SURVEY AFTER SURVEY SHOWS THAT EDUCATION IS A HIGH PRIORITY WITH THE AMERICAN PUBLIC. Quality education also has bipartisan support with our local, state and nationally elected officials. The challenge is to blend the art and science of teaching into a meaningful educational experience for our students. The ultimate goal of the education process should be to improve instruction and increase student learning. To effectively accomplish this would truly result in education reform. Therefore, the first step in bringing about education reform is to provide academic rigor, vocational relevance and curricula relationships in programs that students see as real.
A health and physical education program is uniquely positioned to be both the change agent and the catalyst for education reform at the secondary level because healthy students make better students Symons, 1997). The health and physical education program at the Digital Arts and Technology Academy (DATA) in Albuquerque, New Mexico, utilizes the 3 Rs of rigor, relevance and relationships, which provide the philosophical underpinnings and the educational foundation of the program (Miles, 2005). This pragmatic approach has allowed DATA "to get real" with high school health and physical education students by actively involving them in their own education.
Students complete individual goal-setting sheets, including their roles and responsibilities as well as the expectations of the staff. DATA utilizes the Polar TriFIT 4.9 software package and creates individual wellness profiles for each student with a focus on the components of health-related fitness. In keeping with academic rigor, all lesson plans are aligned with New Mexico health and physical education content standards. Additionally, students maintain individual exercise logs, including resting heart rate and target heart rate zones; this makes exercise intensity more purposeful, personal, effective and safe.
The program utilizes a computer lab as an instructional strategy. This lab is complete with high-speed Internet connectivity that allows students to log on to the Healthy Schools Network, and complete assignments related to exercise science and nutrition planning. Academic rigor is not limited to abstract thoughts and lengthy exams; rather, there are realistic daily expectations of students and teachers resulting in a shared responsibility that stresses the what, how and why of assignments. With an emphasis on the why, students buy into the benefits of an active and healthy lifestyle and begin to take responsibility for their own learning.
The second program component of relevance addresses the larger issue of lifestyle management and makes health and physical education very personal, therefore more meaningful for each student. Through the use of instructional technology in the computer lab, students are empowered to make informed decisions while considering actions and consequences. Their learning includes class discussions and written assignments about physical activity and its correlation with physical, mental and emotional health as well as physical inactivity and its association with obesity, Type II diabetes and related health care costs.
An electronic file, including data from a nutrition appraisal and fitness test, is established for each student, and this baseline information is shared confidentially with each student and interpreted individually to ensure understanding. Indices such as blood pressure, body composition, flexibility, muscular strength and heart rate are monitored and recorded regularly, providing students with a personal profile complete with physical fitness and nutrition information. This approach motivates students because all comparisons are made to the individual student, providing relevance and a rationale for regular physical activity and a balanced diet. …