Kinder, gentler P.E. meant to get kids hooked on exercise
Instructors are boosting confidence levels by designing
classes in which students participate at their own level
October 2, 1999
From Reporter Kathleen Koch
Web posted at: 6:50 p.m. EDT (2250 GMT)
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Remember the old-time gym classes, with
strenuous calisthenics, screaming drill instructors and
Well, in some schools these days, that kind of physical
education class is just a bad memory, replaced by a kinder,
gentler gym philosophy called 'new P.E.'
Kathleen Koch reports that many physical education teachers today promote individual performance rather than competition to become the best athlete in the class.
Gone are the rigorous exercises and games where the skilled
students excelled and the weak struggled. Instead,
instructors are boosting confidence levels and the fun factor
by designing classes where everyone participates at their own
'For every youngster'
"Athletics are great. But physical education is for every
youngster -- to help them learn about themselves, learn about
their bodies, learn ways to become physically active but not
necessarily to compete," said Dr. George Graham, a P.E.
professor at Virginia Tech.
In schools with new P.E., grades are based not on who is the
strongest or fastest but who can meet their own personal
standards in various exercise disciplines.
For example, students might be judged on whether they can
reach their target heart rate level and keep it for a certain
period of time, rather than who can run the farthest or
fastest or lift the most weight. Or they might be graded on
how much they improve their level of fitness over time.
"The goal is ... to get kids to strive to better themselves
and where they are," says Barbara Clark, a P.E. teacher at
Woodson High School in Virginia. "It's a fitness goal. It's
no so much a competitive goal."
The switch is being made because the old-style gym classes
were making exercise a turnoff for youngsters -- one in five
of whom is overweight, according to the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention.
But for the "new P.E." to change sedentary lifestyles,
experts say kids need more exposure to it. Lack of time and
money has caused most schools to offer P.E. only one to three
days per week.
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