role of physical education in the public school system has been under pressure from a number of fronts. In the contracting budgetary environment, the amount of dollars dedicated to non-core curriculum studies have experiences forced cut backs. When academic achievement levels are suffering across the board, many school systems make the mistake of cutting phys ed budgets in order to bolster focus on core academic areas. However, school systems that make this choice are often starving the goose that can help lay the golden egg. Studies and experiential evidence demonstrate that academic achievement is tied to both proper educational methods in the classroom, and a curriculum which focuses on developing the entire student, including his or her body through physical education.
For example, according to Maier (2001) 49 states no longer have a daily requirement for physical education. Illinois is a lone exception, and the school system is reaping the dividends for area schools there. In Naperville, a community 35 miles west of Chicago, residents feared that so much attention was being paid to physical education that test scores would drop. The concern however has proven to be misdirected. In 1999, the school district competed in the Third International Mathematics and Science Study with 38 countries and 14 school jurisdictions in the United States, and Naperville scored the highest in the United States on both math- and science-achievement tests and highest overall in the world in science. Phil Lawler, coordinator of Naperville's K-12 physical-education program says, "Daily physical education certainly was a positive factor. Brain researchers say physical activity is fertilization for the brain. If you want to classify it, it is the Miracle Grow." (Maier, 2001)
In other areas of the nation, the competitive nature of physical education programs is being called into question because of misplaced academic theory. Educators are questioning that because competition creates winners and losers, the losers may experience a diminished self-esteem, which could consequentially harm their academic performance (Shoemaker, 2001) Naperville is demonstrating the folly of this kind of academic doublespeak.
The goal of physical education is to allow students to learn by epxereince the benefits of including physical fitness in their evolving lifestyle. According to AAHPERD National Youth Task Force report, physical fitness is "a physical state of well being that allows people to:
1) perform daily activity with vigor, 2) reduce their risk of health problems related to lack of exercise, and 3) establish a fitness base for participation in a variety of physical activities." (McSwegin et al., 1989).
This research seeks to find evidence of the beneficial affects of well rounded physical educational programs in elementary and secondary schools. By reviewing literature, news reports and studies, we attempt to show that in order to create a scholastic environment which is beneficial to the student for academic achievement, that physical education should be included as part of the core curriculum.
Educating students about the benefits of improved personal fitness will help make other lifetime skill activities more relevant in the physical education curriculum.
The need for promoting wellness-based curriculums at the secondary level has been well documented (Smith & Cestaro, 1992; Smith, 1985). A six-week fitness unit, focused on educating students about the benefits of improved personal fitness through pra ctice and experience can help make other lifetime skill activities such as tennis, canoeing, and cross-country skiing more relevant and enjoyable as the student transitions into adult life.
In developing a fitness curriculum, less emphasis should be placed on improving the individual fitness levels of students as students are measured against one another, such as happens through competition. Educators are using phys ed curriculum to help students gain the cognitive and affective skills necessary to take responsibility for their own fitness level, now and throughout their lives. Becaue sports are a part of physical education, the competition aspect of physical education should not be avoided completely. By encouraging the use of fitness assessment tools, team and individual games, fitness equipment, and exercise videos, students can come into a rich experience of physical education.
When constructing a core phys ed curriculum, Smith (1994) suggests following four main goals:
1. Students should be directed to develop a greater understanding of the role fitness components play in managing overall health-related fitness.
2. Students should experience how to assess personal fitness levels.
3. Students will learn, practice, and participate in a variety of physical activities, all of which aim to improve fitness.
4. Students will design a personal fitness program of sports and activities which they personally enjoy.
When included in overall physical education, sport education provides experiences that are more whole and actual that conventional physical education. By including sport education, student do not suffer from lack of self-esteem, as is being demonstragted in Naperville. Rather they are meant to provide students with chances to experience sport in a rich, meaningful way. Physical education classes under the sport education model are designed to enhance the most outstanding features of sports experiences while making sure that they are educationally sound. The sport education model offers an alternative approach to the more traditional physical education curriculum. "Sport education provides experiences that are more complete and authentic than typical PE sport" (Siedentop, 1994, p. 3). As a result, students have opportunities to experience sport in a rich and meaningful way.
The teacher's job is to arrange the conditions so students can participate responsibly and independently of the teacher. In order for this model to be implemented successfully, the physical educator must establish effective communication within the class. Students must be given a clear picture of this approach. Students must be able to cooperate and communicate among themselves, as they will be part of a team structure, skills which they will be able to apply in other educational settings as the team approach to learning becomes more integrated into the classroom. In addition, students must feel comfortable in sharing their ideas with the teacher. The physical educator must listen to suggestions and be willing to implement those that are important and/or necessary. The sport education model will flourish, and thus create an environment of camaraderie and cooperation when implemented as an overall approach to fitness, rather than as a means of evalutating one student against another.
Teams and student roles.
The physical educator must determine the number of teams that will compete during the season. This number will depend on the sport being played, the number of students in class, and the amount of space and equipment available. Once the number of teams has been decided, the physical educator must determine how teams are selected. A critical aspect of sport education is the notion of well-matched teams, therefore the entire experience is more beneficial if teams are matched in ability. This process differs from current secondary physical education practices, where teams are often determined by "counting off" and may change from day-to-day. Several methods may be used to select teams., but in order to build the comradery, maintaining teams throughout the unit will benefit the entire learning experience. When students know that a variety of sports will be experienced, and that the teams will not change, students are generally very careful to make the teams as evenly matched as possible. In the event it is found that teams are badly matched, the physical educator may elect to conduct a private "draft" in which students may be traded to other teams in exchange for other players.
By having teams with a variety of skill levels and experiences, the physical educator can introduce the notion of teams within teams and the importance of valuing the different skills and talents which each person brings to the team. For example, in tennis, a student could be the number one, or two player of the team and compete against the identically numbered player from another team. When the sports change, the students will likely discover that different students become valuable to the team.
Multiculturalism in the Physical education curriculum.
By constructing teams which will remain together, and allowing student to experience the contribution of individual strengths and weaknesses of different student, the entire phys ed experience become one of appreciating the individual rather than identifying the 'alpha male' and the 'class geek.' In another approach to integrating phys ed into current educational paradigms, the establishment of a Cultural Studies (CS) unit in a high school physical education program was "found to be instrumental in making the students realize the importance of sports in their lives. The CS unit is a curricular initiative that has the goal of engendering an integrated, sustained, practical and intellectual participation in sport and physical activity." (O'Sullivan, 1999)
According to a survey, CS unit was recently implemented and evaluated by students and their teacher in an urban Midwestern high school, where it represented a significant change in the physical education curriculum. The students found that by learning about the cultural aspects of physical activity, they discovered a newfound enjoyment of physical education, and understood the relevance…