All over the United States, school districts continue to modify their curricula to raise grades and test scores in an effort to uplift a sagging educational system.
But these efforts come at a cost: time once dedicated to enrichment programs is being reduced or eliminated, including music classes, art lessons, and one subject in particular: physical education.
But in their efforts to increase academic performance, are administrators in fact hindering their own progress?
Tony Giannini believes so. “It’s a proven fact that body movement and exercise increase brain function.” Giannini, who owns All Star Karate in Stratford, NJ, works with his local school system to provide character education in concert with physical activity.
“Those that are pushing for reducing these classes… are they fully understanding the benefits that physical education can have on the overall performance of a child? Physical activity leads to lower obesity levels, helping a child create a habit of exercise and fitness, and a great way to form bonds and to be social.”
With 45 states and the District of Columbia having adopted the Common Core standards, schools have increasingly moved school time hours away from PE and recess in favor of test-preparation classes.
However, studies suggest that the reduction or elimination of physical activity during the school day will lead to a lower quality of life for children.
According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, obesity rates in children have doubled over the past 30 years, and 18% of children are considered obese. In addition, countries whose education systems are rated among the top in the world schedule blocks of time for unstructured play or activity.
So other than pulling a child out of public education and placing them in a private school, what can a parent do to ensure their health and well being?
Giannini offers a simple solution. “Take your kids to the park and let them play. We’re all busy, I have a five year old son that is a fireball, and I know people have busy lives and schedules. If physical activity is important to you, and they’re not giving it to the kids at school, you’ve got to make that time and do it. Show your kid the importance of physical education by being a good role model, and participate in your own fitness program.”
Another option for many parents is to enroll them in different structured after school physical activities. Nationwide there are programs available for children of all ages, including gymnastics, sports, dance and martial arts.
Giannini offers these tips on what to look for in a structured physical activity for kids:
- Children should be encouraged to try different activities. Find out what they like and what they are interested in. What don’t they like? Feel them out to see where they are leaning towards.
- For younger children, it is our responsibility as parents to choose the activities for them that make sense. Find something that they enjoy, expose them to that, and make sure it will be a positive experience for them.
- Make sure the children understand the idea of commitment. That they are going to do it for a certain amount of time and that you want them to have fun and be successful, and get to a certain level.
- Relate to your kids and help them understand what it’s like to follow through. If a kid faces a challenge or adversity and the parent lets them quit, that does nothing to build a child’s confidence. And that habit will go into other areas of their lives.
- Programs that have a high emphasis on competition and physical ability may not be the best for a beginner.
- Avoid over scheduling. If your kids are in a structured activity every single evening, they can become overwhelmed.
Tony Giannini is a child development expert and martial arts school owner who resides in Stratford, New Jersey. Tony is a frequent presenter at elementary schools where he teaches the ABC’s of success program. He also shares his physical activities that build character through his new program Awesome Karate Drills. For more information, visit http://www.awesomekaratedrills.com.