Fun Club: A Physical Activity Program for Elementary Schools; Hurry, Hurry, Don't Be Late. Fun Club Starts at 8:00!

Article excerpt

Within today's elementary schools the idea of fun and engagement in physical activity in the school day has somehow become lost. At the same time, elementary schools have continued to reduce physical education instruction time and recess time to bolster classroom instruction time (Action for Healthy Kids, 2004). The adoption of a holistic approach to increasing students' physical activity time needs to be espoused by schools. Physical education teachers cannot take sole responsibility for the lack of physical activity time, however; they are an integral component, and in many cases the catalyst, for increasing students' physical activity. As a physical activity specialist, the physical educator can educate school personnel (i.e., principals, guidance counselors, and teachers) regarding the importance of physical activity and the ramifications for children in the midst of the obesity epidemic (Castelli & Beighle, 2007). They can also explain the elements needed to create a quality physical activity program.

Today's society can be characterized by what is known as an "obesogenic" environment (Egger & Swinburn, 1997). This characterization is an imbalance between "energy in" and "energy out," and it has been found to contribute to an increase in the childhood obesity rates. These rates have more than tripled for children between the ages of six and 11 in the past three decades (Cameron, Norgan, & Ellison, 2006). However, the school community could combat this disparity, via an increase with students' "energy out," by creating avenues for physical activity participation.

The National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE, 2004a) recommends that elementary school children receive quality physical education instruction for a minimum of 150 minutes per week. However, most elementary school programs have classes for 30 minutes from one to three days per week. Buffalo Bend Elementary School (BBES), an eastern rural school, is no exception. The students there have physical education two days per week for 30 minutes and daily unstructured recess that varies in time and consistency. Due to the lack of time devoted to physical activity pursuits, a reallocation of time within the school day was needed. This article outlines the process for how to create a developmentally appropriate, physical activity program in an elementary school.

Creating a Physical Activity Program

Each morning Mrs. Donald's third-grade students at BBES can hardly wait to get to school. They arrive by bus or car and proceed to Room 112, where they get organized for the day. As the clock approaches eight, the students' excitement grows. For the students know, Fun Club is almost ready to begin.

Fun Club is a physical activity program for elementary school children in grades two to five at BBES. This program encompasses a wide range of fun and engaging physical activities that are facilitated by a classroom teacher. The foundation for the Fun Club program included elements from the 2004 NASPE guidelines (NASPE, 2004b) and the Getting Energized and Recharged (GEAR) activities (Maeda & Murata, 2004).

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In 2004, NASPE recommended more stringent physical activity guidelines for children ages five through 12 (NASPE, 2004b). Based on these recommendations, activity sessions should last at least 15 minutes, include a variety of age-appropriate fitness activities, incorporate positive role models, and encourage students to set their own pace or intensity while participating in activities. In accordance with these guidelines, the Fun Club physical activities were designed to be aerobic, to last 15 to 20 minutes, to provide a variety of activities from jump rope to dance, to require a minimal level of skill proficiency, and to allow students to increase their heart rate and maintain their intensity with minimal starting or stopping. The Fun Club program focused on enabling students to enjoy physical activity, therefore the teachers encouraged students to find their own levels of intensity and evaluate their progress instead of comparing themselves to other classmates. …