Giving P.E. a Second Wind | Teachers College Columbia University

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Giving P.E. a Second Wind

“Physical activity can be a really good tool to help engage kids, help them attend better and behave better in the classroom,” says Carol Ewing Garber, TC Associate Professor of Movement Sciences, who this past year led an American College of Sports Medicine panel that issued new guidelines on physical activity. “And kids sometimes learn concepts by using their bodies – for example, math and science concepts by moving.”   

Yet, even that case for physical education isn’t stopping districts across the country from cutting gym hours. In 2011, only 52 percent of high school students attended a P.E. class, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Meanwhile, America is getting flabbier: 36 percent of adults and 17 percent of children qualified as obese in 2010.

Certainly lawmakers are under pressure to slash spending – and schools to redirect time and resources to meet testing targets. But there may also be a sense that – to use a sports metaphor – P.E. itself is sucking wind and could use a substitution. Or to be more specific: Physical education isn’t worth the investment because too many kids look at gym simply as something to be ducked.

That’s why the new approaches being advanced at TC and elsewhere are genuine cause for excitement. The new thinking could give P.E. the fresh legs it needs because it holds the potential to get all kids to be active – not only in gym, but for life. So listen up, Coach: Maybe it’s time to put the new kid in the game. — SM

Published Friday, Dec. 7, 2012