Evolving Physical Education

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It’s time we admit it, the traditional way of teaching physical education is falling short. We aren’t effectively instilling students with a health consciousness.  Perhaps part of the challenge in addressing this shortcoming is acknowledging that we don’t know how to teach students to get in touch with their bodies, or feel their health. It is somewhat of an abstract notion and physical education is so, physical. 

But what if we are looking at this all wrong? What if the fields of health and physical education are teeming with untapped potential? What if through the body we could cultivate self-awareness and apply it physically, mentally and emotionally? Through revamping how we teach PE, the body becomes the training ground for applying the higher-level skills contingent upon this factor. Mindset training, emotional intelligence, critical thinking, collaboration and creativity all require a degree of self-awareness. 

My wife and I are passionate about this subject. Together we coauthored a book, ALL IN: The Mindset of Fitness,and this year I am implementing even more of this unique curriculum at the middle school level. The new units address current shortcomings by infusing body awareness, mindfulness, and a hands-on approach toward integrating health into PE. Simply adding mindful activities, such as yoga, is not enough. The way we teach and structure the entire subject needs to change. 

For example during a cardiovascular lesson, instructional language is reframed. The essential question is how students can feel the cardiovascular system at work. Students can feel their bones and muscles, but how do they feel their heart is working? The answer, heart rate and perceived level of exertion. This question, in and of itself, causes a shift in focus. The attention is on getting in touch with their body and applying health lessons. Connecting the dots and refocusing students’ attention inwards helps to instill a reflective self-awareness. 

Fitness and the body should be embraced as a way of living meaningfully and vibrantly. It’s time we elevate this subject to embrace its innate potential. 

Daniella Land