By Jana McAdams, PE Teacher
The words “physical education” have the ability to evoke a variety of thoughts, memories, and feelings. Thoughts of glorified free-play or the “easy A class.” Memories of the weekly mile or the football coach teacher. Feelings of anxiety about having to dress out or of pride as you were the first one picked for kickball.
In an education system of constant change and growth, it is no surprise that physical education has been evolving along the way. Long gone are the days of synchronized calisthenics and drills, of a teacher just rolling out a ball, of students being singled out in large elimination games. Although there still may be faint traces of these old ways of “learning” in some physical education classes, a more positive shift towards teaching students to become lifelong movers has been emerging. This fun and informative three-minute video does a good job of explaining some of these themes.
Here are three ways that physical education has been changing its focus over the years:
- Teaching students about health-related concepts. When students begin to learn how to assess their own physical fitness and demonstrate knowledge of how to improve their health in this area, they are able to make good, autonomous decisions about their health that will impact their future. Students can apply this knowledge when they are no longer in physical education class and are able to use these principles to lead them towards being a lifelong mover.
- Encouraging movement in all types of activities. Introducing students to a wide range of activities helps them learn various strategies which in turn helps them develop new movement skills. This way of teaching supports the ideal of lifelong movers, rather than possibly lowering interest in students by starting off focusing on sport-specific skills. If students are using strategies to learn skills through games and activities rather than through sports that they may have a negative mindset about, they will experience a higher level of enjoyment in physical activity. Students will feel competent in basic fundamental movements, which will more likely lead them to be active throughout their lifespan.
- Engaging students’ minds. It is important for students to be able to engage in thinking as they take part in moving. Learning strategies, understanding how to do movements, and transferring concepts across activities deepens students’ knowledge as movers. If students regularly engage their minds and thinking, they will be able to use critical thinking to make wise decisions about their health in the future, leading them towards a lifetime of health-conscious behavior.
As students begin to experience the new path of physical education, they will be able to emerge as competent thinkers and movers who can make autonomous decisions that will positively impact their health for the rest of their lives.