Why Teach Physical Education History? "Don't Know Much about History," Says the Old Pop Song, and That Might Be an Understatement When It Comes to Physical Education History. but Help Is at Hand

By Patterson, Jan | JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, September 2004 | Go to article overview

Why Teach Physical Education History? "Don't Know Much about History," Says the Old Pop Song, and That Might Be an Understatement When It Comes to Physical Education History. but Help Is at Hand


Patterson, Jan, JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance


The physical education discipline has had a long development, incorporating concepts learned and appreciated from ancient and modern Olympics, exercise and training, physical activity and sport, and the history of physical education itself. Nevertheless, it continues to evolve as educators improve their instructional methods, medical experts discover better ways for people to exercise, and technological advances offer new ways to train and improve the human body for all types of physical activity. Knowing the heritage of physical education allows educators to understand why instruction and curriculum has evolved and how it will continue to change. Through the study of the historical perspective of physical education, physical education students learn why present practices have emerged and why they may change with new knowledge. The information gained from understanding a historical perspective of physical education provides adults with the ability to predict future best practices in the discipline and personal best practices for lifelong health and wellness.

Teaching about historical perspectives in physical education can be divided into four areas of focus: the discipline of physical education itself, exercise and training, sports, and the Olympics. Each of these areas has contributed to the curricular development of physical education instruction. Additionally, the history or social studies curriculum at each grade level can be enhanced through physical education history.

Kindergarten and First Grade

In many school districts, the focus at these grade levels in all curricular areas is the study of oneself in time and space. This provides the ideal opportunity to teach students about time concepts related to physical education, such as the time of day when students have physical education and other opportunities for physical activity. Teachers can address the concept of space by asking students where (in the school and at home) they participate in physical education and other physical activities.

The concept of change can be explored by asking students to explain how their skills have improved as they got older, thus tying in the areas of motor learning and motor development. An appropriate activity is to have students imitate movements they performed at different ages: one, two, three, four, and five. Students also can imitate movements they have seen others perform and comment on how their movements are similar or different.

Sequencing events is another focus at these grade levels. Teachers can ask students what they had for breakfast and in what order they ate these items. Then they can have students make up movements for each breakfast item. Once they have decided the order and the movement, students can put them into motion with music. This same activity can be performed for a morning routine: get up, eat breakfast, brush teeth, and so on. Addressing sequence in this manner teaches students that events occur in an order.

Second and Third Grades

Students typically study their local community in the second and third grades. Therefore, the study of physical education at this age should focus on local influences on physical activity and sport. Students should be able to describe popular physical activities in their community and explain why they might be popular (e.g., water sports are popular when there are lakes and rivers in the community). This is also a great time to ask students to research the lives of local individuals who have been involved in sports and dance at the professional or amateur level. Students can report on the individual's impact in the community, both in terms of his or her athletic and humanitarian efforts. Perhaps that individual could be a guest speaker or demonstrator for the class.

Second- and third-graders should also learn the frequency of the Olympics and the ways the games have changed over time. They can participate in an Olympic event, such as the long jump, while exploring ways to improve their performance. …

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Why Teach Physical Education History? "Don't Know Much about History," Says the Old Pop Song, and That Might Be an Understatement When It Comes to Physical Education History. but Help Is at Hand
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