact, only 4% of elementary schools, 8% of middle schools, and 2% of high schools provide daily PE or its equivalent for the entire school year. That’s shocking to me considering that I’ve always felt PE is as American as apple pie, baseball and not knowing how to spell Mississipie correctly the first three attempts. Meesspipy.
My family is fortunate in that the boys had PE every other day when they were in grade school, and every day in middle school. Like most active kids not thrilled to sit still in a classroom all day, they love it when they’re allowed to run around with their friends and burn off some energy. Research shows it helps them learn better, too.
- Kids need 60 minutes of physical activity per day and PE programs can help get them there.
- PE addresses the needs of the whole child, positively impacting their physical, mental, and emotional health.
- 95% of parents with children under the age of 18 think PE should be part of the school curriculum for all students K-12.
Racial inequalities and socio-economic challenges leave many schools without resources for PE, but kids shouldn’t have to miss out on the benefits of PE simply because of where they live.
It saddens me to think that today’s kids aren’t getting the same chance to humiliate themselves on a rope like I did, but here’s some good news: The opportunity has arisen for us to support the American Heart Association and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Voices for Healthy Kids mission to Protect PE. Their goal is to get PE in more schools, with more frequency. The passage of federal bill ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act) at the end of 2015 means that now all states must develop a comprehensive plan to ensure all students receive a fair, equitable, and high-quality education. And we can work to make sure PE included in this plan which will then guarantee that PE programs are eligible for federal funding. Make sense?
Unfortunately, the inclusion of PE in ESSA plans is not a slam-dunk, so it’s going to take action from concerned citizens to get daily PE included as a core component in the plan. Then, once it’s included, PE programs will get federal money to pay for things like teachers, gym facilities, etc. If PE isn’t included in the plan, there will be no funding from this source, and our kids won’t get any of the PE benefits I listed above. We owe it to make PE happen.
Here’s how we can help:
Protect PE by joining the PE Action Team at www.voicesforhealthykids.org/PE
Learn how you can work to increase PE in your community: http://physicaleducation.voicesforhealthykids.org/
Find sample letters to the editor, prescripted social messages and more here:
Support and share on social:
Twitter: @Voices4HK #ProtectPE
Every school kid deserves at least an hour a day to run around and be a kid. It makes them more happy, more healthy, and more likely to pay attention in the classroom. And that’s good for everyone. Take a minute to support Voices for Healthy Kids and let’s keep our kids moving forward.
Coach Cody and I thank you.