Nontraditional Recreation Activities a Catalyst for Quality Physical Education: These Activities Offer the Most Promising Path to Lifelong Physical Activity, and the Barriers to Implementation Disappear in the Face of Careful Planning

By Ballard, William A.; Chase, Matthew R. | JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, March 2004 | Go to article overview

Nontraditional Recreation Activities a Catalyst for Quality Physical Education: These Activities Offer the Most Promising Path to Lifelong Physical Activity, and the Barriers to Implementation Disappear in the Face of Careful Planning


Ballard, William A., Chase, Matthew R., JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance


It is widely accepted that today's K-12 physical educators generally face unfavorable conditions. Increasingly, physical educators are charged with designing and implementing innovative and effective programs despite existing hardships. According to Corbin (2002), in order to succeed, "We must pay special attention to the development of positive physical self-perceptions that will lead to a physically active identity, and ultimately an active life" (p. 140). Researchers have given considerable attention to the prospect of introducing nontraditional recreational activities (table 1) into the physical education curriculum, which may serve to accomplish the objectives Corbin outlined (Bunting, 1989; Chappell & Wiggins, 1997; Cosgriff, 2000; Latess, 1992; Latess, 1986, McCracken, 2001; Pennington & Krouscas, 1999). Around the world--including in countries such as the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand--the use of recreational activities in physical education has had tremendous success (Beedie, 2000; Boyes, 2000; Chappell & Wiggins, 1997; Cosgriff, 2000; and Wigmore & Stirling, 1999). Some countries, like Israel, have taken this a step further by teaching leisure education as an independent subject, in addition to incorporating it into different subjects (American Association for Leisure and Recreation, 2003, p. 19).

The United States has had sporadic efforts for the inclusion of recreational activities in physical education. In 1971, Project Adventure appeared on the scene in America to fuel the outdoor adventure revolution well into the 1980s. Many authors lauded numerous benefits--physiological, psychological, social, and intellectual--for adventure participants (McAvoy & Dustin, 1986; Moore, 1986; Rohnke, 1986). Martial arts such as Tai Chi, karate, and judo continue to grow in popularity and show similar promise (Chen & Sherman, 2002; McGehee & Reekie, 1999; Winkle & Ozmun, 2003). Nevertheless, the literature in recent years has given comparatively little attention to the incorporation of nontraditional activities into physical education. This development is surprising in view of the potential impact on physical education students and teachers. Therefore, the purpose of this article is to highlight the key physical education benefits of nontraditional recreation activities, to outline some of the known constraints to implementing these activities, and to recommend strategies for the inclusion of such activities in the physical education curriculum.

Impetus for the Review

Although attempts to offer more diverse activities within physical education may involve adversity, these attempts have gained support in recent years through the Physical Education for Progress (PEP) Act. The purpose of this act is to award grants and contracts to local educational agencies in order to enable them to initiate, expand, and improve physical education programs for all kindergarten through 12th-grade students. One such local agency, Spokane School District 81 in Washington, was the recipient of a PEP grant during the 2001-2002 school year. With support from the grant, District 81 developed the "Fit for the Future--Success for All Students Through a Fitness- and Health-Based Program Model" curriculum. A team of researchers (including the authors) evaluated the effectiveness of "Fit for the Future" (FFF) curriculum with a qualitative inquiry that looked into faculty perspectives (Chase, Ballard, Repovich, & Morley, 2003).

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From this study, the researchers gleaned several themes. One noteworthy theme was that participating FFF faculty "collectively saw the introduction of leisure and lifetime sports, such as hiking, roller blading, rock climbing, cycling, swimming, and walking, as being integral to the spirit and intent of the FFF curriculum" and that these activities "show potential for motivating young people to seek a lifetime of wellness" (Chase et. …

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Nontraditional Recreation Activities a Catalyst for Quality Physical Education: These Activities Offer the Most Promising Path to Lifelong Physical Activity, and the Barriers to Implementation Disappear in the Face of Careful Planning
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