Quality physical education within the elementary school/early childhood setting
Physical education is an important part of a child’s development and holistic education. Naturally it is important to note that children do not always feel attuned to such educational measures although it is also crucial to note that the development of the child’s body is also very important, especially at an early stage in life.
Discussion remains on the role that physical activity at an early age has on healthy child development where learning, memory and concentration all have a significant bearing on the student’s academic performance. There is considerable evidence which indicates that physical activity enhances this performance. Thus it is important to gauge the link between physical activity, cognition and academic performance as all this helps us to better appreciate the role of physical education and play in healthy child development.
The amount of physical exercise one can impose on children is also an issue and this should always be taken into account when preparing a curriculum.
There remains the argument to distinguish play from physical education as these can be seen to be two distinct matters but it is also important to note that physical education can be seen as a forum during which students at a young age can mix the both together. This is an intriguing angle to take and will be the major part of the discussion on this paper.
Basically, in this paper I will attempt to argue a correlation between play and actual physical education. This can mean that extended periods of play sessions throughout a school curriculum can be seen as quality physical education which should eventually increase the student’s propensity to learn and adapt to academic life. The role of physical education in such an equation is paramount as there does seem to be a link between healthy physical exercise and adaptability to studying and/or academic achievement.
As indicated in the thesis, this paper attempts to argue that a link between quality physical education and play has a positive effect on children in primary and elementary schools at an early age. The scope of the paper is to suggest ideas for quality physical education sessions and other extracurricular activities which will assist the children in improving their quality of life as well as make them more aware of their physical capabilities. All this is tied together to a better academic performance in a win win situation. One can also come up with new ideas and excercises which help children develop their physical skills in tandem with mental development.
In today’s day and age, there are several health issues even amongst children which can impact their propensity to exercise physically and also to adapt to an exercise regime. Obesity at an early age is also an important issue as most of the time, young children will refuse to exercise due to the fact that they feel self conscious about their weight (Buck, Hillman,Castelli 2008). Naturally this should induce the teacher/instructor to instill an outdoor mentality amongst students and to link academic lessons to possible physical exercise so that the child will look at physical education positively.
But why do children need physical education, one might ask. Principally this is required to increase physical competence, health related fitness, responsibility on the self and last but not least, enjoyment of activities as this can have a lasting effect all throughout one’s continued lifetime. These activities improve physical strength in the muscular region, endurance as well as cardio vascular endurance which is very important in today’s day and age where stress has become an important factor. PE also improves skills development in the sense of motor skills which allows safe participation in physical activity.
Physical education also provides a wide rnage of activities for children and is inherently supportive of other subject areas. It also facilitates self discipline and enables improved judgement, in fact there have been cases where regular physical education and a healthy lifestyle have enabled students to be more attuned to leadership and to accept a certain level of responsibility for their behavior.
Physical education also reduces stress as it acts as a catalyst for releasing tension and also controls anxiety. Apart from that it strengthens peer-to-peer relationships in the sense that it enables more teamwork especially when group activities are undertaken. It also greatly improves self confidence and self esteem especially if children are successful at the physical activity which they undertake. Finally physical education can be an important tool in the setting of personal goals thus making them more aware of what they can achieve and how to about this.
Research has shown that there is no inextricable link between physical education as such and improvement in academic levels. However, children who are active physically normally are much better equipped to deal with issues such as complex academic problems and there is also evidence to show that healthy and fit children adapt better to academic situations and in that sense are sharper.
Obesity is an issue which obviously impacts physical education rather negatively and in today’s day and age, children are becoming more and more obese at an early age. It is crucial to note that children who are obese will normally attempt to wriggle out of any physical exercise so this issue has to be tackled quite aggressively as time goes by.
The propensity to adapt to certain physical education excercises is also important at a very early age. Obviously certain children will adapt much faster than others while some may find it continually more difficult to adjust accordingly. Alternatively one can use methods to interact physical movement with learning, something which was tried with some success at a Michigan kindergarten (Kimberley 2011).
A full curriculum, which focuses principally on academic work and similar classroom presence, is a deterrent to children’s development both socially and educationally (Sattlemayr, Rattley 2009). Notwithstanding all this too much physical education can also have a negative effect on children’s lives which may be too strenuous to take up their studies properly. The trick remains to find the right balance between the two.
Amongst the exercises one may try to introduce in elementary school are the following:
Run to Cone and Back
Hop and Run Back
Catch the Ball
Game (Up, Down, Jump, Run, Stop)
Follow the Leader
Ball in the Box
Christmas Songs Movements
All these exercises have their own particular nuance and are ideally suited to elementary school. It is important that children gain awareness of space through exercises that make them conscious of their own surroundings. Basic moving about is also an essential part of the whole routine which can them move to hopping and catching balls. This then leads to some racing where a competitive spirit can be instilled in the children. Follow the Leader is also an important exercise to be able to gauge leadership skills among children from the very beginnings of their lives. All these exercises can be introduced at an early stage and they have form part of school curriculum in Malta.
The school must also have a selection of active outdoor toys which enable more children to participate in extra physical activity. Obviously much depends on the school’s outlook to physical education which may also be slightly close minded in this respect but this obstacle is important to eliminate as everyone knows that children take a liking to physical education and similar activities almost immediately.
Lack of physical education and play sessions will make school life boring and without interest thus reducing the student’s propensity to adapt to certain situations. On the other hand too much physical education and play sessions could make students lazy when it comes to their academic syllabus so it is important to strike the right balance.
In fact recent studies from various sources confirm that there is a link between overall participation in physical activity and academic performance. Out of 14 studies conducted on 58,000 students between 1967 and 2006, 11 have demonstrated that regular participation in physical activity is linked to a better academic performance (Trost 2007). There have also been statistically significant correlations in surveys conducted amongst students in other countries such as the UK, Hong Kong and Australia between participation in physical exercise and improved academic levels.
A national study which was conducted in 2006 all over the US resulted in that those students who participated in physical education were 20 per cent more likely to achieve a top grade in English (Trost 2007). This demonstrates that children with a natural propensity towards physical activity can actually achieve better grades if they lead a healthy and balanced lifestyle which is compounded by regular physical activity sessions at school.
According to the National Standards for Physical Education, it is important that children, even from an early age, are exposed to extracurricular and play activities which assists them in their holistic development accordingly. It is important to come up with a curriculum of varied and interesting excercises which can instill physical prowess into children at an early ageMy plan proposes the following:
A daily 15 minute session of play activities linked with a particular lesson, for example a sport history class. This could also intermingle with several other activities such as team building, team sports, walking and jumping over obstacles. Jogging and running are also important elements of the whole session.
A one hour weekly session where children are taken to the school ground and instructed to take a jog around the ground at a slow pace then increased according to the capability of the individual. This could also intermingle with other more advanced activities as the months go by such as hitting, catching, hop, skip and jump and other similar activities.
A half hour session ideally at the end of the week where children can engage in some sport such as football or gymnastics or even swimming where they can demonstrate their prowess and exercise healthily. Sessions of hop skip and jump and some obstacle running can also be introduced at a later stage depending on the propensity of the young to adapt to certain physical situations
All these sessions should be followed by an analysis where the individual strengths of children are assessed and they are also spoken to, to observe their feelings on the sessions.
Extracurricular activities such as hikes and walks should also be undertaken at regular intervals and not less frequent than once a month. Progress may then be monitored and one can change the programme sessions according to the child’s tastes and individual needs. The action plan can obviously be changed to suit children’s age groups and needs and there are also other intrinsic possibilities which can be garnered such as increased teamwork and performance assessment discussions which will undoubtedly lead to better performance. All this should be monitored according to national standards for physical education.
Quality physical education is of paramount importance in any setting and in any child’s life. More often than not, schools who have a good physical education setup are much more successful in producing students with fine academic performance as well as successful sportsmen/women. It is important that from an early age, children are instilled with strong physical values which eventually enables them to face life better and also helps them feel at one with themselves. This also assists them to face problems which they may encounter later on in life such as health issues and even stress related ones. We have seen how increased physical education can lead to much better coping with daily challenges and can also serve as an outlet for stress and other similar issues.
As demonstrated in this paper, although it is not finite, there does seem to be a link between increased physical education and better academic performance. From the various studies cited, this phenomenon appears to be something which is not just common to the United states but can also be found in other countries. In Malta, where I come from, it is only recently that a proper emphasis has been placed on quality physical education but the fruits of this seed which was sown some years ago are already being seen.
This programme and action plan, although simple and rather short is a good start to assist children to begin discovering themselves and their capabilities in the physical education setting and should be a good start to assess how they can continue developing in the field accordingly.
All obviously depends on the propensity of the children to acquire a good quality physical education although the scourge of obesity and laziness remain important issues. A properly developed curriculum which takes into account all the factors mentioned earlier in this paper should go quite a long way to establish a sound framework for quality physical education amongst young children.
Sattelmayer J, Rattley C (2009); Physically Active Play and Cognition An Academic Matter? Retrieved from: http://johnratey.typepad.com/SattelRatey.pdf
Buck, Sarah M., Charles H. Hillman, and Darla M. Castelli. (2008). The relation of aerobic
fitness to Stroop Task performance in preadolescent children. Medicine & Science
in Sports & Exercise 40:166–72.
Kimberley K (2011); Physical Education for Elementary Kids
Retrieved from: http://childparenting.about.com/cs/exercisefitness/a/kidsfitness.htm
Trost S (2007); Active Education, Physical Education, Physical Activity and Education Performance, Retrieved from: http://www.activelivingresearch.org/files/Active_Ed.pdf