Thursday, September 14, 2006

The New P.E: Not Your Mother's Gym Class

In an effort to help parents combat the worsening epidemic of childhood obesity, a growing number of schools are implementing the "New P.E." reports MSNBC:
PEARLAND, Texas - For most kids, the choice is easy, but for parents like Susan Sandridge, what her children eat is a daily battle. And on the front line, her daughter Frances — 7 years old, 88 pounds and, her doctor says, obese.

Her 10-year-old sister Samantha weighs 97 pounds. They're among the nation's 12 million overweight children.

"I'm approaching it, fighting all the way," Sandridge says. But in a fast-food world, she says parents need help.

It's a call many schools are responding to, and not just in the cafeteria. In some, the gymnasium now looks like a health club.

There are treadmills and weight machines and bikes and climbing walls replacing dodge ball — teaching fitness in a high-tech way kids understand.

"What you're seeing is a revolutionary change in the delivery of physical education," says Phil Lawler, academy director of P.E. For Life.

But only 30 percent of the nation's schools have adopted what's called the new P.E. Lower-income children with higher obesity rates are least likely to have access.

"We can't afford not to do it," Lawler says.

But even with help, the first battle in the obesity war will always be fought at home, with parents like Tamar Mitchell arming her children with information.

"You make very poor choices," she says. "Your favorite things are pop and fast food."

"I'm really trying to teach them, when you're full, stop," she says.

Parents seeking help in the battle of the bulge, so their children won't end up casualties.
As an actively-serving classroom teacher in a California junior high school, I can attest to the increasing percentage of children who could be considered obese.

Even though our school district has not adopted any sort of "New P.E." curriculum, (in fact, many elementary students get little or no physical education whatsoever) we have, (in response to recent state and federal legislation) taken some steps to address the issue of our students' ever-growing waistlines.

Effective this year, we've removed all "junk" food and sodas from our campus and are only authorized to serve "healthy" meals and treats to students. (Even when provided by the classroom teacher.)

So... no more "Jolly Ranchers" or "Pizza Parties" in class.

It's probably a healthy move for both students and teachers.
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