Incorporating a Spiritual Component into the Health Education Aspects of a Physical (Activity) Education Program

Article excerpt

Abstract

While spiritual health has been gaining respect among researchers and academic scholars as a vital component of human wellness, little research has focused on the implementation and assessment of spiritual education in public schools. The present study examined the effects of spiritual health education on students' ability to choose positive health behaviors in a physical and health education program using the Sport Education Model (Siedentop, 1994). Twenty-two seventh grade students received six weeks of spiritual health training and 25 additional students served received a traditional curriculum as a control group. Pre and post intervention measures of health behavior were obtained for both groups using the Health-Promoting Lifestyle Profile H (Walker, Sechrist, & Pender, 1987). At the end of the intervention, follow-up questions were conducted to examine possible effects spiritual training may have for long-term development of positive health behaviors. Results showed that overall health behavior was not significantly different after the six-week training period, regardless of training groups. However, the results showed a significant interaction effect of the intervention curriculum (spiritual vs. traditional) and time (pre and post) on overall health behavior and interpersonal relations. Follow up questions uncovered positive behavioral modifications in response to the spiritual health training. In summary, outcomes indicate subjects were responding favorably to the spiritual health education and may suggest that an extended training period would successfully help students choose positive health behaviors.

**********

In recent years spiritual health has been gaining respect as a vital component of human wellness (Byrd, 2001; Eberst, 1984; Hawks, Hull, Thalman, & Richins, 1995; Larson, 1996). Community health leaders have reported that a person's spirituality or religious belief may play a strong role in the achievement of optimum health (Anandarajah & Hight, 2001; McBride, Arthur, Brooks, & Pilkington, 1998; Perrin & McDermott, 1997; Udermann, 2000). Educationally, there is evidence indicating a spirituality curriculum may even enhance an individual's desire to participate and adopt positive health behaviors (Adams, Bezner, Drabbs, Zambarano, & Steinhardt, 2000; Waite, Hawks, & Gast, 1999).

However, in contemporary society the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, requiring separation of church and state, nearly removed religion and spirituality from public schools. The fear of proselytizing for a specific religion left many institutions paying little or no attention to the spiritual aspect of a student's total education (Foxworth, 1998). It was deemed too politically risky to teach about the spiritual dimensions of life (Haynes, 1999). As a result educational systems were found to be searching for a more meaningful curriculum, one that addressed the deeper needs of the human soul (Iannone & Obenauf, 1999; Palmer, 1999).

Spirituality vs. Religion and the United States Constitution

Concerns regarding a complete education prompted the development of legal guidelines for implementing religious teachings in public schools (Kahan, 2003; O'Neil & Loschert, 2002). For over two hundred years First Amendment clauses granting freedom of religion have generated much conflict and debate within the courts as to their application in public education (Kahan, 2003). Conventional wisdom recommends educators familiarize themselves with the outcomes of these past law cases when determining suitable teaching practices (Kahan, 2003; Lugg, 2004; Marshall, 2003). The pertinent law case Abington v. Schempp, 1963 contributed significantly to the acceptance of religion in public schools acknowledging teachers have the freedom to teach about a religion as long as they do not promote the religious doctrines of a specific religion. …