One of the more overwhelming needs of society today is without a doubt to effectively address and curb the ever-present danger of childhood obesity. Without a doubt, childhood obesity is one of the biggest health concerns of our time, particularly because it leads to a range of other more serious and debilitating health issues. Furthermore, finding a way to address childhood obesity in a successful manner is just so important because it is such a preventable condition, and one which absolutely does not have to be such a scourge upon society as it is. "Over the past 40 years, rates of obesity have doubled in 2- to 5-year-olds, quadrupled in 6-to 11-year-olds, and tripled in 12- to 19-year-olds. The causes of childhood obesity are complex and interconnected. The environment created by the intersection of culture, societal norms, media and technology, community assets and practices within the home all influence a family's ability to make healthy choices and to lead active lifestyles" (Whitman, 2013). These are all aspects which can't help but have an impact on a child's weight; while forward momentum has been accomplished to some extent, there is still a long way to go.
In this sense, the means of combating childhood obesity is a complex problem and one which requires a complex answer. Physical education programs that work and which are specifically designed are one way of answering part of the answer to this complex problem. A recent report from the Institute of Medicine made a strong recommendation for the importance of physical education in schools for at least 30 minutes a day of movement (Neporent, 2013). Moreover, yet another study published in the Journal of Health Economics offered the first evidence that increasing the amount of physical education in kindergarten through fifth grade will in fact minimize the chance of obesity (for boys) (Neporent, 2013). "They found that each additional 60 minutes of physical education time lowered the probability of obesity in fifth-grade boys by 4.8% and did so without cutting into academics or harming test scores" (Neporent, 2013). Thus, the importance of physical education, particularly lesson plans that kids enjoy and can fully engage in, cannot be under-estimated. They are truly important and absolutely vital for the success and health of our young people. It's not enough to have a physical education plan; the plan must be something that kids can do and enjoy so that they begin to associate physical education with something that they like, so they can develop a lifelong love and enjoyment of exercise.
This target population is in danger of associating physical fitness with things that are boring, and is in danger of thinking of it as a chore. This is so problematic because this causes children to associate exercise with things they don't like, something which can create a lifetime of avoidance of exercise and comparable behavior. There's already an issue with younger populations associating healthy eating with food that doesn't taste good, something else that can act as a barrier to complete health. Hence, the importance of an engaging and imaginative lesson plan for physical education is absolutely imperative.
The Lesson Plan
The target population is children in the first grade, who have an average age of six years. These children are high energy and generally enjoy games and physical education exercises which take advantage of the innate skills that they possess. Children of this age group can run, jump and are often very flexible. They've newly mastered values like the importance of sharing and working as a team, so lesson plans which offer team-based activities are bound to be very successful for them. Furthermore, this age group is highly imaginative: fantasy-based games and exercises within the lesson plan are a wise choice in order to capitalize on these organic skills and tendencies of this particular population. It's also worthwhile noting that children in this age group generally tend to have very short attention spans, which means that the activities selected need to reflect that.
The Ideal Lesson Plan
The ideal lesson plan for a physical education class for this target population would be one which focuses on developing a range of physical skills for the children all in a fun manner that would help to burn lots of calories in a high-energy expending manner. Having several activities within one single lesson plan is important: since children of this age group have such short attention spans, the multiple exercises help to keep them interested.
Lesson Plan: Activity One (Humphrey, 2006)
Time: 20 minutes
Name of Activity: Balance Stations
Purpose of Activity: to help students comprehend and become comfortable with the skill of balancing Grade Level: First
Resources needed: tennis rackets, tennis balls, bean bags, balance boards, balance beams, Frisbees, river rocks in the form of tires, twister (the game), tape.
Create Eight Stations around the Gym
Station One: Tennis Balls/Rackets. Kids have to take turns balancing the tennis balls on the rackets as they do different things (sit, stand, walk, jump, skip).
Station Two: Balance Beams. Students have to walk quickly across the balance beams with good posture.
Station Three: Bean Bag Body Balance: Children are given a variety of bean bags to attempt to balance on their bodies: the kids have to move/walk / skip as they balance them.
Station four: Frisbee Balance. Children have to place Frisbees on their heads and walk around while balancing the Frisbees.
Station five: River Rocks. Scatter the tires around the gym floor so that they are flat and reasonably close together. The students have to pretend that the gym floor is a river and the tires are rocks. The students have to hop from one rock to another without "falling in" to the river water (the gym floor).
Station Six: Twister. In this activity, the students have to play twister. Since the game is easy to play, students are encouraged to do their best. Also students should be told to take their shoes off when playing this game.
Station Seven: Walking the "Tight Rope." Place several lines of tape in straight lines from one end of the gym to the other, walking this imaginary tight rope, as if they were in the circus. When doing this, children have to be told to go slowly, and walk heel toe with their arms out beside them, so that they don't fall off the tightrope.
Activity Tips: Divide students into groups when engaging in these activities. Allow each group to spend five minutes or so at each station, then blow the whistle and students have to rotate to the next station.
Assessment Discussion: Once students are done with this activity, have them sit in a circle around you and ask the following questions:
What is necessary to do when balancing an object?
Which station did you find the most difficult? The easiest? Why?
How would you explain what balance is to one of your friends?
What are some tips you would offer a classmate about becoming better at balance?
The pros of this exercise are that is gets students experimenting with a range of tasks and activities that many of them have never done before. It also helps students to work together in a meaningful way. Furthermore, students get to visit a variety of stations while cheering each other on. One con of this activity is that it's not as aerobic as it could be. Thus, a potential problem could be that some of the children who are more high energy than others might not be able to focus on the tasks involved. Moreover, some of the students who aren't very well coordinated might get easily discouraged with this exercise.
Thus, one way to easily improve this particular exercise would be to make it more aerobic. In between the balancing exercises, students should be encouraged to do laps around the gym, or to bounce balls and follow them around, or to do jumping-jacks -- something to get moving more. Some of the stations within this exercise as a whole could be adjusted to be even more imaginative. For example, the balance beam exercise could be turned into a Pirate's-Walk-the-Plank exercise, so that students feel like they're suspended on a plank over the ocean, in shark-infested waters. Likewise, in the bean-bag-body balance, students could be told that all their bean-bags are filled with raw eggs and that if students drop them, then they will break. Any imaginative addendum that could be added to these activities would be ideal in helping the students further engage with the tasks.
Lesson Plan: Activity Two (Nellen, 2010)
Name of Activity: Scooter Scramble
Objective: To show scooter safety and cooperative skills using group challenges.
Grade Level: First Materials: One scooter per child, four jerseys of different colors, four garbage cans with one colored jersey, tons of balls and beanbags.
Activity Details: Students will understand the importance of scooter safety while learning how to work harmoniously as a group with a common objective in mind.…