Darren Powell Auckland PENZ Leadership Symposium 2011
1. Introduction and Overview 2. Fitness at your school? 3. Research background – NZ and overseas 4. Childrens understanding of fitness, fatness and PE 5. Is there a better way? 6. Fitness challenge 7. Time to share...then reconnect
1. What fitness activities do you do at your school, how many times a week and how long is each session? 2. How are your fitness sessions arranged (class/syndicate/school/ability)? 3. What do your children think fitness is? 4. Why do you do fitness at your school? 5. What do your students learn through fitness? Do the answers to these last three questions interconnect?
There are global concerns regarding childrens bodies and behaviours: Fatness/obesity Fitness levels Sedentary behaviour Physical activity levels Eating habits Couch-potatoism Schools are seen as a key site to stem the tide of the childhood obesity epidemic (Taylor, 2007, p. 2). HPE is considered an obvious solution (Gard, 2011)and in some circles, an obvious cause of childhood obesity (Crister, 2003). However, many of these assumptions are increasingly being contested and critiqued...
The prevalance of obesity and epidemic status (Gard, 2011) If children are more inactive than past generations (see Gard & Wright, 2005; McDermott, 2007). Whether physical activity is beneficial to the health, BMI, or fitness of children (see Boreham & Riddoch, 2003; Harris, Kuramoto, Schulzer, & Retallack, 2009; Twisk, 2001). Whether PA levels, BMI or fitness as children is linked with that of adulthood (Flegal, Tabak, & Ogden, 2006; Twisk, 2001). If PE can programme children to be physically active: no link between school physical education and either the long-term health, body weight or physical activity levels of children has ever been established (Gard & Wright, 2005, p. 4).
The prevalence of obese children in NZ did not change between 2002 and 2006/07, nor has childrens mean BMI (Ministry of Health, 2008, p. 106). Maddison, Turley, Legge, & Mitchelhills (2010) NZ PA survey demonstrated that 754 children (aged 5-9) spent on average minutes per day engaged in moderate and vigorous intensity physical activity (MVPA). NZ studies that have attempted to improve childrens fitness have rarely improved muscular power, aerobic performance, speed, flexibility, or body mass of the children (e.g. Hamlin, Ross, & Hong, 2002; Kidling, Wagenaar, Cronin, McGuigan, & Schofield, 2009).
disordered eating, bulimia, and anorexia (Evans, Rich, Davies, & Allwood, 2008; Gard & Wright, 2005; Tinning & Glasby, 2002); size discrimination (Rich & Evans, 2005); fat phobia (Sykes & McPhail, 2008); an impoverished engagement with physical culture (Burrows, 2005, p. 14), including excessive exercising (Zanker & Gard, 2008); children understand health as equating with body size, shape and weight and a moral imperative to live healthy lifestyles (Burrows, Wright, & Jungerson-Smith, 2002).
Not so much about which side of the debate around childrens fatness/fitness/PA is true or right My concern is that one side is regularly taken as a common- sense, taken-for-granted truth, even though there is much uncertainty in the evidence There are now many policies and practices to make kids fitter, more active and less fat that are uncritically taken into schools. If we acknowledge that links between childrens fatness, fitness, PA are complex and uncertain, then we can at least question what practices are taking place in our schools. This uncertainty led me to my Masters thesis topic....
Auckland, decile 8 co-ed state school with just over 270 students from years 1 to 6. 80% of students born outside of New Zealand. School PE programme based on aquatics, interschool/intraschool sports, and fitness. Year 5 class 28 children in total, including 13 girls and 15 boys.
Sometimes around the field, sometimes around the block. Stretches at start, walking cool-down at end.
During Jump Jam/cross-country sessions over one week, the children participated as per usual and took photographs in total. The following week I talked with each of the 6 child-researchers (60-75 minutes) using semi-structured interview technique. The aim of this study was not to generalise how all children in NZ understand fitness. These interviews were about the childrens voice in expressing their own perspectives on their experiences. This is what they told me... Six children (three girls and three boys) from a range of ethnicities were asked to be official fitness researchers. All six were nine years of age.
Complex tensions that made fitness good and bad all at the same time (Sammy):
I like a lot of things about fitness. Like, I like Jump Jam on the good songs. Something I do like about to cross country is how you get to do...all of these different cool exercises at the beginning (Jimi) Some of the children described Jump Jam as being enjoyable and fun based on the choice of song and the moves performed for each song. Tension #1: Fun vs Fatigue All of the children I interviewed shared stories of how fitness created moments of fun and fatigue, pleasure and displeasure, excitement and boredom.
Fatigue was articulated in two ways. First, as boredom and weariness of particular songs, routines and/or movements that the children felt were repeated too often. Shreya, reflected on her photograph of Jump Jam below by saying we have copied them so much we know it...maybe we can make up our own and we may try different things...
Shreya: I like when you can run and you can exercise a little bit but the part I dont like is you get really tired... Darren: What do you mean by tired? Can you describe how your body feels? Shreya: Like I dont want to do it anymore, Im tired, I just want to sleep or sit down, or, yeah... Darren: Why arent you allowed to have a sit down when youre tired? Shreya: Cause that wont help.
I think its sort of like training and exercise. (Georgia) Getting exercise. (Sammy) Its a kind of sport. (Joseph) A type of exercise that's good that helps you. (Jimi) Walking is fitness. (Daisy)
For the most part the children talked about fitness as an an activity that you do or an activity that helps you exercise and maybe lose weight or something along the lines of that... (Shreya). Getting fit basically just means like non-fat....fit means, in a way, getting like non-fat, like, just helping your body to get skinny. Itll also let you fit through the door. (Daisy) Georgia stated that children needed to get fit because it sort of makes you lose weight. Joseph said fitness makes your body like, healthy and like, doesnt make you like, that fat. Jimi described fitness as being good for your body because if you don't do exercise you get really fat.
A fit person was someone who looks skinny (Daisy) or had big muscles (Sammy). Conversely, an unfit person would look non-skinny (Daisy), or fat (Joseph/Daisy/Shreya). Darren: If I had a photo of a whole lot of different people, could we tell if they were fit just by looking at them? Jimi: Yes. Darren: What would a fit person look like do you think? Jimi: A person that has lots of muscles. Darren: Anything else? Jimi: Not really. Darren: What about a person who was unfit…what would they look like? Jimi: They would be really fat, sit on the couch all day.
The children were sure that they were doing fitness lessons to get fit = skinny. Sammy and the other children found it difficult to express what they learnt in fitness lessons: Sammy: Um...(long pause)...moves? Darren: Havent you already learnt the moves? Once youve learnt the moves, what do you learn after that? Sammy: More moves? Darren: What about cross country? What do you learn in cross country training? Sammy: Um...(long pause)...I...I learn...I learn....um...(long pause)...Im not sure. Shreya, Joseph and Georgia told me that indicators of success, learning intentions and assessments were never used with fitness lessons.
When the children talked about getting fit or fitter, they were referring to getting thin or thinner; fitness was directly related to bodily appearance: being thin, getting skinnier, forming big muscles and/or avoiding fatness. It seemed normal for the children to desire thinness, avoid fatness, and to talk about their bodies and behaviours in terms of body dissatisfaction, monitoring of eating and exercise, guilt over inactivity, exercise for weight loss, and a fear of fat. The childrens responses also indicated they lamented the lack of differentiation, individualisation and ownership of the lessons; fitness lessons had a concrete one-size-fits-all teaching technique that children were expected to obediently follow. Is it our responsibility to challenge these understandings of fitness and fatness, and to be critical of practices that create and/or maintain this emphasis on shaping childrens bodies and behaviours???
We can encourage children to create their own dance or aerobics routines, using their own choices of moves and movements. We can support children to create games, scavenger hunts, orienteering courses, and amazing races where they can sprint, jog and rest while experiencing joy and meaning, rather than repetition. We can work with our students to develop physical education experiences that are not only more fun, but more meaningful, creative and educative. We can critically examine our PE practices, like Jump Jam and cross country, and consider how we may create, maintain or challenge childrens understanding of PA/PE/fitness as a solution to fatness.
I would make fitness less tiring and more fun (Shreya). choose our own actions...get to create your own. But when you follow youre just copying...but inventing your own moves, I think its more fun than copying (Joseph) Georgia explained how she would rather play a game her and her friends made up called Spider, than cross-country running: The children provided over 70 interesting ideas to make fitness lessons more fun, creative and meaningful than Jump Jam and cross-country. Heres one of mine…
Running CooperationCreativityCommunication CatchingThrowingJumping ChallengingFunChild-centredInteresting Original
In a small group: 1. Brainstorm (3 mins) 2. Choose one idea (students needs?) and develop it further using the unit plan. 3. Share your fresh idea with group (1 min). 4. When you have taught this unit, share it with group on new page. Fresh ideas for a 15 min PE lesson or series of 15 min sessions... Consider various movements (running, throwing, skipping, dancing) Consider different contexts (unit themes, festivals, cultures, games, events) Consider learning intentions for all students.
To create and plan for a series short PE lessons to be taught with your students this year or early next year. 1. Base your plan on one of the ideas just brainstormed (or my idea). 2. Fill in the parts of the unit plan first, then complete the rest if/when you have a few minutes spare. 3. Keep asking What are all of my students learning needs? and How will each lesson connect my teaching with their learning? 4. Keep asking Can this unit be more educational, meaningful, creative and/or enjoyable for my all students than traditional fitness sessions? At the end, each group will share key ideas from their unit plan with the rest of the group – 1 min max!
If any of the issues, ideas, research or debates interest you OR if you want to continue developing your PE programme and our PE community, please join my Facebook page: Powell PE: Rethinking fitness in primary schools
1. Type here 2. Click here
3. Click Like! Now you will be ready to post new ideas, successes, stories about your PE/fitness experiences, as well as commenting on others, receiving links to useful resources, and creating a NZ PE community of passionate primary teachers!
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