For the public and often the students themselves, physical education (PE) in schools is rarely taken seriously, viewed as a largely a ‘filler’ subject to meet government requirements. However, in the context of the modern world, where children rarely play outside, few engage in any type of sport, and there is a prevalence of health problems such as obesity arising at a young age. Particularly with the impacts of the pandemic, the US underage obesity rate has increased to 22%, with many children also experiencing various mental health issues (Dyer 1). Physical education is a key subject to address that, as it “provides cognitive content and instruction designed to develop motor skills, knowledge, and behaviors” (“Physical Education”). It has the benefits of increasing levels of physical activity beneficial for health, but also contribute to potential mental clarity needed for on-task learning.
A high-quality physical education curriculum seeks to enable students to enjoy various kinds of physical activities while demonstrating some levels of success and progress in their physical and motor skills and development. A PE program should offer students the opportunities to develop skills, concepts, and dispositions to being physically healthy and active in life. The prevalence of daily physical activity and education in the US is relatively low, so providing a time and space for that in school is crucial for many students. A quality program is both organized around current standards for physical education as well as being student-centered that is based on the developmental urges, unique characteristics, and interests of the students (Pangrazi & Beighle). A quality program is designed in a way that involves students, focuses on their successes, and motivates them to try activities and continue engaged participation, even if it is out of their comfort zone.
The strong advantage of physical education is that it draws on evidence-based practices from a variety of areas. A physical education program must address multiple essential components which are interconnected to form a comprehensive physical education and awareness for the students. The students should be familiar with a range of physical activities and fitness elements, while understanding, at least at the fundamental level, the benefits of such exercises and what parts of the body each one strengthens. Therefore, physical education goes beyond the stereotyped “come to class and play dodgeball” – it has to be a carefully planned and executed program. Students coming to class each day and forced to do standardized exercises to pass the state tests will neither enjoy the class and experience, nor will learn anything. At the same time, making each PE class a ‘relaxed’ activity of doing recreational sports is not an option either. A PE curriculum has to find balance between standards, recreation, learning new sports/activities, and involving basic health/sexual education at the theoretical level.
The importance of planning a quality physical education curriculum focuses on striking the balance described above but ensuring that there is structure, accountability, and engagement. Planning in PE involves concepts such as applying the standards and outcomes and applying them to the students based on their grade level, physical development, and mental state, while thinking about what students wish to learn. A quality curriculum finds ways to measure the student learning and determining student outcomes. In turn, through the physical activity and development achieved, the students can then reach the level of standards appropriate for their age.
Dyer, Owen. “Obesity in US Children Increased at an Unprecedented Rate during the Pandemic.” BMJ, vol. 374, 2021, p. n2332, Web.
Pangrazi, Robert P., and Beighle, Aaron. Dynamic Physical Education For Elementary School Children. 19th ed., Pearson Education, 2019.
“Physical Education.” CDC. Web.