Some time ago, I wrote about Comprehensive School Physical Activity Programs (CSPAP). Previous to that blog and since then, the ground swell of support from national, state, and local organizations has continued. In fact, it seems that interest continues to grow at a faster rate than previously. Research is being conducted, stakeholders are being trained to implement CSPAPs, and most importantly, youth continue to be impacted by these efforts. Without a doubt, CSPAP is here and having an impact. But as I discuss often when I speak, is it here for the long haul….or is it just another “fly by night”, “here today gone tomorrow” (and all the other clichés) fad, destined for extinction?
To get the CSPAP movement going, I think all the right steps have been taken. Information about CSPAP is everywhere. That was the first step. Next, stakeholders (physical educators, parents, educators, concerned citizens) are taking on the role of physical activity promoter, Champion, Physical Activity Leader (and any other name out there) in schools. Funding is being provided for trainings and often support groups are being generated from these trainings. This is all incredible. The CDC has generated a CSPAP Guide and trainings around it. It’s happening! Get excited!
But is it sustainable? I am not one to be a wet blanket on the campfire, but we really need to look at this. Providing one-day trainings for in-service teachers year after year is not an answer….at least not for cost-effective, systemic change. Then how do we do it?
Please keep in mind, the remainder of this blog is written by a physical education teacher educator (PETE) who may be biased and might not reflect the perspective of all PETEs.
If CSPAP is going to continue to prosper, PETE programs must take on the role of preparing future physical educators to promote physical activity in the schools. The days of accepting a physical educator who only teachers soccer skills and the Virginia Reel are over. While those are important concepts to teach in a quality physical education program, the physical educator must take on a bigger role. One that involves politicking, managing events, advocating for youth, speaking to parents and other stakeholders about the benefits of physical activity, and the list goes on. But, where do they learn that? In teacher preparation programs, of course.
For PETE programs, this is going to mean choices have to be made. Do we integrate CSPAP concepts into existing courses? If we do that we have to decide what content to cut from the course. Do we add a CSPAP course? If we do that we have to decide what course to cut. At least from my experience, most PETE curricula are jammed packed with limited, if any, electives. Thus, adding a course means cutting a course. What type of experiences should students engage in during PETE courses? A while back some colleagues and I wrote an article about this very topic (Beighle, et al, 2009). Our philosophy was to integrate CSPAP learning experiences into existing courses. While not a universal approach, we have used it at my institute and found it to be effective. We are also exploring the types of experiences student teachers receive and work diligently to place them with cooperating teachers who promote physical activity in the school. One could argue that student teaching is the best place to see CSPAP implementation.
The potential for CSPAPs to impact the lives of children is tremendous. To maintain these efforts, a sustainable system for preparing physical educators to take on this role is needed. Fortunately, PETE is that system. My challenge is for PETE programs to step to the future and proactively prepare physical educators to make a positive difference in the lives of youth.