You Can Do It – We All Can!
There are many reasons why we may not be as active as we should, and they can be different for each person. This Play is about considering and addressing barriers to physical activity — ALL barriers, whether they are physical, intellectual, emotional, psychological, financial, safe places to play or something else — and finding ways to break those barriers down, either for ourselves or for others.
It is well-known that physical activity can help prevent long-term health risks,i and that regular physical activity helps with achievement.ii Recent studies, too, have shown that fitness can be even more beneficial in more intellectually challenging situations (i.e., the harder the learning task, the more being physically fit helps).iii This has implications for every student, so schools must find ways to break down barriers to fitness and help all students be included — and feel motivated to participate — in fitness activity.
iThe Wellness Impact: Executive Summary. 2013. GenYouth Foundation. et. al.
iiFact sheet: Physically active and fit children perform better in school. Active Living Research. July 2012. Retrieved from http://activelivingresearch.com/files/Brief_ActiveEducation_Factsheet_July2012.pdf.
iiiRaine LB, Lee HK, Saliba BJ, Chaddock-Heyman L, Hillman CH, et al. (2013) The Influence of Childhood Aerobic Fitness on Learning and Memory. PLoS ONE 8(9): e72666. Retrieved from http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0072666
Huddle up with your school’s Program Advisor, PE instructor, the school nurse, school counselor and other teachers to help brainstorm ideas. Remember to include the whole team: your principal to give your plan a thumbs-up, parents to help supervise recess activities and students to lend their ideas.
Set up an investigative team to brainstorm and document some of the barriers to physical activity around the school and throughout the student body. Take an inventory to see what the biggest challenges are. Consider students with special needs, both physical and intellectual; students who appear to be shy or lack confidence and avoid physical activity; students who may lack prior experience in regular physical activity; students who are simply not interested in physical activity; and students who may have poor body image but may actually be in great shape already.
That’s a long list, but you may only have a few people in some of the categories. Again, you not are not doing this to make anyone feel bad — in fact, your team will likely include some of the very students you want to help. Work with your team to get a good sense of what the most significant barriers are. Make a chart, and then use the ideas in this Play to find ways to help with each barrier.
Start dialogues at school to find out what kids think about how to get others active. Set up a comments box near the cafeteria or the gym and ask kids to make suggestions about what would make them feel more included. Interview students with disabilities too, to see what barriers they have and what can be done to help.
Find ways to highlight challenges that are physical (e.g. missing the right equipment) and psychological (e.g. someone doesn’t think they will be good at something). Work with your art department to create a series of motivational posters to place around the school reminding students of all abilities that they can find ways to be active no matter what challenges they may face. Include posters encouraging students to reach out to their less active peers to include them in the action, too.
Hold a We All Can! Kickoff assembly. Invite local athletes from the community (elementary schools can invite high schools; high schools can invite colleges). Ask your guests to speak to the crowd about challenges they’ve faced in their own physical activity programs and how they overcame them. Help prompt their comments by providing ideas you generate during your brainstorming. The goal is to “reach” kids without singling them out or making them feel bad. Try some of these ideas to make your assembly fun, friendly and non-threatening:
Who’s Never Tried…X? Hold some fun events that invite all kids to participate. Here are some ideas and ways you can get kids to try new activities without feeling embarrassed. They’ll also learn about others’ challenges when they do participate.
- “Who’s never tried hopscotch?” Use hula hoops for the course and have a couple of teachers try it as a demonstration. Then play steel drum music and get a group of bunny volunteers to hop around like they’re looking for veggies in the garden! Bunnies in wheelchairs can hopscotch by maneuvering the twists and turns from hoop to hoop.
- “Who’s never tried to jump rope?” Show ways students can start with something easy, like jumping back and forth over a rope on the ground. Have several students, including those with physical and intellectual disabilities, demonstrate different ways of jumping rope — from rope ladders on the floor and traditional jump rope to Double Dutch. Use this video of wheelchair jump rope for one idea.
- “Who’s never had to play a game without being able to hear?” Provide disposable earplugs and have students play a round of Quarterback Scramble (see Shriner’s/Fuel Up to Play 60 All-Ability Guide for this game (p.7) and many other activities you can try).
- “Who’s never tried to race in a wheelchair?” Use real wheelchairs or borrow rolling chairs from the school office or teacher’s lounge. Note: Use care with this activity to keep students safe while rolling. If using school chairs, provide belts for students to keep them from falling off, and have plenty of adult supervision to help control speed.
These are just a few ideas. Your team can make up your own list based on your school inventory. In fact, encourage less active students to volunteer their own ideas to help them take ownership of their physical activity and empower them to participate!
Build opportunities for student leadership. Encourage students to observe their peers on the playground and try to encourage everyone to join in. Some students just need something specific to do, like this young man. Have students form a buddy system and be sure to invite others into their games.
Here are some specific, proven ideas that, with school adults and student leaders working together, can help:
- Inclusive Play: The playground or after-school fields and parks may be where students get most of their physical activity. Helping ALL students understand what it means to be inclusive may help create new experiences for students who are less active. Teach more active students to consider ways to include their less active peers by sharing these 5 elements of inclusive play during PE or health classes. Student leaders can offer examples and role-play some of the different scenarios. Remember to be sure this is done in a sensitive way so no student feels singled out.
- Buddy Benches: This is a way to be sure students who want to be included get to be included. It’s a very specific program that has shown anecdotal success in schools all over the world. Check out the concept and “rules” and these scenarios you can use with kids to help them visualize how it can work. Talk to your principal about getting a buddy bench going on your school grounds.
- Mix It Up! Use the principles of Tolerance.org’s Mix It Up at Lunch Day to keep building on students’ understanding of and attention to their peers’ physical activity needs. Use the ideas provided through the program videos and include some physically-focused discussions as part of at least one of your Mix It Up activities. Have students who don’t play on a sports team make up new rules for a game; then, pair players from the sport pair with those who made the new rules, and have the rule-makers teach the players.
- Making PE Accessible. Use these ideas from the Shriner’s/Play 60 All-Ability Guide to help adjust your PE classes (or recess games) to be sure students with physical and intellectual disabilities can participate. Build on these ideas to address other student needs throughout your PE program. For students with Autism Spectrum Disorder, consider ideas like this and the information provided here.
Spread the Word
Create promotional materials like posters and flyers to highlight new ways your school is inviting EVERYONE to participate and announce the healthy changes you’ve made to your physical activity programs. Don’t forget to spread the message using your school's website, blog or eNewsletter.
Involve the community. Schedule a meeting with your school's parent organization and ask if they will volunteer time to help improve the playground or lead recess activities based on some of your new strategies and ideas.
Think long-term and sustainable. Students and their needs will change from year to year. Keep this inclusive program and the climate it helps create going from year to year, too. Make “We All Can” a student club and have student leaders pass on what they know from one year to the next. You can even join the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition’s Commit to Inclusion Campaign. Each year, make the club more inclusive by encouraging those with and without disabilities to be part of the overall planning!
This section has ideas on ways to involve everyone in your school and community. Think about friendly competitions, ideas on how to include students and adults or ways to bring in the family connection.
Hold friendly competitions on the playground using the games and ideas you learn through the development of this Play. Have classes repeat some of the activities tried in the Kickoff assembly, challenging them to include everyone in the class — and encouraging those who have been less active to embrace the new, hopefully more fun(!) climate of the school.
- Help design activities
- Gather donations of equipment and materials
- Design fun rewards and incentives to keep students active
- Help organize activities by using these ideas for how to make recess fun for all students
Homefield Advantage provides useful, practical ways for parents and family members to get involved in making this Play a success — in school and at home! Click here for a printout that is ideal for students to take home and share!
Just getting started? Here is something you can do without jumping right into the full Play. Let this idea get you warmed up so you’re ready to tackle the full Play!
Complete the inventory of current barriers to physical activity in your school. Then work with your school counselor and PE team to find ways of addressing them one by one through the PE program. Start small, and eventually build to the big Kickoff and implementation of schoolwide strategies.
Funding and Outfitting Your Play
What Might Help?
- Various fitness/playground equipment (jump ropes, sports balls, nets and/or goals, flag football kits/footballs, cones)
- Recess carts/equipment carriers or racks
- Resources for staging a Kickoff event (prizes, water, nutrient-rich snacks like fruit and low-fat milk or cheese)
Funds for Fuel Up to Play 60
Up to $4,000 per year is available to qualified K-12 schools enrolled in Fuel Up to Play 60 to kickstart healthy changes!