Today’s schools are faced with myriad issues: keep test scores up, keep discipline problems down, keep students engaged, and more recently provide healthy alternatives and solutions to childhood obesity. What if there was just one solution? Could it be P.E.? Could the same class that conjures up memories of being “picked last” and drilled with a dodge ball be the solution to these issues?
A program called PE4 Life has taken on the old stereotypes of physical education classes and is implementing a revolutionary philosophy on the subject that could find administrators, teachers and parents standing up and taking notice.
We all know the physical benefits of exercise, but new research is showing that physical activity can also be good for our brains. The program was put into practice three years ago at Woodland Elementary, one of Kansas City’s urban schools. After just one year, discipline problems decreased by more than 67 percent, test scores were up, and kids were beginning to like P.E. and ultimately became more fit.
Now, instead of cutting P.E. from the curriculum, which has been the case in so many schools across the country, Kansas City schools are including it daily. And instead of focusing on the old stand-bys of dodge ball and chin-ups, kids are engaging in the types of exercises that are markedly building muscles and conditioning the heart.
Making the mind-body connection is the goal of The Active Brain, a new documentary that looks at the benefits for children engaging in daily physical education in school, and how through this class they are providing the brain the necessary connections it needs to be prepared to learn. Through case studies at Pitcher Elementary in Kansas City, Mo.—including interviews with Dr. John Ratey and P.E. teacher Phil Lawlor—KCPT documents just how physical education is “turning fitness on its head.”