School Contexts in Middle Childhood Physical Development (page 2)
Schools should play a major role in facilitating the physical and motor growth of children. Teachers can provide children with the opportunity to experience new and different ways to move and use their bodies. Teachers also should recognize the different physical and motor competencies of children and provide opportunities so that children at all skill levels can experience success. Recess and physical activity during the school day is essential for optimal learning and fitness. Opportunities within the school day are especially important for children who may not be active outside of school due to financial constraints, limited parental involvement or supervision, or poor play area availability or safety. However, schools vary in the types and quality of play areas they offer students. Different types of playgrounds facilitate different skills in school-age children (Barbour, 1999).
Several school districts are trying to encourage greater physical activity among their students by encouraging students who live less than one mile from school to walk, rather than be driven. To increase safety for children who walk, schools have developed partnerships with surrounding neighborhood associations to ensure that walkways exist and are kept safe and clear, in addition to creating “safe homes” where children can go if they feel threatened. For example, in a high-crime neighborhood in Chicago, a “walking school bus” program was initiated. Parents walked with their children to school and picked up additional children along the route (Chicago Department of Transportation, 1999). This program not only increased activity for both children and parents but also decreased crime in the neighborhoods (Kennedy, Washburn, & Martinez, 1998).
Intervention programs designed to increase physical activity in school-aged children have found that the groups who show the greatest increase in physical activity were provided an educational component along with the physical activity opportunities (Economos, 2001). Teachers should continue to teach children about the value of eating well and the benefits of lifelong exercise.
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