The public school priorities of the 1990s have nudged physical education even closer to the back burner of education, leaving many physical education departments understaffed and operating in overcrowded environments with inadequate equipment. Physical educators frustrated with their working conditions often compromise their efforts to promote student education, adopting instead the stereotypical approach of simply "rolling out the ball" and supervising a modified recess.
The physical education department at Sheffield Middle/High School in Sheffield, Pennsylvania is no different from any other public school. However, its staff has developed a program to effectively deal with the understaffed and overcrowded conditions, while enhancing the education of each individual student. The program, known as Project Fizz Ed, was developed out of necessity in the fall of 1993 when an entire eighth grade, numbering 78 students, was scheduled for one 40-minute class a day, five days a week, for a two-week-on, one-week-off cycle.
The staff at Sheffield refused to resort to the roll-out-the-ball approach, opting instead to establish and meet educationally sound goals. The goals for Project Fizz Ed were (1) to enhance the self-esteem of each student, (2) to improve the efficacy of each student, (3) to allow students to enjoy friendly competition and develop good sportsmanship, (4) to promote cooperation within a group for the attainment of a common goal, (5) to encourage students to accept and be accountable for their own actions and behaviors, (6) to allow each student to recognize essential skills for leadership, (7) to improve students' overall skill development in sport activities, and (8) simply to have fun.
The philosophy of Project Fizz Ed is one of building up, not tearing down, a student's self-esteem, through participation or performance in class activities. It is essential that students be convinced to adopt this concept. Negative statements, such as "That was yours," "You're terrible," or "Oh no...Johnny is up!" are prohibited. Students in general crave positive reinforcement, be it from an instructor or from a peer; therefore, class discussion prior to, during, and at the end of daily physical education activities is a key component in reinforcing the "we build up - we don't tear down" philosophy. Students are bombarded with examples of encouraging statements to use in class, such as "good serve," "nice try," and "Hey, we'll get it next time." They are also encouraged to help one another improve skills for various class activities.
Getting Ready for Fizz Ed
Before the program begins, the class should be divided into teams - in our case, six teams of 13 individuals. Instructors must attempt to keep teams even in terms of race, gender, and skill abilities. The instructor appoints a team leader. The teams are then told to choose an additional leader and a team T-shirt color. The purpose of the team T-shirt color is threefold: (1) to eliminate scrimmage vests during activity or competitions, (2) to promote team identity, and (3) to encourage group loyalty.
The objectives, goals, and rewards are explained to the class once teams have been created. The carrot, or incentive, for the students is the promise that a pizza party will be held for the team that obtains the most points for participation and competition throughout the school year. This carrot alone promotes cooperative efforts within each team. There are other external rewards, such as gum and/or certificates, for the most improved, most enthusiastic, and most cooperative teams. These rewards also seem to lead to internal feelings of satisfaction among most students. Students who normally criticize skill practice and lead-up activities can be seen attempting to achieve the tasks at hand, and once they have succeeded, they can be seen aiding fellow teammates. Both peer coaches and students being coached exhibit body language and expressions indicating satisfaction.
The Daily Routine
Activity begins every day when the instructor blows a whistle, prompting students to assemble in their warm-up circles. Team leaders take roll and lead warm-up and stretching activities. All six teams then convene in the center of the gymnasium, and the instructors give administrative announcements and an itinerary of the day's activities. The class philosophy of building up, not tearing down, is reinforced verbally during this time, during activities, and during class closure.
Table 1 contains a sample of activities for a well-rounded physical education curriculum. Two teams are scheduled at each of the three stations and can be rotated on a period-by-period basis. The activities in blue are competitions held for points toward the pizza party, and these contests are officiated by senior high students.
In soccer, scooter hockey, softball, and kickball competitions, 3 points are awarded for a win, 2 points for a tie, and 1 point for a loss. In volleyball and basketball tournaments and in the pyramid building contest, 10 points are awarded for first place, 9 points for second place, 8 points for third place, and so forth. There are also points given to teams (1 each day) if the entire team is dressed for participation in team color. In an activity such as aerobic dance, a team receives 5 bonus points for total participation from each individual team member. This system helps to alleviate the reluctance of certain adolescents to participate.
An attempt should be made to minimize the number of competitive events during the program to reduce the stress and anxiety levels of less skilled participants. In the basketball competitions, for example, teams can be further divided into A and B squads with six or seven members on each team. The A squad of each team competes in a round-robin schedule with the other five teams for competition points. The B squads play in a separate tournament for fun and participation points only, meaning that a team that has the full cooperation of all squad members will receive 2 points per game - win or lose.
The final competitive event of the program is a class track meet. In most scenarios, teams are within 20 points of each other before the meet and still have a chance of winning the pizza party. Point values for track activities can be assigned as seen fit so that all teams have a chance for the team awards.
A Total Success
The program is finally evaluated both by the students and the instructors. Evaluation results are reviewed, the program is revised, and improvements are implemented the next year.
The Project Fizz Ed program at Sheffield Middle/High School was a total success. Students who in the past had been nondressers or non-participants not only dressed and participated but were active participants, contributing to their team's efforts and, above all, having fun. Every student seemed to have improved his or her skills, self-esteem, and efficacy. Students constantly encouraged one another in activities, and peer coaching was clearly evident as a means to obtain a common team goal. Students were observed being accountable for their own actions, often saying "my fault" as someone muffed a volleyball set or misplayed a ball at first base.
The academic boosters at Sheffield were so impressed with the program's success that they provided T-shirts for the winning team and certificates for each member of the class. The awards were presented in an ending ceremony that included introductions and cheers for each individual on each team. A senior high student and the school principal were guest speakers, both emphasizing the class philosophy of "we build up - we don't tear down."
This is a program that should be implemented at every middle and junior high school in America. Not only will students benefit, but physical educators will walk proudly and hold their heads high, knowing that they have played an integral part in today's public education.
Table 1. Activity Schedule
Soccer skill (pass) Lead-up soccer game Volleyball skill (bump) Volleyball game Volleyball tournament Basketball skill (dribble) Tumbling Pyramid building Basketball games Scooter hockey Scooter hockey Mission impossible Softball skills (throw and catch) Softball game Track meet
Soccer skill (dribble) Lead-up soccer Volleyball skill (set) Soccer game Volleyball tournament Basketball skill (pass and shoot) Basketball games Pyramid building Fitness circuit Scooter hockey Pin ball Mission impossible Softball skills (hitting) Kickball game Track meet
Soccer skill (head) Fitness test Volleyball skill (serve) Mile run Volleyball tournament Aerobics Basketball games Pyramid building Badminton Scooter hockey Jump the creek Mission impossible Softball tactics Softball game Track meet
- Dennis A. Johnson and Kimberly Nelson are health and physical education instructors at the Sheffield Area Middle/Senior High School, Sheffield, PA 16365.…