How to Make Quality Physical Education a Priority in Schools (Thoughts About the Film “No Excuses!”)

Children playing in front of Storefront Academy.

Children playing in front of Storefront Academy.

Watch the film “No Excuses!”>>>

Imagine trying to provide young students with a quality physical education at a school where there is no access to a gymnasium or playground, and the only place they have to be active is on the city street where parked cars line the sidewalks or at a rental space 10-minutes from the school.

This is the case at the Storefront Academy, a school filled with at-risk children in the heart of Harlem, New York. When it comes to fitness and physical education their situation looks almost impossible. That is until Dr. Cathrine Himberg comes to give the school a makeover and prove that even the worst situations can be turned around to implement the physical education that all students deserve. In the film “No Excuses!” I got an inside look at this unique project and observed the change a group of committed people can make and the example it has set for the nation.

Find the Role Models

The first step they took to jump-start the new program was hiring a different physical education teacher. They needed someone who was on-board and ready to educate the children, not just babysit them. The next step was showing the entire staff how important it was. These steps were crucial because the teachers and adults in the school are the role models. When children see the people they look up to taking an active role in physical education, then it is easier to spread the positivity. In the film, they even had famous athletes come in and participate with the students to show them how fun and rewarding it is to be active.

Help the Students Understand

Next, they focused on helping the children understand why an active lifestyle is necessary. I noticed all of the adults enthusiastically participated with the children. They didn’t just instruct them to do things, but they adjusted their teaching roles so they were active along with the students. They also asked the students several questions about how they feel when they exercise and their favorite games. They then explained the good things that they were doing for their bodies.

Get Parental Support

Parents are a physical education teacher’s best allies. This reality was highlighted in the film. Physical education may be the only time some students get any intense exercise, however, when you get parents involved, it’s more likely to become an important part of students’ lives.

Put it All in Play

Now all they had to do was put their plans in motion. They did this by extending recess and physical education time, adding action-based learning, installing new equipment, giving their food services a makeover and finding ways to work around their limited space.

As many a teacher knows, what happens on the playground usually travels back into the classroom. To combat the negative side of this reality, they included recess coaches that would make sure the children were being constructive during this time. (This would be a great time for them to implement Fitness Finders’ Mileage Club®!)

So, No Excuses!

A growing body of evidence continues to prove that physical activity boosts brain activity. Teachers and youth workers have a chance to improve students’ overall ability to learn by simply improving and creating new opportunities for activity. Children will become better students in the classroom and this gives them an opportunity at a brighter future. Physical education can save education  as a whole, so make it the best it can be!

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