Physical education classes are being eliminated from school curriculums across the nation, but they should remain for the many benefits students receive from them. Physical education can help students now and in their future, by helping them grow physically, mentally, academically, socially and by giving them a greater appreciation for diversity. Adding kinesthetics within the classroom will benefit students that learn through movement. Without proper physical education, students could become obese and encounter many health problems in their future.
1. Why Physical Education Is Being Removed Physical education courses are being removed from many schools due to lack of funding and academics. States are becoming less strict in implementing the requirements for physical education classes. According to the National Association for Sport and Physical Education & The American Heart Association (2016), elementary students should have 150 minutes of physical activity a week, but only 37 percent of states comply with this recommendation. These students are being deprived of physical activity and it can negatively affect them. While middle schools and high schools should provide 225 minutes of physical activity per week, only 29 percent of states require this (National Association for Sport and Physical Education & American Heart Association, 2016).
These numbers are shocking because there are rules in place to keep students active for a reason and some states are not following them. In order to have education classes, one must have funds to support the teachers, equipment, and facilities. The law regarding physical education funds was changed to cut these programs in order to save the district’s money for other academic purposes (Rado & Page, 2017). Standardized testing has taken over many schools as a number one priority, leaving classes such as physical education to fall on the back burner. Schools push for excellence on standardized testing and this has been emphasized over the past few years. Sixty-two percent of states are allowing schools to give students the option of taking another course rather than physical education (National Association for Sport and Physical Education & American Heart Association, 2016). This causes students to shy away from physical education, leaving those programs less appreciated by administration.
2. Physical Education Benefits Students Immediately Physical education programs are being cut, but the need for them is still prominent. These classes will provide immediate and future benefits for all students. Students that are introduced to physical education while in school could experience healthier lifestyle tools to benefit them in the future. Students actively engaged in physical education will leave socialized, focused and more diversified through inclusion. In a study done by the American Journal of Public Health, they exposed students to different time amounts of doing physical activities. All students were given tests to complete for math and for reading; only specific students were exposed to roughly 70-300 minutes of physical activity a week. The results showed that girls aged kindergarten through fifth grade displayed academic improvement (Carlson, et al., 2008).
The girls’ aged kindergarten through fifth-grade Income Reporting Threshold (IRT) scores went up 2.4 points for reading and 1.5 points for math. The physical activity the girls were participating in showed increasing scores, supporting the point that physical education helps students with academics. Students sitting in a classroom all day and getting around 15-30 minutes of physical activity could not reach their academic potential. Physical activity increases blood flow to the brain while working the heart to maintain efficiency and increase mental sharpness. (Klien & Hollingshead, 2015) If students were to get more physical activity than just the required amount, students could increase their academic performance. Inclusion in a classroom is beneficial for students with and without disabilities. While in a physical education classroom, students with learning disabilities might be able to get out of their seats and move around (Klien & Hollingshead, 2015).
Bringing in students with decreased mental capabilities but the ability to work well in a classroom that provides kinesthetic learning can have many benefits. With so many learning types, one can design a curriculum that meets all students’ physical education needs. Bringing in students with special needs will allow variety for teaching students with the basis of universal design (Grenier, Miller & Black, 2017). A student who best learns kinesthetically may benefit more through physical education. For example, if there is a student that has difficulty throwing things but can walk quite well, the teacher may design an activity that involves walking or running for that student. Playing games such as tag or kickball are other ideas that would involve everyone in the class. Allowing everyone to participate in an activity will help introduce the students to a greater sense of diversity. Overall, universal design to meet all students needs in the classroom is crucial in order to help all students meet their academic goals. Mainstreaming is beneficial for both groups of students in a physical education classroom (Lindsay, 2007).
When using these strategies, students are put into a classroom at specific times instead of being in a physical education class. This allows both students with and without disabilities to get help on content in other classes in the areas they are lacking. This was problematic because they were not getting the physical activity they need to help them develop academically and physically. Students with learning disabilities need to have some kind of physical activity incorporated into their curriculum since they are at greater risk for health problems caused by longer periods of inactivity (Klien & Hollingshead, 2015).
One solution to helping these students achieve physical activity is incorporating universal design into the physical education class. Students without disabilities may not have the same struggles as the students with disabilities would. This is an imbalance that can be accounted for when universal design is applied. It can be difficult for many teachers to properly include students with disabilities due to not having the proper education. This will help narrow the gap between students with disabilities and students without disabilities. Physical activity can have a positive impact on depression, anxiety, and ADHD (Robinson, Segal, & Smith 2018).
Physical activity releases endorphins to the brain that can make one feel better and clearer minded in the classroom. This is important knowledge for students that could be experiencing these psychological problems. It can boost their mood and give them a change in pace throughout their day. Instead of sitting in a classroom, they are out moving around and focusing their attention on something more positive. Participating in physical activity also helps students grow in their academics and their own well-being. It is common for students to become stressed about school; exercise can help reduce stress levels and any stress symptoms that cause students to become unfocused in school (Robinson, Segal, & Smith 2018). By taking away physical activity from the curriculum, students are missing out on what could really benefit them in all aspects of school. When letting off excess energy, blood flow increases to the brain allowing more focus and concentration by working the heart and helping students’ mental sharpness. Oxygen is also released to the brain when introduced to increased physical activity. This will help students in the classroom directly when trying to focus on a lesson.
3. Physical Education Benefits Students in the Future Obesity is a growing problem that needs to be controlled. In the past year, the life expectancy of a person who is overweight has decreased by 6% (Neigmond & Neel, 2017). One way to reduce obesity among students is to educate them on the negative effects of living an unhealthy lifestyle. According to the most recent survey, in 1999 14% of students ages 2 to 19 were obese and today, 18.5 percent of students are obese (McCoy, 2018). This increase in students with obesity could decrease with proper education starting in elementary. Teaching students about the benefits of eating right and exercising will help them in their future. Obesity increases the risk of developing heart disease or diabetes and could potentially affect them for their entire life unless controlled (Berman et. al. 2018). When students are growing up it is important to give proper education in the classroom to ensure they understand fully how unhealthy habits could negatively affect them in the future. Physical education helps with many different bodily functions, and also helps the body in the long run because it helps self-esteem (Robinson, Segal, & Smith, 2018). Learning at an early age how your self-esteem is affected by physical activity will help you understand as an adult that it is an important factor in life that needs to be positive. If everyone was knowledgeable about physical education there would likely be fewer health problems or diseases caused by inactivity in adolescents. If students are practicing healthy lifestyles and learning about implementing physical activity in their daily lives, they are more likely to keep up the healthy, physical lifestyle as they get older.
4. Implementing Physical Education In The Classroom Physical education has been shown to increase academic performance and implementing it in the classroom would benefit each student. In a mainstreamed classroom, there are students of all kinds of academic and physical levels. In order to meet the needs of all students, universal design must be the main factor in lesson planning. Giving students mental breaks or allowing them to get up and turn in papers are a few examples to keep blood flowing and minds focused. For students with a disability, create a lesson where all students can participate (Grenier, Miller, & Black, 2017). This would include a simple and fun activity that does not just allow those with a disability to participate. By including all personnel across the board this will help each and every student develop a greater sense of diversity. Every part of a physical education classroom can be altered to involve students with a disability to ensure their learning, as well as those without a disability. Another way to include all students is to make changes to the activity so that it involves everyone (Grenier, Miller & Black, 2017).
For example, in a physical education classroom where a game of kickball is being played disabled students in a wheelchair would still be able to participate. When starting the class, one will want to stretch the students’ muscles out to ensure they will not hurt, pull or strain them. A physical education teacher can implement simple modifications to ensure the students that are unable to walk can participate. Students in a wheelchair can stretch their arms out and get looser to throw the ball since this is likely how they will participate in the class. When it is their turn to kick the ball, they could throw it instead, or someone else could kick it for them. For the student to run, another person that is able to run could push the student in a wheelchair to the next base. While in the field, the student in the wheelchair could be the catcher and throw the ball back to the pitcher if possible. There will be other students to help receive the ball for the disabled student, this doesn’t take away from their involvement but rather, it helps to make sure they are having the same experience as the other kids in the class. At the end of the kickball game, students give each other high fives and say “good game” to ensure good sportsmanship.
Every student should do this to give them a sense of community and the idea that it is a fun friendly game for everyone to play, not just students without a disability. By implementing the student with a disability in the classroom, it will help the other students become more diversified when around them. Taking physical education classes out of school curriculums could result in negative effects, including obesity, low academic performance, poor social skills and a lack of acknowledgment for diversity. Physical education is essential in school curriculums to help students develop in the classroom now and maintain a healthy lifestyle later.
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