A Physical Education Revolution?

Since Friday is here, time for some lighter fare… maybe as in having a lighter body weight? You don’t see me writing a lot about physical education — maybe because you typically can’t get P.E. credit for blogging or Legos. But maybe I could get credit for all the times I go crazy running around in my (fenced in) backyard when my mom can’t stand me being in the house anymore.

As Marci Kanstoroom reports at Education Next, traditional P.E. courses aren’t doing much at all to curb the problem of childhood obesity. But some schools are experimenting with innovative new ways to offer P.E.:

One reason more P.E. has not led to weight loss might be that traditional P.E. classes do not always offer students a real workout, particularly in high school. As students and teachers explain in this new Ed Next video, students don’t like having to change into gym clothes and get sweaty in the middle of the day. So P.E. teachers may end up grading students in part based on whether they change into their P.E. clothes.

The 25th Hour P.E. class at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Virginia, featured in the new video, is different. Students enrolled in the class don’t break a sweat during the school day. Instead, they work out three times a week, before or after school. While the students are jogging, swimming, playing pickup basketball, going to soccer practice, or walking the dog, they wear monitors that track how long they exercise and whether their heart rates are in the target zone. Students meet with a P.E. teacher once a week to download the data from their monitor to her computer and discuss their workouts. Grades are based on how long students keep their heart rates in the target zone.

As long as the innovation is coming from the bottom up and schools aren’t being crushed by federal rules and mandates, we could be onto a good thing here. It’s probably about time we do P.E. a different way than my parents learned it. But let a thousand flowers bloom.