Obesity is an epidemic among the nation’s schoolchildren. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 13 million children between the ages of 2-19 are considered obese. Where physical education used to be the only way for schools to provide students a healthy lifestyle, there are now plenty of ways for students to stay active and healthy throughout the school day.
That being said, the physical education department is still the hub of a school’s ideas in health and fitness. Unstructured play has been proven as a boon for developmental growth, so providing a range of equipment for students to explore their chosen pursuits can engage everyone in activity. Professional development can help teachers modernize their approach.
Many schools have outdoor spaces that are underutilized. Learning doesn’t have to be constrained to the school’s walls. School gardens can be used to teach students concepts from a range of subject areas while also supplementing the cafeteria’s needs for fresh fruit and vegetables. A nature path can be a great way of bringing concepts to life as well as providing students another option for physical activity. Finally, consider outdoor explorative and collaborative spaces that every subject can find uses for.
If schools have limited outdoor space, it only takes a spare room or even just storable equipment to create a school fitness center. The key is making sure everyone, from students to staff, knows they are welcome. Some schools have had success with a fitness club before or after school, which in addition to improving the school’s physical health also boosts the school’s climate.
Through modern equipment and design, physical activity can also play a part within the classroom’s walls. We are just starting to scratch the surface of the benefits of standing during the day, so standing desks are increasing in value. Stationary bikes and pedal desks are also available for students who want to stay active while staying seated. Plus, there is no reason why frequent activity breaks can’t be provided during lessons. They can be integrated into the lesson itself. It only takes some targeted professional development to make that happen.
This article is a summary of “Focusing on Student Health.” from our 2017 Projects by Design Idea Book.
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