You’d have to be living under a rock to miss all the statistics about kids not getting enough physical activity these days. There are many reasons for this: not enough Physical Education (PE) in schools, too much time playing video games or on the computer, less time spent playing outside after school, etc. With such a push to improve academic test scores, many schools are failing to support physical education and physical activity (PA). Even though research has shown time and again that active kids do better in academic tests, they cut recess and PE programs to the bare minimum. The recommended dose is 60 minutes a day, yet most schools aren’t getting even half that. So, what can you, as a parent, do to urge schools to increase both the quantity and the quality of physical education? Be an advocate! Advocating is basically asking for something and then making it happen by changing policies and practices. If you would like to advocate for better PE and more PA at your school, here are five steps that can help:
1. Educate yourself on the issue.
Why is PE important? What are the benefits? What, if any, are the mandates your state has for number of minutes of physical education each week? Does the school have a Wellness Policy?
2. Learn more about the PE in your school.
Do an assessment of the school’s PE environment and find which areas are in need of work. Learn about all the opportunities children have for physical activity at the school. This may include PE, recess, before and after school activity, and activity breaks during class time. Is PE being taught by a credentialed Physical Education Specialist? A Classroom Teacher? An aide? A volunteer? Is PE addressing state or national standards? Is the program evidence-based? Is it enjoyable? Are assessments used? Which types?
3. Recruit others to help you advocate.
A lone voice is not as powerful as a choir. Spread the word using outreach techniques like PTA meetings, newsletters, bulletin boards, school websites, word of mouth, emails, mailings, posters at the school, etc. Use handouts, PowerPoint presentations, and videos that are available online to help get your message across to your fellow parents.
4. Plan a meeting.
Inform the principal and other teachers about what you’ve found (e.g. PTA or School Board meeting). Invite members of the school board as well. Take this opportunity to show support for PE and PA at the school. Be sure a lot of parents and students attend the meeting to show support. Let them know how important it is to you and the students at the school. Cover the benefits of PE as well as the importance of quality PE taught by a credentialed PE Specialist using an evidence-based program.
5. Start an action plan to begin tackling issues that need work.
How can you help improve the quality and quantity of PE and PA at the school? Research available programs and decide which meet the needs of your school. Be sure the budget includes funding for PE Specialists, curriculum, equipment, and professional development to help the program get going and stay strong.
Think big, but remember most change happens in baby steps. Good luck advocating!