Physical Education is Critical to a Complete Education
Physical education plays a critical role in educating the whole student. Research supports the importance of movement in educating both mind and body. Physical education contributes directly to development of physical competence and fitness. It also helps students to make informed choices and understand the value of leading a physically active lifestyle. The benefits of physical education can affect both academic learning and physical activity patterns of students. The healthy, physically active student is more likely to be academically motivated, alert, and successful. In the preschool and primary years, active play may be positively related to motor abilities and cognitive development. As children grow older and enter adolescence, physical activity may enhance the development of a positive self-concept as well as the ability to pursue intellectual, social and emotional challenges. Throughout the school years, quality physical education can promote social, cooperative and problem solving competencies. Quality physical education programs in our nation’s schools are essential in developing motor skills, physical fitness and understanding of concepts that foster lifelong healthy lifestyles.
Physical education is unique to the school curriculum as the only program that provides students with opportunities to learn motor skills, develop fitness and gain understanding about physical activity. Physical benefits gained from physical activity include: disease prevention, safety and injury avoidance, decreased morbidity and premature mortality, and increased mental health. The physical education program is the place where students learn about all of the benefits gained from being physically active as well as the skills and knowledge to incorporate safe, satisfying physical activity into their lives.
In the elementary grades, the physical education program emphasizes the development of fundamental locomotor, non-locomotor, and manipulative skills through the main content areas of educational games, dance, and gymnastics. The movement framework, (i.e., body, space, effort, and relationship) is also a part of the core content and is the basis for developing, expanding, and refining children’s range of motor skills and awareness. Quality instruction by physical education professionals is critical if children are to develop fundamental motor patterns (e.g. jump, throw, skip, hop, catch, and kick). The motor skill foundations established during the elementary grades may enhance children’s social, cognitive and physical development and increase the likelihood of continued interest and participation in physical activity. Fitness at elementary grades is supported by a rich experience in many basic movement forms.
The middle school student is ready to experience a wide variety of applications of fundamental movements, including traditional sports, adventure activities (e.g., rock climbing, ropes, kayak, skiing), and lifetime or leisure-oriented activities (e.g., roller-blading, biking, dance). It is during this period when students are capable of refining, combining and applying a variety of sport-related and lifetime skills. Students may explore after-school opportunities for specialized or/and competitive physical activity programs.
Rapid growth during the pre-adolescent years may affect students’ interests, choices, and activity patterns. Therefore physical education programs offer a variety of activities to meet and expand student interests. Fitness development becomes more systematic. Students develop specific fitness components, set goals and assess personal fitness levels.
Reprinted with the permission of the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance.