Greenwood, Stillwell, and Byars (2001) identify the most-liked and least-liked physical education activities among a population of middle school boys and girls. They point out that administrators often overlook student preferences when making changes to the physical education curriculum, and they feel strongly that students should be heard. If students are omitted from the equation, then they "may well be exposed to ineffective, repetitious programs that offer few, if any, challenges" (p. 26).
In general, "the majority of students had strong interests in basketball, bicycling, roller-skating, soccer, swimming and volleyball. Activities they had little interest in were folk or square dancing, badminton, field hockey and floor hockey" (pp. 27-28). Regarding gender differences, the authors found that "the males demonstrated a stronger interest in archery, basketball, bicycling, bowling, flag football, roller-skating, soccer, swimming and wrestling" (p. 28). Their female peers also rated basketball, bicycling, roller-skating, soccer, and swimming very high. In contrast to the boys, however, the girls ranked gymnastics, softball, tennis, and volleyball as strong preferences.
Though no conclusive decisions for every school can be inferred from this data set, it is interesting that the activities the boys preferred and girls did not (football and wrestling) are very combative in nature. Another interesting difference between the boys and girls was that the girls chose standard female interscholastic sports (softball and volleyball) as well as those typically dominated in terms of participation by adolescent girls (gymnastics and tennis).
One of the benefits of physical education is the numerous curriculum choices (e.g., games, activities, exercises, sports) that teachers can use to help children acquire the basic skills (standards and benchmarks) of motor development that are set by our national and state organizations. Also, physical educators are often left to their own creativity when organizing and implementing curriculum; they are rarely questioned by administrators who do not understand appropriate physical education.
It would be ludicrous and sexist to avow that all girls like certain activities and all boys like others. However, at a particular school there may be some activities that boys and girls both seem to enjoy. It is also evident that …