Open thread: Presidential Physical Fitness Award, Gym and Sports

Please continue to post links to your school district’s school lunch menus. I’m going to figure out what I want to do with all that data… It’s so interesting to see what your kids are eating.

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Our guest poster on Thursday briefly touched on the Presidential Physical Fitness Award and how that is torture for most of us. Why do we put so many kids through that if it only makes them feel crappier about themselves? I wasn’t overweight in school, but I couldn’t pass the requirements. The worst was doing it in front of all of your classmates. Like I said in a comment on that post, I am not flexible so the sit-and-reach was an automatic failure. Also I am not a runner so I doing a 10 minute mile would actually be a personal best. And for overweight kids? What’s the point? Jeez. Is there a way to change this award for the better? I think there is a Presidential Academic Fitness Award, but it doesn’t get nearly enough play. Have you heard of an Academic Fitness award?

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My students LOVE gym class. And I enjoyed gym as a kid too. I remember playing tetherball during recess in elementary school. That was fantastic! We regularly got hit (lightly) in the face, which is probably why you don’t see too many tetherballs any more. That and they probably get stolen.

Also I remember playing tons of prison ball/dodge ball. In high school we switched through various units and tried out different sports.  I enjoyed flag football, badminton, square dancing (I complained but I like holding the different boys’ hands), archery, and even bowling at a local alley. What did you do in gym class?

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In high school I played on the volleyball and softball teams, but even though I played for years I never lettered. I don’t remember the requirements (I probably blocked them out). Too bad I couldn’t letter for enthusiastic participation. Recently I heard that the “three sport athlete” no longer exists; most kids focus on one sport now. Is that true? What do you know about high school sports these days?

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46 Responses to Open thread: Presidential Physical Fitness Award, Gym and Sports

  1. Erin May 15, 2010 at 3:21 pm #

    Our schools have switched from the Presidents Fitness Award to FitnessGram. The v-sit reach (which I still hold the record for at my elementary) has been replaced with a shoulder flexibility test. It seems to be a pretty fair test and all the students do it at the same time with the teacher checking that it's being done correctly so there's never a time that the kids are singled out.

    In middle school and high school the boys and girls were split up for gym which I loved because the girls' coach focused on lifetime sports and fitness skills. We did aerobics, tennis, jump rope, swimming, dance, and more. The boys basically stood in line to shoot baskets with no heart rate elevation whatsoever.

    In large schools it's very difficult to participate in more than one sport. Or even sports at all if you are involved in something like band. I think in smaller schools you still have the kids that "do it all." I did cheerleading in middle school and dance team in high school. I am afraid of balls and never tried out for any ball sports teams. My husband participated in football, baseball, and swim team.

  2. hillary May 15, 2010 at 3:55 pm #

    I had a terrible experience in elementary school PE. I was labelled by the PE teacher as uncoordinated, so he would give me 10 extra strikes when playing softball or kick ball. 10 extra chances at humiliation while the teacher laughed at my attempts! It was a small school so he taught PE to all grades. I finally escaped him in junior high and had a female PE teacher who would map a running course through town and follow us in her car shouting, "HUSTLE, LADIES!" out the window. Then in eighth grade a new PE teacher was hired and he was awesome! We did so many more activities, were graded against our personal bests rather than against each other, and were supported/encouraged rather than verbally abused. My favorite things were the weight lifting unit and the multi-sport tournaments he'd organize (we competed in randomly assigned pairs)…stuff like badminton, ping-pong, and shuffleboard. I also liked archery, square dancing, and jumping rope. The gymnastics unit was also fun and I got a good grade even though I sucked at it because I tried hard and participated in all the activities. My mom teaches PE to her fifth graders and the stuff they do is really fun…far more collaborative/personal skill building, with more skilled students teaching less skilled ones. They even do juggling!

  3. Red May 15, 2010 at 3:55 pm #

    With the amount of homework that is assigned to my kids in high school, it is difficult to participate in several extra curricular activities. I have one in band, one in orchestra & color guard, and my daughter who is entering high school in the coming year is planning on tennis and band. The one thing I like about our school district is a built in study hall during the school day which enables them to work on homework and also the district has a rule imposed on all teachers limiting the amount of homework assigned to students so that their entire evening is not spent on homework. Of course, when writing assignments are due, there is extra time spent, but still, it is a good system I think and allows kids to participate in sports or band more readily.

  4. Prince Andrew and the Queen Mum May 15, 2010 at 4:02 pm #

    my husband was number one in the school for everything sports and couldn't pass it. He couldn't do the pull ups so didn't get it. yea..it's stupid.

  5. ElectricDaisy May 15, 2010 at 4:11 pm #

    I took high school PE in 2003. We only had to do one year. I remember doing what I think was the Presidential Fitness Test…I distinctly remember the Sit and Reach test, for which I broke the record but they wouldn't count it because I was a sophomore, and having to do pull-ups. (I did…ONE!) We did a variety of activities in gym: archery, softball, "hockey" (neither ice nor roller,just in the gym), flag football, badminton, etc. Wednesdays were for running a mile, and because I lived in northern Arizona where it gets quite cold, especially early in the morning when I had PE, we often got to stay in the gym and just do aerobics, yoga, or silly things like hula hooping and the like.

    Thinking about PE brought back a lot of memories for me!

  6. Mandy May 15, 2010 at 4:21 pm #

    I remember the President's Physical Fitness test…and really dreaded that time of year. I was not really an athletic kid growing up, but wasn't out of shape either. But this test really made me dislike exercising. Instead of feeling better after accomplishing so much, I felt lame for not being able to keep up with the in-shape girls. In PE, we were split up boys/girls. I remember square dancing (ick) and playing LOTS of Prison Ball.

    I grew up going to a really small HS in West Texas, where most of the athletes played 2 sports at least! There were a few that did play 3 or 4 and some that added Band or Cheerleading. I was a "band geek" and chose that over athletics in high school, but I know at least in West TX, football is the priority of the whole town. My husband grew up in SE New Mexico, and played football, basketball and baseball.

  7. Kate May 15, 2010 at 4:43 pm #

    My own high school physical education experience was not that great. Basically, every couple of weeks they tossed out a new ball – my friend and I would ask if we could just jog on the track and the answer was usually "yes".

    At the elementary schools in the school system where I work, I think they do a fantastic job with PE. There is a huge focus on team work, and problem solving. They talk a lot about about being active, and respect for the other team.

    We also have a wellness policy in place – I don't know much about how it has impacted school lunch, but it has changed how things are done in the classroom. Students are not bringing in cupcakes for the class on their birthday – instead they bring a special story to read to the class, or perhaps a song to share. The teachers are also finding ways that are not food related in which to reward the class. There isn't a pizza party to celebrate a certain number of days of "good behavior", but instead they have "slipper day", or "crazy hair day". I think it's great – we can reward ourselves and it doesn't have to be food related!

  8. Anita May 15, 2010 at 5:20 pm #

    Not much, but I'm learning. šŸ™‚
    My 8th grade daughter made the high school field hockey team this past September, and it was an eye opener to me to see how much practicing they do (5 days a week, two hours), the team building socializing activities, the consequences for being late or absent, etc.
    But…I understand it, and feel that my daughter is benefiting from it. Maybe others would do better on neighborhood teams.

  9. Ashley May 15, 2010 at 5:39 pm #

    I have never been overweight, but the Presidential Fitness test was always a horror for me. I dreaded it all during the spring and tried EVERYTHING to get out of it because I just couldn't meet most of the requirements. We didn't have a gym or gym class in elementary school–just recess (3 up to 3rd grade and 2 in 4th & 5th–so I went so far as to complain about the rocks pressing into my back and head when we had to do sit-ups, etc. on the grass.

    Our high school at the time I was enrolled only held 10th thru 12th grades, although 9th grade was still included even though it was held in the junior high. (They are now one campus.) We only had to take one P.E. elective, and that was generally taken in 9th grade. Only taking it for half a semester in 4 years cannot be effective at all! I actually got out of P.E. because I was having major back problems and osteomyelitis.

    In college, we also had to take a kinesiology elective, but once again, it was structured just like in high school. If physical education was required every year throughout the year, it might keep us in shape. However, I know it would still be a source of embarrassment for the physically unfit, including me, and for those with physical limitations.

    We learned to square dance in music class in elementary school. We had twice as many guys as girls, so I was happy that I always could get a good partner!

  10. The Smacca May 15, 2010 at 5:45 pm #

    I, personally, had a bad experience with the program as a kid. In elementary school, I wasn't an overweight or especially un-fit child (we pretty much lived outdoors, not doing anything organized, but running around and generally being active), but shy and perfectionistic and picked-on and low-self-esteem-y. My scores were… average and good enough to get the award, but I was never one of the best.

    By secondary school, the program (and all the "rating," Presidential or not) pretty much stopped rewarding general all-around decent health and started rewarding kids who played specific sports. In high school, a few of my swim team teammates asked if we could have the entire class SWIM a mile and then rank our entire class by time, since the cross-country team was always tops for the mile run, and therefore more "cardiovascularly fit" than we were. Our PE teachers, probably (a) not wanting to deal with the hassle, and (b) not wanting to have to rescue drowning non-swim-team-members, refused.

    And therein lies my my beef. Rather than celebrating general good health, fitness, and lifestyles, it rewards being good at a few specific tasks.

    Not flexible? NOT FIT! Never mind that some people are just more flexible than others… and certain types of muscle-building (a "fit" trait) make it more difficult to bend certain ways. Not able to keep your chin above the bar in the bent-arm-hang? NOT FIT! Never mind that a national-level swim coach told a group of us that that task specifically favors people with shorter arms and he put absolutely zero faith in it as a measure of strength. Not able to run a mile in a certain time? NOT FIT! Never mind that such a test favors people who run, specifically, even though other activities (cycling, swimming, specifically) require just as much cardiovascular fitness.

    I don't know what the solution is, but everything I know and believe as a teacher screams tells me that this is a bad way of looking at the fitness/health level of a child. Somehow, it needs to be more holistic.

  11. Carolyn May 15, 2010 at 5:51 pm #

    I have heard of the Academic Fitness Award because I won one as a 5th grader, but I didn't know they were still around. In our elementary school we don't do the Presidential Fitness tests because students don't usually win them. It just ends up taking the time of the PE teacher during the time of year when she is demonstrating Field Day activities. We did do it in elementary school and I'm not sure I was ever able to do a chin up in my life. I remember doing a lot of stations in elementary school PE. In middle school I remember doing units related to different sports and in HS we walked a lot of laps. I know nothing about current high school sports….wait, any HS sports šŸ™‚ as I was in marching band (which we could letter in as a sport–you mentioned letters the other day…). I don't know what they do now. In elementary school I remember recess being longer and we had the freedom to play with students in other grades at any activity we chose. At the school I'm at as a teacher we limit the number of students on the playground and it is required that teachers have lesson plans for their class with a planned activity. This practice has both pros and cons in my opinion. It ensures that students have 30 minutes of fitness a day, but decreases the amount of time for students to play on their own, solve their own problem, and use their imaginations.

  12. Monica May 15, 2010 at 5:55 pm #

    There is a Presidential Award for academics. There's actually also one for volunteer work.

    I remember the fitness tests in grade school. The pull-ups were the worst – in early elementary, I was too short to reach the pull-up bar on its lowest setting, so I had to stand there jumping trying to reach it (apparently fitness test rules didn't allow for accommodations…like a step-stool? Or maybe that gym teacher was just a jerk.)

    I went to two elementary schools. Gym at the first one was pretty nondescript, lots of tag and dodgeball. The teacher at the second one was excellent – she did lots of unusual stuff, like 4-way volleyball with giant beach balls, learning to juggle, or challenges – getting the whole class across the gym without touching the floor using only 3 tires and a piece of rope, things like that. The focus was mainly on teamwork and being active, not on skills. She also ran a great program for kids with asthma. We got pulled out of regular class once a month for an extra gym class, where we'd talk about ways to manage our asthma and play games. We'd get to vote on what games to play that month. The point was to teach us that having asthma didn't mean we couldn't play sports/be active. She had a lot of posters of Jackie Joyner Kersee!

    Middle school gym was terrible. The teachers were awful, most of the units were organized sports (the only ones I remember that weren't were rollerskating and archery, and archery got nixed after Columbine). Worse was the grading: your grade was based a lot on skill. After basketball, for example, you had to take a test of free-throws and lay-ups. The main effect of that was that we all made sure to get A's in health class, which was part of our gym grade, to off-set our terrible skills grades.

    High school was a mixed bag. The teachers were better, but the classes were huge, and you had to put up with the jocks who would harass the non-athletes and take over the game. You at least had choices, though. Each class had 3 or 4 teachers, and each teacher would run a different set of units each quarter. (The gym had those movable divider walls.) Everyone would do some things, like basketball, but each teacher would also do more unique things, like rollerblading, yoga/pilates, badminton, or self-defense. You also had the option one year to take Project Adventure instead of regular gym (you couldn't take it twice because demand for the class was high). Project Adventure is a rock-wall climbing/ropes course alternative gym program. We had an auxiliary gym with rock walls and lots of other elements, plus a full ropes course in the woods out back. The first quarter was spent learning to belay and doing team-building exercises. One of the great things about that class, besides being fun, was the grading system. As long as you made an effort, you could get an A: grading was on a points system. You had to meet a quota for each letter grade for the quarter. You got 1 point for being a back-up belayer on someone else's climb, 2 for main belay, 3 for attempting an element, 4 for getting half-way, and 5 for completing it. I didn't complete many elements, but I tried a lot. And I got good enough at belaying that I could belay anyone in the class – including the 250+lb guys – despite being the smallest one. That program did wonders for my self-confidence, and was the only year that I actually looked forward to gym class!

  13. Jamie Haven May 15, 2010 at 6:09 pm #

    Elementary school gym was great; I remember a fair mix of team activities like kickball, musical activities, and the occasional parachute day (everyone's favorite!), with days when we got to go outside and do pretty much whatever we wanted. Kids would often form kickball games or jump rope circles on those days, but I spent most of my time on the "jelly mold" monkey bars.

    Once I got to middle school, though, I actually wasn't allowed to participate in gym most of the time. My face gets pretty red under the slightest exertion, and despite several tests and notes from doctors my teachers considered it a "risk" to make me do anything too strenuous. I was a little overweight in elementary school, but middle school is really when it started adding up. I didn't lose the weight until I moved out on my own; between not having much money for food and working full-time at Starbucks (lots of coffee and physical activity), I lost 80 lbs. in 6 months, and I've kept most of it off for 10 years.

    I was encouraged not to run the mile ("just walk around the track until everyone else is done"), so of course I never passed that one, and the pull-up was a joke, but I always passed the V sit & reach. I seem to remember a few of the more athletic kids in my high school getting certificates for their marks; according to the official website, there are even medals.

  14. Noel May 15, 2010 at 8:10 pm #

    My school has been doing the Presidential Challenge for about four or five years. You're right, it is definitely embarassing. They've changed it a little in my school: it used to be that the other kids would be doing something else while we were doing the flexibility test or pull-ups, or whatever, but now everyone just sits and stares at you. It's embarassing, since I can't even reach where we're supposed to start for the flexibility, but no one really watches too closely other than the teacher.

    For the mile run, we do it twice a year and mainly the second time kids slack off, as we already tried our best the first time.

    For the pull-ups, girls my age only have to do one pull-up to make Presidential, but most of them can't even do that, me included, so that isn't embarassing.

    We don't play dodgeball or anything like it in gym. Our principal thinks its encouragement for targeting kids for bullies. But we play number soccer, relay races, shortened basketball games, and stuff like that.

  15. zahirah.com May 15, 2010 at 9:11 pm #

    Why do we put so many kids through the Presidential Fitness Test if it only makes them feel crappier about themselves?
    Good question. I'm not necessarily against the idea of a fitness test, IF it's doable and IF the children are trained for it. I always felt like a total loser in PE.

    Years later, when I was in grad school, I got scuba certified at the university. It was a quarter-long course, and very intense physically. Every Tuesday and Thursday we had to do circuits in the pool. The first time, I couldn't even finish. They stopped us after 20 minutes, and I was one of three who didn't finish. By the end of the quarter I was doing them in 11 minutes, if I remember correctly, and I felt great about my progress.

    So if children are given a semester to prepare for the exam, and their results are charted so they can clearly see their improvement, I think that is motivating for them all. If they are encouraged to compete with themselves (to improve their own time) rather than against others, even better.

  16. Anonymous May 15, 2010 at 9:12 pm #

    I had a great experience with high school gym class and sports. My family did not do any sports, and we were not active.
    I discovered sports and fitness through school-sponsored sports programs; Volley ball, Track and Cross-Country. I had a great experience doing sports through school, I was able to gain confidence and gain a lifetime love of running.

    There may be some over-scheduled exhausted children who are pushed too hard by their parents to excel at specific sports. There are many more children who could greatly benefit from a school sports program and who would not get such an opportunity any other way.

  17. Anonymous May 15, 2010 at 9:30 pm #

    My absolute best gym experience came in 8th grade when I was in junior high. For my entire life, PE had been a (mortifying) coed experience. It's not secret that the boys are often better than the girls in sports (and while I enjoy sports, I am not the most coordinated girl on the planet, so playing coed baseball, soccer, football, etc was never as fun as it COULD have been).

    BUT, for one semester in 8th grade, the male and female PE coaches decided to try something new. They traded half their students. The male coach took all the boys, and the female coach took all the girls, and in what would normally be frowned upon as a sexist move–the boys went off and played football, and the girls dragged out boxes of jump-ropes. I'll never forget how much fun it was. Not only is jumping rope one of the best forms of exercise you can get, we got REALLY good at it.

    Our coach agreed to let us split into teams for a friendly competition, and after a month's practice, we were doing cartwheels into a double-dutch jump-rope and skipping in coordination to music. There were prizes involved, and the other PE classes going on at that time were all invited to come watch the competition that day.

    It was no-holds barred, and I am firmly convinced it's because they split up the sexes and let the girls just be girls. No one felt awkward. No one had boys groaning because we threw a baseball like a girl (duh…), and because we had REQUESTED to jump rope, it's not like we had a "girl sport" forced upon us. All in all, it was a great time, and I pined for it the rest of my school experience.

    With that in mind, I bet splitting up classes and letting the girls do their president's fitness test one day, and the boys do it another, would take part of the torture out of the experience. Girls wouldn't have to chew their nails anxiously as they watched one boy after another knock out ten pull-ups. Boys who weren't as adept as their peers wouldn't have the added horror of having girls watch them walk across the finish line during the mile. I know boys will still tease boys, and girls may still gossip about girls, but at least you're cutting out half of the anxiety by splitting up the class for the test. Students would only have members of their own sex watching, and I think that would help ease a significant amount of stress that so many kids feel during those vulnerable teen years.

  18. ElectricDaisy May 15, 2010 at 9:53 pm #

    The comment about the archery program being stopped after Columbine reminded me of my high school – I already mentioned that we got to do archery, but I just remembered that only the girls were allowed to. The boys were deemed too immature and irresponsible to handle it. That always made me laugh.

  19. Woolridge ES Green Club May 15, 2010 at 11:23 pm #

    Isn't part of the purpose of the test to collect data to see how physically fit (or not) our kids are? Did the information get sent to a central location for analysis?

  20. Anonymous May 15, 2010 at 11:36 pm #

    We had the Presidential Physical Fitness and Presidential Academic Award in my elementary school. I didn't know about the Academic Award until I got one at our 6th grade graduation. The Physical Fitness one was maddening. I was a fairly athletic kid (in the top 2 or 3 of the girls in my grade). The only reason I didn't get the award? I could only do 1 full pull up and another half of one instead of 2 full pull ups. I passed everything else.

    For our gym, we often had parents that came a couple times a week and pulled out half the class while the other half worked on math. It ended up being for about half an hour each. I remember playing soccer with one parent. Another, fondly called "Coach", did all sorts of activities with us. Steal the Bacon, Capture the Flag, Nation Ball/Dodge Ball, Basketball…

    The most that I remember about middle school PE was that there was a ton of running.

    And high school? We were required to take two years. The first year, I had a fantastic teacher who pushed us all to just do better. There were homework/paper assignments to help out the grades of those that were less athletic. We swam, ran, played volleyball, flag football and lifted weights. I don't remember much of the second year.

    I did do marching band throughout high school, so no sports. There just wasn't enough time to do both. I do know that there were multiple people who did a couple sports and excelled in all that they chose to do.

  21. Anonymous May 16, 2010 at 1:36 am #

    My first and second grade year (early 80s), the gym teacher only cared about the President's test. It was torture. I always managed to just barely avoid the green ribbon of shame which came with a note to take home to your parents.

    Splitting the sexes for this regimented shaming would not even remotely help. There was a clear standard, and meeting it was not possible. My max time at the flex arm hang was 0.0 s. I was a heavy kid with low upper body strength, and it wasn't going to happen unless gravity stopped working. The gymnastics and ballet girls did wonderfully, and the rest of us just tried to avoid being totally humiliated.

    I got a decent teacher for the rest of elementary school whose principle failing was assuming we all knew what the rules for common sports like baseball were. I didn't know that if they caught a fly you were out, even if you got to the base first. Much embarrassment ensued. I did alright as long as the rules were actually explained.

    I did not take gym after elementary school because it was avoidable, and I'd rather have died than changed clothes in public. Besides, by then it was clear gym wasn't a class where anything good was going to happen to me.

    I did recreational-league soccer outside school until there weren't enough kids to have both rec-league and classics (crazy hyper-competitive). The parents picked classics and my mom pulled me out to keep me safe.

  22. k.emily May 16, 2010 at 2:27 am #

    i didnt have to take p.e. in high school because i was on dance team. my sister wont have to take p.e. either because she's on cheer. the rule is two years of a varsity sport gets you out of p.e. but you only need 2 semesters of p.e. anyway. in middle school we had to take p.e. both semesters of every year. i hated it. i hate running. when we had to run the mile it took me 15 minutes. (mostly because i walked). in elementary school though we always had tetherball, handball, foursquare, etc. at recess and lunchtime but we only had p.e. once in a while.

  23. Anonymous May 16, 2010 at 2:53 am #

    I can't pass on the flex-arm hang, where you have to hold yourself up for a certain amount of time above the bar, varying for your age and gender. In elementary school, we would do pull-ups but now we've changed it.

    It is pretty uncomfortable to do these things in front of the class, it's true. We also do sit & reach, sit-ups, (you have to do at least 25 I think, but some people, including myself, can do fifty. At least in that one you only go in with 8 or so people at a time.) the mile, (which we all dread)the pacers,(also dreaded, it's where you run across the gym to the beeps on the radio)and then something new we do this year, the "tree log" or something like that.

    The "tree log" is strange – you lay on the ground stomach down with your hands on your thighs underneath you and lift your upper-body up. Then someone measures you to see how many inches you can get up. Once again, it varies on your age and gender.

    The worst is how in things like the "tree log" and the sit and reach you gather around it with your class. The teacher measures you and a student, anyone, will write down your measure by your name.

  24. ANI May 16, 2010 at 3:30 am #

    I've been wondering about the Fitness Test for a while, since I did all of my secondary schooling in Russia. Someone at my office mentioned it last week, so it's interesting it's coming up on this blog.

    I've been lucky, I'd say, compared to most people in this country. Although I have NO idea if such standards of physical fitness exist in current Russia, in the Soviet Union we had to pass the equivalent of the Presidents' Fitness test EVERY year, beginning in grade 4. Moreover, you could not graduate w/out passing the test, since all grades were recorded in the HS diploma, and PE was graded, just like all other subjects. I only remember the timed running, sit-ups, pull-ups, push-ups and maybe climbing rope? as components of the test. The requirements got more stringent with each grade year, as the students physically grew and (hopefully) got stronger.

    On the negative side, the fitness programs were tailored towards developing skills necessary to defend the Motherland. We were taught to shoot targets and throw fake grenades, as well as putting on gas masks etc, but that's another story. However, the requirements ensured that at least SOME level of fitness was upheld among the grades. Unfortunately, I don't remember the exact school schedules anymore, but I think we had 1.5 hrs of gym twice per week, every grade 4-11. Elementary school was a little lass stringent, I think we had an hour twice a week in addition to recess.

    The basic structure of gym was dictated by the weather – track and field in spring and fall, LOTS of running, and x-country skiing in the winter, with ball sports indoors when too cold – dodge ball in middle school, volleyball and basketball in high. I was never exceptionally fit (to this day I can't run a mile w/out getting a stitch in my side), but won awards for sit-ups and pull-ups a couple of years in a row in middle school.

    I credit that persistent PE education with allowing me to letter in soccer and swimming when I came to the States and had to do the 3-sports-per-year schedule. I was also, frankly, astonished at the lack of physical education AND the crappy quality of food at my (very expensive) boarding school. I do not yet have children, but I dread the days when I will have to deal with the school lunches and the lack of cohesiveness I see in the American school systems as a parent.

  25. Anonymous May 16, 2010 at 4:15 am #

    I think they should banish the annual fitness tests because 3/4 of my high school gym class didn't pass most of the standards set by their height/weight class. I think the government has lost sight of the people behind the numbers & are placing much too much reliance on what the numbers tell them than what the PEOPLE are saying.

    For me, gym was torture, pure & simple. I've always been a fat girl, & I still am, now that I'm out of school. Gym class was co-ed & we had 2 teachers (1 male, 1 female). After warming up at the beginning of each class, they'd give us 2 choices & we'd be divided up based on what we chose, & we'd do that for about 2 weeks-a month before choosing another activity.

    I did enjoy doing the badminton activity though. Those of us that chose that were divided into pairs & we'd play games against each other. The person with the most points would move on to another "court" within the gym. At the end, there'd be a major match between the top 2 scorers, & while there weren't any prizes, we got bragging rights for winning that game. I loved badminton & I always ended up being paired with the other top scorer, & at the end of the game, we were both exhausted from the effort we expended. We were evenly matched, too, so neither of us would win the game. Instead, we'd come down to a truce: 1 of us would get the winning point, but the other would get the bragging rights, lol.

    There were a few activities that the entire class did together, like soccer, basketball, etc. During those times, we'd "migrate" to the positions we most liked during the course of the game, & I always played defense. (My offensive game sucks.) Since my class was large, we'd be divided into 4 teams, & 2 teams would sit out while the other pair played a game. Then the other 2 teams would play. The winning teams in both games would then play a game against each other.

    Running has always been the bane of my existence, & having to do it for the fitness test was the stuff horror movies are made of. I failed it each & every time. In middle school, when we had 1 teacher for the class, I could get away with cheating; where I'd veer off to the designated finish line to rest for a while & not complete the remaining laps I needed to do. But in high school, we had tag teams to hold each other accountable, so cheating was impossible then; & I'd invariably be the last person to finish an hour after we started, & after the teacher sent everyone else inside. That was absolutely humiliating.

    I never was able to complete a pull-up & I failed to climb a rope up to the top & back down. I WAS able to complete the flexibility & sit-up tests though. 3/4 of my gym class failed to meet 1 or more aspects of the annual fitness test. By middle school, we all knew what our strengths were & we'd complete the tasks pertaining to those strengths. But with the tasks we knew we'd never pass, we never bothered trying, or we gave a half-hearted attempt before giving up completely &/or make up a number to give to our teacher. (I knew many of my classmates, including me, who did that.) I suspect our teacher knew, but to my knowledge, they never called us out on it.

    In my opinion, they need to stop with the fitness tests because all it does is humiliate us in front of our peers. It places more emphasis on the numbers schools send out instead of information behind the numbers. I think that's what the government's lost sight of in their quest of gathering data from our schools, & this frustrates me to no end.

  26. Melissa May 16, 2010 at 4:21 am #

    Oh goodness, the sit-and-reach test was what SAVED me from failing gym. LOL! I couldn't run if a tiger chased me, can't do a pull-up to save my life, but hot-dog am I flexible!! šŸ™‚ My flexibility went off the charts. But really, what's the point?

    In high school we did a lot of different activities, vollyball, basketball, archery, so on and so forth. But EVERY Tuesday and Thursdays were "fitness days" and they included a lot of running laps and climbing bleacher steps. I tried to get all my orthodontist and allergy shot appointments scheduled for Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. šŸ˜‰

  27. kytt May 16, 2010 at 4:28 am #

    I loved PE class in middle and high school. In middle school we did gymnastics, obstacle courses, archery, basketball, wiffle ball, jump rope, flag football. They were always lots of fun!
    High school we were only in PE class our freshman year and we could not opt to take it again as an elective. We played lots of team sports-volleyball, basketball, floor hockey, badmitton, tennis, and softball. I was a bit of a rolly polly but I was also 2 sport athlete so I would just chuckle when I got picked last the first few activities. I always felt bad for those kids who hated sports or weren't very coordinated because they would always get picked last. They always had the same look, it was the look I had if the math teacher called on me to solve a problem in front of the class.

  28. Christina Angel May 16, 2010 at 5:33 am #

    Honestly my memories of p.e were not good ones at all!I didn't like anything that involved a bat or ball and kept going to the end of the line till class ended. I loved football but they only let us girls play "flag" football when I was in midle school and then when I wanted to try out for "powder puff" football in highschool all the females on the team were HUGE Muscle bound girls that were in the weight lifting classes.I'm tall and lean so that was a no,no*laughs*I LOVED basketball but we didn't play nearly enough of it for p.e and I had a lil brother and sister to watch after school so I couldn't join the basketball team.I always hated that we had to wear a white t-shirt and shorts"uniform" for p.e and would forget mine at home alot.I would have been alot more comfortable just wearing reg clothes. It's funny because I was very physical and into sports outside of school but at school I just don't think they made it very fun and the time was limited to really enjoy it!

    I make sure that p.e is a HUGE part of our homeschooling day and I involve my boys in it by asking what suggestions they have to make it more fun so they enjoy it alot more since they are involved in the planning!We do it all and not just at home. We travel to nearby parks and have our p.e time there with other homeschooled children since we are part of a big homeschooling network.Though I homeschool I really enjoy your blog. It teaches me alot and gives me alot of great ideas and different perspectives.:0)

  29. Monica May 16, 2010 at 6:47 am #

    Something I forgot to mention in my long post earlier: besides the fact that the fitness tests are usually difficult for most kids to pass, there's also the consideration that they're often done under unhealthy circumstances. I grew up in Connecticut, where the state REQUIRES the tests be done, I think every other year. Needing to get all the kids through the tests meant that we sometimes had to do them under bad conditions, particularly the mile run. You needed a measured mile, so they usually did it outside. In middle school, that meant 4 laps around the backstops – on uneven grass/dirt. One year I was forced to do it while still recovering from a cold. It took me 23 minutes, and I twisted my ankle halfway through when the teachers yelled at me to at least jog a little.

    High school was worse, though – they had a track, but terrible timing. The mile was scheduled for a morning in May, and it ended up being very muggy that day: 80's and humid. On top of that, due to a complete lack of communication, the grass in the field in the middle of the track was being cut that day. Prime asthma attack conditions. I was lucky: by the time my 4th period class rolled around (about 9:30 am), the school nurse had already forbidden the gym teachers from continuing, because she'd already sent several kids home, one to the hospital, and used up her entire back-up supply of adrenaline shots.

    And all this was in a (relatively) well-funded suburban district.

    If gym class is going to encourage healthy behavior and fitness, we need to invest in adequate facilities. We also need to make sure gym teachers are trained properly to consider the diverse needs of kids, health-wise. What message does it send to force kids to exercise under dangerous conditions?

  30. LisaP May 16, 2010 at 2:09 pm #

    I loved PE all thru elementary and high school. Right around the time I was a sophomore in H.S., they launched a new PE program and it was great. I am happy to say it is still in place many years later. Basically, the student can choose their PE class.

    Physical Best was weightlifting, running, etc… focused training for athlestes. Fit for Life is more about walking, light aerobics, etc…and focused on (mainly) girls who weren't comfortable in 'normal' PE classes. The finale includes participation in an area 5K. There were a couple other variations as well. I took standard PE, where we roated thru units including 'life-long sports' like tennis and golf.

    The high school now has a trainer, so even if you're injured they develop a plan for you. It's great! They also include outdoor winter sports now, thanks to generous donations of snow shoes, cross country skis, and ice skates.

    A successful PE program is one that exposes students to activities that they can enjoy and continue with. It's not about weight or BMI, but about creating life long activities. Thank God I attended a school that realized that way back in the day….

  31. Anonymous May 16, 2010 at 3:45 pm #

    When I was in elementary school I was overweight, by a lot. I think I weighed 115 pounds in the fourth grade and I was probably no more than 4'8". I inherited a portion of my family's genes that means I have to be much more vigilant about my body than the other kids ever did, and at 8 I wasn't ready to do that. These tests were not only torture, but they encouraged other kids to make fun of me. The teachers try to help but it's damned if you do, damned if you don't. When they helped me, I got made fun of because I needed the help. When they didn't, I got made fun of because I couldn't keep up with the "normal" kids. Eventually the teasing became so bad that I faked illness every day to avoid the lunch tables. And when I did eat lunch, I bought- and you've seen what school lunches look like!

    Right around 19, when I was 200 pounds at 5'1" (not a pleasant experience for a college girl) I decided I had enough of my body and started taking care of myself. I have since lost over 75 pounds, and I LOVE my weight of 122-124, which I have maintained for seven years now. But it takes work to get there! Not only do I eat extremely healthy, I exercise every day (week days are heavier than weekends, but every day!), and teaching myself to love exercise was the hardest part. When I first started I couldn't stop thinking about those tests and I dreaded exercise, and couldn't manage it in public till I had lost almost 50 pounds. I just have come to think that these tests teach students to stare and point at the weakest links, not to help and encourage each other. If they're going to stick around, they need some major revision.

  32. Anonymous May 17, 2010 at 8:05 am #

    If I remember correctly, the tests were graded with two targets: 50th percent tile and 85th percent tile. Now, I may not have been good at P.E., but I was annoyingly good at math. Once I realized that they were automatically setting up half the participants to fail, I checked out. Murder ball and statistics abuse did not constitute any kind of education.

  33. Anonymous May 17, 2010 at 3:41 pm #

    I too hated the Presidential Fitness Tests. In fact, I credit them with turning me into a couch potato. Until the third or fourth grade when the tests began to be administered, I considered myself fit and participated with confidence in various sports and high energy playground activities. The first year of the tests I failed the 50 yard dash with my entire class watching. They ran us in pairs of two and I was paired with a kid who I fully expected to beat. I did not. I was humiliated.

    Despite passing the other tests (long jump, longer run, chin-ups and sit-ups in those days) my confidence was shattered. From that time on I had less and less confidence in myself and avoided competitive sports and physical activities out of fear of humiliation. It was easier to be "too cool" to play than it was to be embarrassed.

    That is just NOT RIGHT. To this day I struggle to take part in physical activities in front of other people. Taking something that should be fun and turning it into humiliation does no one any good.

    As for sports today, my daughter is in the third grade. She has played rec. league soccer since kindergarten. We were told that if she was not scouted into a competitive intermediate league this year, there is virtually no chance that she will ever be able to play soccer in high school.

    That is an enormous amount of pressure for a third grader. Not to mention that kids at ages 8,9,10, 11 grow at wildly different levels. A kid who has good motor skills at age 10 may well level off by age 16 and not be a great player, whereas a kid who is growing at a slower rate may not be a great player now, but may be truly talented once he or she hits their growth ate age 12, 13, or 14. Why are we dividing up the "talented" and "not talented" kids so early?

  34. Wendy May 17, 2010 at 4:55 pm #

    My childrens' school is also participating in FitnessGram–the first commenter gave a brief description of it. I volunteered to help out with the FitnessGram testing for second grade. The PE teacher, other teachers, and parent volunteers all made a point of talking to the kids about how they weren't competing with the other children–just seeing what they could do and keeping a record of it so that next year they can see how they have changed. It was very low key, and from what I saw–I only helped with the running test–the kids had fun, did their best, and supported each other. I remember the Presidential Fitness test. I didn't do badly, but I remember feeling a lot of pressure and not liking it even though I was very athletic!

    Oh–we still have tetherball in our elementary school. My kids get hit in the face with the ball all the time, and the balls are set up and taken down at the beginning and end of the school day to prevent sticky fingers from taking them home. A tetherball is a very popular birthday present around here–kids will bring their own balls after school and on weekends so they can play!

  35. mvuong May 17, 2010 at 5:20 pm #

    3 Sport athletes do still exist, though as previous people have said, I think they tend to only be at smaller schools. When I was in high school (2001-2005), most of my friends had sports all 3 seasons (fall, winter, spring). I was a runner, doing XC in the fall with sprints/hurdles in the winter/fall.

    I guess I don't remember the tests as harshly as everyone else since I did make the top percentile on everything except sit and reach. That was the one activity that always stopped me from getting the Presidential award or whatever it was. I do believe I still hold my middle school shuttle run record.

  36. Kara May 17, 2010 at 6:37 pm #

    In elementary school and junior high I dreaded that Presidential Fitness Award.I dreaded being ridiculed by the boys I was trying to impress.I dreaded being ridiculed by the girls who were skinnier than me.I dreaded the feeling I had for myself after I miserably failed all of those tests.I hated myself.I hated that even though I pushed myself as hard and as far as I could, I couldn't reach even the lowest standards.One thing I remember clearly about this test is that it was a unit we came up on without any preparation.For some of us, athletics come naturally, for the rest of us we have to work to run that 10 minute mile.My senior year of high school I ran a 7 minute mile, surpassed even the guys' standards in situps and surpassed the stretch and shuttle run.But I still couldn't do the pull ups or the push ups. But that was after 4 years of conditioning and pushing my body to the max.
    I think to better that award it should be tracked through all the years of school. Since every kid is supposed to have a gym class every year, track their progress in certain areas. Help them achieve those goals. Kids do need to be active, and should be rewarded for achieving certain goals, but set those goals realistically.
    Discourage ridicule by not making standardized goals. Each kid is different academically and physically.Tracking progression and helping them achieve some goal is the best way to get them moving.Show a kid how to run properly.I was amazed at how my running improved when I was taught the proper form and not ridiculed for losing the pace if I got tired.The biggest key: make it fun.Play freeze tag, stuck in the mud, or red light green light for running practice.Do seals to strengthen core muscles.Kids love games.Make it a game of sorts where everyone wins.
    In elementary school my gym classes consisted of lots of running and screaming.Lots of dodgeball and tag games.In middle school and high school gym classes were more structured, that was when we started getting into units.We did hockey, volleyball, basketball, wiffleball, kickball, track and field, football , badminton.It was a lot of fun in high school when I had my own group of not-so-good-at-sports-kids. We teamed up against the kids that were good at sports and threw their games off with klutziness usually.It isn't so fun playing against an unskilled team that seems to be having fun.
    As far as I know, gym classes in the district I graduated from haven't changed.
    I wish I had heard of the Academic award. I could have won that easily. I think its part and parcel of every public district who see a lot of revenue come from sports games. Football and basketball games in the little town my school is in are big events. Everyone comes to watch them, even alumni who go to college out of town. Tickets are between $5 and $8 a person with discounts for certain age groups and alumni, filling up the bleachers is a good night, monetarily speaking.It all goes back into the school someway or another. My senior class sold concessions to be able to raise money for class trips. THe student council sold concessions for their needs. certain memorabilia was sold to benefit the sports teams. But the ticket sales went into the school. So long as that remains a certain source of income and revenue school wil not phase out sports programs and will always challenge the validity of academic programs, or even growth programs like band and art (Which my district is phasing out currently).
    Its a sad state of affairs. But we have to tackle one issue at a time, and I do believe nutrition is a big issue.

  37. Anonymous May 17, 2010 at 6:56 pm #

    School gym classes were what kept me from setting foot in a gym as an adult. Elementary it was fine and fun. I remember the entire fifth grade going out to the basketball courts and doing calisthenics as a group. Each class used to compete to see who could be the most synchronized. My one complaint was that I was entirely ignorant of the President's Physical Fitness Test. I had no idea how to do a sit-up because I wasn't exactly obsessed with my abs as a 10 year old. I flailed my way to failure and then "studied" for future years. Once puberty hit, gym was a whole 'nother story.

    I developed first, lucky me. All genders laughed at my breasts. Apparently my wearing a bra was a cause for hilarity, as was my not wearing a bra. We had light gray shorts that show every drop of blood when you don't know when your period's coming or your pad leaks. Rather than say something, they'd all whisper and giggle. The boys used to follow me during our runs and pull my shorts down. Naturally the PE teachers turned a blind eye to all of this. Then there were the team sports. Nothing says a good time like being the last one chosen. I used to volunteer to be team captain to get out of that spot, not that anyone wanted to be on my team but they didn't really have a choice.

    I had the football coach as a PE teacher in high school. One day when a large minority of the class failed a run, he had all of us who failed redo the run together (no passing, no lagging) without stopping. The students who passed were told to sit in the bleachers and cheer. That was the only supportive experience I ever had in a PE class and the first time I learned how to run. When not running, it was basketball, volleyball, and lots and lots of softball. I sucked at the latter two.

    As an adult, talk about gym, exercise, etc. could trigger panic attacks. My own weight gain finally made me bite the bullet and set foot into one. I learned when I could avoid crowds and avoided any sort of social exercise. At least I could pick what color shorts I wore. I've also found co-ed gyms to be far more tolerable than women-only gyms because men don't seem to care if I've got the wrong style shirt or whatever. It's usually women bitching about how gross it is to see me on a treadmill. Sorry I'm apparently not fit for public consumption, but that really only reinforces the fear about being there in the first place.

    Make physical fitness less humiliating for kids and they'll be more likely to adopt habits for life. If runs weren't simply aimed at showing off who was the fastest in the class, but encouraged teamwork and developed leadership, they'd be more productive. Rather than team sports being about popularity rankings, divide people up randomly. Or give the option of working on fundamentals or playing the sport so that those who were good could be turned loose with a ball and those who weren't could improve. Also, add in some variety. The same three sports for seven years with the occasional running activities gets old if you're not into any of the above.

  38. wlkingbluepirate May 17, 2010 at 7:26 pm #

    I was actually a 3 sport athlete – Volleyball, Basketball, Softball and lettered in all 3 for 3 or more years. But…I graduated in a class of 35. We were a small school.

    Even with me being an athlete, I still hated the Presidential test. There was always one aspect of it I couldn't pass. It changed every year which part it was, but that's irrelevant. So I think something about that test should change. I'm not saying we shouldn't continue to encourage kids to live up to those standards, but there has to be a way for them to not feel like crap if they don't.

  39. Anonymous May 17, 2010 at 8:51 pm #

    I'm not an athlete but the presidential fitness awards, at least in middle school were very motivational. I actually got the red award, the lowest one before you get a "thanks for parcipating award" couple of times. I was very proud of myself.

    It is NOT torture. It's something everyone does every year and everyone expects it. No biggie. What was tortuous was having to run the mile every week in preparation for the tests.

  40. Anonymous May 17, 2010 at 9:14 pm #

    I graduated from high school just two years ago, and my school definitely still had the Presidential Fitness Award. It was one of the most embarrassing parts of my childhood. I played basketball throughout middle school and freshman year of high school, but I have always been a big girl. I was 5'9" to 10" all throughout HS and now, and I was never less than 160-170 pounds in HS either, even with basketball. I remember that I missed gym class for some reason and my gym teacher made me do the pushup test in front of my entire class because he needed to record my score, and I just remember starting to cry because I had trouble doing even three. One other student got down beside me and started doing them with me, but that made me feel even more helpless. Running the track was difficult as well; all of the athletes bragged about their prowess and the rest of us (I was always one of the last to finish the mile) were humiliated. There has to be a better way to grade students and test fitness.

    Even now, as I am eating better and trying to lose weight to be healthier (I am not obsessed with trying to be skinny at all), it is difficult because I remember gym class. I don't want to go anywhere near those weights, or the gym, for that matter.

  41. MJS May 18, 2010 at 4:32 am #

    I think there is a way to improve the fitness award. I spent much my school PE career hiding & being terrorized by mean boys and a meaner teacher. I almost cried to learn PE was mandatory for my college degree. But it was a well structured and fair class.

    We took a prez fitness like test pre & post class. We also had pre & post tests for each unit. You got points for pre-test levels, daily participation, and post-test gains. We also had tests on health & nutrition topics and very few questions about rules and and layouts of courts for various games like you see in K-12. A very fit person would come in with a lot of points on pre-tests but see very few gains/post-test points. A very unfit person would come in with almost no pre-test points but could realize huge gains & points on the post test. Both people could easily earn points for showing up & participating. It was the only A I ever got in a PE class. Factoring gains in fitness over time into the equation would be a larger incentive to children, IMO, than shaming them with a low %-tile on the Prez. Fitness test.

    I was awarded an academic fitness award my senior year. No idea why that was the only year or what the requirements were. My kids have never received one nor mentioned classmates receiving one (will google it as soon as I get off here LOL!)

    I don't know a lot about HS athletics as my oldest is jr high but I do know a fair number of HS kids. My understanding is the practice schedule for varsity sports is quite grueling. 3hrs/day plus some have to lift in the AM before school. There are often "optional" (ha ha) off season practices as well. I do know several 2 sport athletes and quite a number have double lettered. I'm not sure about 3 sport… is/was that common? My school was very large so with so many kids trying out for the teams, I don't think we even had many 2 sports, let alone 3. I know in our town now, band is a big deal and fall is marching season (almost as grueling as sports) which makes it hard to do a fall sport. You can letter in band so I know several kids w/band and 1 or 2 sports letters. I am told some coaches are much better than others about helping kids get their letter by keeping track of their playing time & stats, etc. and helping them out if they are close by putting them in a few more minutes or an extra event at a meet, etc.

    I do not feel that kids "specialize" in 1 sport these days so much as I feel that with the sports they do play, they play them much longer throughout the year… of the kids at all ages I know well, I really can't think of one who plays only 1. However we have fall, spring and indoor winter soccer leagues. We have baseball that runs all spring & most of the summer plus fall ball. There are winter & summer basketball leagues as well as winter & summer swim teams. Then there are camps and clinics and trainings throughout the year. Most of these kids are taking every opportunity presented in the sports they play. My husband & I worry about kids over training and injuring growing joints by playing the same sport (or 2 or 3) year round. We often feel like we are in the minority in this town by wanting our kids to have a true off-season and rotate their sports so they use their joints in different ways and strengthen different muscles.

  42. MJS May 18, 2010 at 5:01 am #

    According to Dept. of Ed. site, the Presidential Academic Fitness Award still exists. It's based on cumulative grades and standardized test scores but only granted upon leaving elementary, junior high, and/or high school. Presumably the school district has to choose to participate in the program and identify students.

  43. Anonymous May 19, 2010 at 10:17 pm #

    My middle school doesn't split up boys and girls for gym. I don't mind though. It's not really a big deal, except for days like today when we play dodgeball. Some kid on the other team gets a little too into the game. I got hit by this kid on the side of my head. My friend got hit in the face. And he throws hard too. like ridiculously hard. I almost fell over, AND the boy didnt have to sit down which is the rule for headshots. I knda feel like hes aiming high. The last unit we did was African Dance. Seriously. We learned about a minuts worth of dance and then were split into groups to create a 2 minute long dance scene. My group came in 3rd out of 5. I thought it was kind of embarrasing. Before that I think it was basketball. That one was okayish. Actually between african dance and dodgeball was Fitness tests. I grew an inch. I got 9:39 on the mile which isn't great because theirs a ton of athletes at my school that get in the 6 and 7s. In 8th grade, you get graded on fitness tests. I would have gotten a "C" on the mile. I'm in 7th, so i'm not worried yet. i did 19 sit ups but 18 was the requirement so i just stopped because we had to run right after. I think i got like 13 push ups. we do the sit and reach which is like siiting down and pushing a little lever as far as you could. i got 11" for my left and 12" for my right. 12 is the best possible. Also we have to do a shoulder stretch thing and the trunk lift which is bascially lying on a mat and stretching your chest up as far as you can. kinda like a seal. hehe. i got 12", but they don't measure past 12 cuz they use a ruler. As for the sports thing, im not really into it. My friends usually do 2-3 sports though. soccer is most popular, some like softball and hockey. 1 student is like a top rated tennis player and i have a friend whos like #10 in the US for her age group in ice skating.

  44. Anonymous May 20, 2010 at 3:23 am #

    I remember the Presidential Physical Fitness Awards…And I hated them. Even though I had been dancing since the age of 3, I was never athletic. I always felt inadequate, because every gym class would only focus on the "normal" sports – basketball, baseball/softball, track, and of course, dodgeball (if that can ever be called a sport), which later progressed to kickball. And, since I didn't participate in any of those sports, I was never very good, and kids would, being kids, tease those of us that were not very "sports-inclined."

    I remember the best thing that happened to me was only being made to take one credit of gym/fitness classes during high school, but we had a choice of when to take it and what we wanted to take. I remember taking Lifetime Fitness. The name was a joke, because you had two choices every day: Jazzercise, or a "free day" in which we could walk the gym, go to the weight room, or do the "normal sport" thing. We never really learned anything about how fitness was supposed to better us through our lives.

    Still a dancer, and a dance teacher now, I am also licensed to teach Zumba FitnessĀ® classes. These are such fun ways to get in shape. The classes feel just like a dance party, and I think schools would have something if they offered these classes at least three days each week as part of their fitness/gym requirements. There is even a specialized program for kids ages 4-12 called ZumbatomicĀ®. I think, if schools gave an option of classes to take for gym classes, and those classes taught the kids something while being fun in the process, our kids would be much more open to exercising. I agree with a previous commenter: make exercising more fun, and kids will be more apt to do it. Don't make it about being the best. Make it about being YOUR best.

    As a dance teacher, I have many kids in the public school system that only do one sport. However, I have noticed that the coaches want their athletes to commit all of their time to that sport. It's so hard for the kids who want to do both sports and dance to have to choose what nights they do things. We try to be accommodating, but there are students who come every other week, and do their sport on the off-weeks.

    I think kids in sports have too much expected of them. They are expected to be the star athlete, plus keep up with homework and whatever extra-curricular activities they want to do. But, from what I've noticed, most kids that I interact with only do one sport. In my area it's basketball (the Pom-Pon team is also very popular) or volleyball. But again, we need to lay off the commitments that we give our kids. I'm not talking chores or helping around the neighborhood, but limit the activities they can do. Teach them how to cook healthy foods for themselves and the family. Teach them that it's important to give back or do volunteer work. Give them fun ways to exercise. Focus on giving them good food, a good education, and a good example on how to be healthy in mind, body and spirit. That's what so many kids need these days. Not to be the best in sports or physical fitness, but to just be a good person all around.

  45. Anonymous May 21, 2010 at 3:24 am #

    Well, I'm probably a bit "young" for this (19), but what the hey. As I remember, PE gradually became less and less fun as the years went by. When I first went to elementary school, the playground was divided into two sections: a grassy open field for the "big kids" (grades 4-6), and play equipment for the "little kids" (grades 1-3). The "really little kids" stayed in the daycare area. Now, I should mention that my school was a Montessori one, so varied social environments (like mixing together different grade levels) was highly encouraged, so "big kids" usually had "little kid" friends/fans. Since recess was treated as a class, we didn't have P.E.

    Skip forward to fifth grade, when I moved to a different state (and a new school). Imagine my shock when I was "confined" to only playing with other fifth graders in recess (which was sadly cut down to thirty to forty-five minutes). However, back then, P.E. was a BLAST! We played dodgeball, kickball, tag, capture the flag, and an inventive game named Treasure Island, where two teams would line up single file on an elevated set of mats and swing across on a rope, Tarzan-style, to a waiting mat. The last person to swing had to also carry across a large bucket of balls without spilling any into the "ocean". I do happily swear that those were the most fun P.E. classes I ever had.

    But then middle school came along. Recess got cut down to whatever time you had left after lunch (given thirty minutes' chow time). Gone were the imaginative P.E. classes, replaced by sports. Which wasn't all bad, except that the classes were gender-segregated, so most of the girls didn't want to play anything (read: sweat). We did get a lot of running time in, though. You had to pass a 12-minute mile run, but I don't know if there were any real consequences of failing (maybe a zero for the day?). In fact, I ran my fastest times ever (a 6:30 which almost made me faint) in those days.

    I'll keep high school brief: P.E. was non-existent. We had it, yes, but it was more of a "free reign" type of management, meaning the athletes would go off and play whatever sport they were best at, leaving the rest of us with little equipment or interest. Senior year was the worst, since we usually just walked around the track or played ping-pong. Yes, ping-pong. Apparently, it's "strenuous" enough for the school.

    Well, that's my two cents. Keep up the good work, Mrs. Q!

  46. Emily June 1, 2010 at 5:46 am #

    My son will start kindergarten in the Fall but won't be eating lunch at school until 1st grade. Here's a link to his school lunch information:
    http://www.pkwy.k12.mo.us/foodservice/Lev3.cfm?Lev3ID=59&Lev2Num=16
    They do a dot guide that tells students which foods are best to eat every day, once in a while, or only on special occasions. They seem to always have healthy food choices including a salad bar, fresh fruit, and sandwich choices along with a variety of hot meals.
    It sounds good in theory, I'm still just not sure how to make my son choose wisely and actually eat what he chooses. I guess all I can do is teach him the right way and hope for the best?
    On another note, I hated the presidential fitness challenge when I was in school. I had a gym teacher that called me "Bunny" (a name that stuck through out my entire time in elementary school) because when I did push ups my "fluffy little bunny tail" stuck high up in the air…
    A 10 minute mile is a good jog for me these days, but back in elem. school, I couldn't complete the mile run within the half hour class period we were given. I was always forced to cut across the field while everyone was lining up to go back to class.
    I wasn't traumatized at all…

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