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Bright Futures in Practice: Physical Activity

TOOL D: CHARACTERISTICS OF EXCELLENT PHYSICAL ACTIVITY PROGRAMS FOR CHILDREN AND ADOLESCENTS

Physical activity programs help prepare children and adolescents for physical activity throughout life. The way health professionals present physical activity programs to children and adolescents can greatly influence their levels of physical activity participation.1­3 Thus, it is important for health professionals who provide care for children and adolescents to become familiar with the basics of physical education programs.

There are two types of physical activity: lifestyle and structured (or systematic). Lifestyle physical activity consists of activities such as walking, climbing stairs, doing chores, and playing. Structured physical activity consists of programs (e.g., sports and instructional programs in dance, gymnastics, swimming) designed to increase the quality and/or intensity of physical activity. Structured physical activity helps children and adolescents acquire muscle strength and endurance, flexibility, and cardiovascular fitness, as well as obtain and maintain a healthy weight.

There are two categories of structured physical activity programs:
(1) physical education programs during school and (2) extracurricular physical activity programs at school or in nonschool settings. Guidelines for assessing and organizing school and community programs to promote physical activity for children and adolescents are available.4 These guidelines address policy, environment, physical education, health education, extracurricular activities, parental involvement, personnel training, health services, community programs, and program evaluation.

BFPATO_ILP60 Physical Education Programs During School

Quality physical education programs during school (1) provide children and adolescents with an opportunity to learn,1­3 (2) are developed and led by qualified teachers,5 (3) have appropriate content,6 and (4) follow appropriate instructional practices.7­9

An Opportunity to Learn

Children and adolescents have an opportunity to acquire the knowledge and skills they need to establish a healthy lifestyle by participating in quality physical education programs before kindergarten and continuing through 12th grade. To provide children and adolescents with the knowledge and skills they need, schools must have the following.1­3

  • Adequate and safe facilities.
  • A comprehensive curriculum that reflects national physical education standards, and enough equipment and materials.
  • A certified physical education teacher.
  • 150 minutes per week of scheduled physical education instruction in elementary schools and 250 minutes per week in middle and high schools.
  • No more than 30 children or adolescents in each physical education class.

Teacher Qualifications

Quality physical education programs are taught by teachers who meet state licensing requirements, which means that they meet national standards in the following areas: content, growth and development, learning styles, learner assessment, management and motivation, communication, planning and instruction, reflection, and collaboration. Teachers also need to be caring, positive role models who are dedicated to helping children and adolescents lead active, healthy lives.5

Content

A physically educated child or adolescent is defined as one who (1) has learned the skills necessary to perform a variety of physical activities, (2) is physically fit, (3) participates regularly in physical activity, (4) knows the benefits of involvement in physical activity, and (5) values physical activity and its contributions to health.6 Physical education programs should help children and adolescents obtain the knowledge and skills they need to become physically educated.

Seven national standards and accompanying benchmarks exist for determining whether a child or adolescent has the knowledge and skills needed to be considered physically educated:6

  1. Demonstrates competency in many movement forms and proficiency in a few movement forms
  2. Applies movement concepts and principles to the learning and development of motor skills
  3. Has a physically active lifestyle
  4. Achieves and maintains a health-enhancing level of physical fitness
  5. Demonstrates responsible personal and social behavior in physical activity settings
  6. Demonstrates understanding and respect for
    differences among people in physical activity
    settings
  7. Understands that physical activity provides opportunities for enjoyment, challenge, self-expression, and social interaction

The benchmarks for each of these standards provide goals or targets for assessing the child's or adolescent's learning or achievement, designing instructional units and lessons, and selecting learning experiences and movement activities.

Instructional Practices

Physical education teachers need to do the following to help children and adolescents become physically educated:7­10

  • Provide individualized instruction to meet the needs of children and adolescents whose abilities and backgrounds vary
  • Offer a variety of learning experiences in games, fitness, and sports
  • Devote a high proportion of time to learning and skill practice
  • Support varied learning styles
  • Provide authentic and meaningful formative and overall assessment
  • Include all children and adolescents in meaningful and challenging learning experiences
  • Integrate scientific principles and movement concepts into classroom instruction
  • Offer children and adolescents systematic, specific feedback based on their acquisition of skills
  • Do not use physical activity as punishment
  • Do not engage in grouping practices that embarrass or discriminate against particular children or adolescents
  • Do not give assignments and tasks that are too easy or too difficult
  • Do not conduct arbitrary, norm-referenced assessments of children and adolescents that are not related to the learning opportunities
    provided
    .

Extracurricular Physical Activity Programs

Physical activity in school is important, but opportunities for children and adolescents to participate in regular physical activity should extend beyond the school day. The following considerations are important when assessing or organizing extracurricular physical activity programs at school or in nonschool settings:4,11,12

  • All children and adolescents should participate in 30 minutes or more of moderate-intensity physical activity on most, if not all, days of the week.
  • Children's and adolescents' interests are important when planning physical activities for them.
  • Children and adolescents need successful physical activity experiences, and the goals set for them or that they set for themselves should be realistic.
  • Children and adolescents need positive feedback that focuses on participation, not outcomes. For example, a child who actively participates during a soccer game should be complimented, regardless of the game's outcome.
  • The best physical activity programs focus on enjoyment.
  • Children and adolescents need positive role models. For example, parents and other adults can be positive role models by participating in physical activity themselves.
  • Children's and adolescents' physical activity interests may differ from those of adults.
  • Children and adolescents benefit when they are encouraged to participate in physical activity.
  • Physical activity programs should help children and adolescents increase physical competence and self-efficacy.

When selecting extracurricular physical activity programs for children or adolescents, parents are advised to look for programs with the following characteristics.

Philosophy

  • The program has a written philosophy or mission statement that incorporates skill development, educational focus, fair play, and enjoyment.
  • Fun is a priority.
  • Performance and success are based on developmentally appropriate standards for children and adolescents, not adult standards.
  • Fair play, teamwork, and good sportsmanship are taught and reinforced.

Administration and Organization

  • There are published guidelines for child, adolescent, parent, coach, and spectator involvement.
  • Coaches are carefully selected and trained, undergo a background check, and are monitored. Coaches who do not meet guidelines are provided with additional training or are removed.
  • Sufficient and appropriate safety equipment is available for all children and adolescents participating in the program.
  • All aspects of children's and adolescents' growth and development (e.g., size, emotional development, skill level) are considered when practice groups or teams are selected.

Coach and Staff Qualifications and Development

  • Coaches and staff possess current safety certifications and credentials appropriate for the physical activity and the age of participants.
  • Coaches and staff are sensitive to participants' emotional and social needs and respond
    accordingly.
  • Coaches and staff are knowledgeable about the physical activity and participate in ongoing professional training.

Safety

  • Facilities are clean.
  • Equipment, and practice and competition areas, are safe and in good repair; regular inspections are conducted, and maintenance and replacement policies are enforced.
  • Appropriate safety equipment (e.g., mats, helmets, and wrist, elbow, and knee guards) is provided.
  • Coaches and staff are trained in injury prevention, first aid, and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
  • The ratio of coaches and staff to children and adolescents is appropriate. The ratio allows for adequate instruction and supervision and ensures safety at all times. (Ratios vary depending on the physical activity and on the age and skill levels of children and adolescents.)

BFPATO_PE57 Child's or Adolescent's Readiness to Participate

  • The group or team's interest level, desire to have fun, skill level, and emotional development match those of the child or adolescent.
  • The program's level of intensity and competitiveness matches the child's or adolescent's needs.
  • All children and adolescents are treated with respect and are given meaningful opportunities to learn skills and participate fully.

Parents also need to consider their own willingness and ability to support the child's or adolescent's participation in a physical activity.11 To help the child or adolescent have a positive experience, parents need to11

  • Provide the necessary time and assistance (e.g., encouragement, transportation, meeting attendance, volunteering, spectating).
  • Understand and be willing to make the necessary financial and time commitments.
  • Support the child's or adolescent's active involvement by emphasizing participation, skill development, cooperation, and teamwork.

References

  1. Ettl B, Wentell S, Weinberg H, Meneley S, Harris D, et al. 1998. Physical Education Program Improvement and Self-Study Guide: High School. Reston, VA: National Association for Sport and Physical Education.
  2. Ettl B, Wentell S, Weinberg H, Meneley S, Harris D, et al. 1998. Physical Education Program Improvement and Self-Study Guide: Middle School. Reston, VA: National Association for Sport and Physical Education.
  3. Gabbard C, Avery M, Gallagher J, Garcia C, Hartinger K, Roberts J. 1994. Physical Education Program Guidelines and Appraisal Checklist for Elementary School. Reston, VA: National Association for Sport and Physical Education.
  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 1997. Guidelines for school and community programs to promote lifelong physical activity among young people. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 46(RR-6):1­36.
  5. Tannehill D, Faucette N, Lambert L, Lambdin D, McKenzie T, et al. 1995. National Standards for Beginning Physical Education Teachers. Reston, VA: National Association for Sport and Physical Education.
  6. Rink J, Dotson C, Franck M, Hensley L, Holt-Hale S, et al. 1995. Moving into the Future: National Physical Education Standards--A Guide to Content and Assessment. Reston, VA: National Association for Sport and Physical Education.
  7. Avery M, Boos S, Chepko S, Gabbard C, Sanders S. 1995. Developmentally Appropriate Practice in Movement Programs for Young Children Ages 3­5. Reston, VA: National Association for Sport and Physical Education.
  8. Stueck P, Batesky J, Carnes M, Jacoby T, Monti B, et al. 1995. Appropriate Practices for Middle School Physical Education. Reston, VA: National Association for Sport and Physical Education.
  9. Weinberg H, Stueck P, Sander A, Harageones M, Spindt G, et al. 1998. Appropriate Practices for High School Physical Education. Reston, VA: National Association for Sport and Physical Education.
  10. National Association for Sport and Physical Education. 1995. Looking at Physical Education from a Developmental Perspective: A Guide to Teaching. Reston, VA: National Association for Sport and Physical Education.
  11. National Association for Sport and Physical Education. 1998. Choosing the Right Sport and Physical Activity. Reston, VA: National Association for Sport and Physical Education.
  12. Corbin C, Pangrazi R. 1998. Physical Activity for Children: A Statement of Guidelines. Reston, VA: National Association for Sport and Physical Education.

Suggested Reading

American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance. 1999. Physical Best Activity Guide--Elementary Level. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance. 1999. Physical Best Activity Guide--Secondary Level. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Cooper KH. 1991. Kid Fitness: A Complete Shape Up Program from Birth to High School. New York, NY: Bantam Books.

Dougherty N IV, ed. 1994. Principles of Safety in Physical Education and Sport (2nd ed.). Reston, VA: National Association for Sport and Physical Education.

Graham G, Castenada R, Hopple C, Manross M, Sanders S. 1992. Developmentally Appropriate Physical Education Practices for Children. Reston, VA: National Association for Sport and Physical Education.

Hichwa J. 1998. Right Fielders Are People Too: An Inclusive Approach to Teaching Middle School Physical Education. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Jefferies S. 1996. Assessing Learning in Physical Education Motor Skills. Ellensburg, WA: Central Washington University.

Mehrhof J, Ermler K. 1996. Ideas III: Middle School Physical Activities for a Fit Generation. Reston, VA: National Association for Sport and Physical Education.

National Association for Sport and Physical Education. 1993. 101 Ways to Promote Physical Activity and Sport. Reston, VA: National Association for Sport and Physical Education.


Safrit MJ. 1995. Complete Guide to Youth Fitness Testing. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.


Sammann P, ed. 1998. Active Youth: Ideas for Implementing CDC Physical Activity Promotion Guidelines. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

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