Whole Child Education
  The Whole Child Newsletter  January 19, 2011


Did you know that recent molecular biology research has detailed how physical activity has a positive influence on your ability to learn, emotional stability, and physical health? In molecular biology and other sciences, the term "causal pathways" is used to describe factors that lead to a given result. In the past, scientists often thought that there was only one causal pathway for each disorder, but scientists have since found that most cases involve a combination of factors.

Like the health and well-being of the human body and mind, the success or failure of each child will not have one causal pathway; it will be a combination of experiences that work toward or against ensuring that each child is healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged.

While physical activity and physical education are not the only causal pathway to success, they are essential to helping young people thrive throughout their lives. As the debate over and criticism about the role of physical activity, physical education, and recess in schools rages on and the amount of human and financial resources devoted to this area dwindles, a growing body of research confirms the necessity of this component of educating the whole child. Those concerned with the time spent on physical education and physical activity during the school day can rest assured that research has demonstrated it has no detriment to student success. In fact, high-quality opportunities for physical activity and physical education actually improve student learning.

If we're committed to young people's lifelong cognitive, physical, and emotional success, creating pathways where physical activity and physical education are not part of the course will inevitably lead to dead ends. But you don't have to take our word for it. Download the most recent Whole Child Podcast, read and share your comments on the Whole Child Blog, and share resources and examples of physical activity and physical education by e-mailing us at wholechild@ascd.org.


Are We Making Progress?

With the myriad of challenges we face in ensuring that students are healthy and learn about healthy lifestyles, are we making any progress? Yes! While it's not as rapid as any of us would like, the tide appears to be turning. Sean Slade, director of ASCD's Healthy School Communities, provides an overview of recent national progress as we refocus the conversation about health, learning, and our young people's lifelong success.

Add your comments to the conversation on the Whole Child Blog.


Health Disparities Widen the Gap

What health disparities are most relevant and prevalent in schools; how do these disparities impede students' ability and motivation to learn; and what strategies will help us create and sustain highly effective programs at the local, state, and national level? Charles E. Basch, Richard March Hoe Professor of Health Education at Columbia University and guest on the most recent Whole Child Podcast, answers all these questions and more in his recent report, Healthier Students Are Better Learners: A Missing Link in School Reforms to Close the Achievement Gap.

High-Quality Physical Education Curriculum Is Essential

The key to ensuring that students experience all the benefits physical activity and physical education can offer their growing bodies and minds is a high-quality physical education curriculum. Use the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Physical Education Curriculum Analysis Tool to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of your curriculum and ensure that students are getting the highest-quality experience possible.


Educators, families, and community leaders, check out the Official SPARK Blog for great resources to teach children lifelong wellness habits through evidence-based physical education and after-school, early childhood, and coordinated school health programs.

Join First Lady Michelle Obama in her commitment to solving the challenge of childhood obesity through the Let's Move! campaign. The Let's Move Blog will empower you to fulfill the goals of the campaign: getting kids moving; providing healthy food in schools; and improving access to healthy, affordable foods.

"Physical activity and physical education are not an extra or a nice to have in schools—rather, they are critical to health, learning, and quality of life for our students."

—Charlene Burgeson, executive director of the National Association of Sport and Physical Education (a whole child partner) and Let's Move in School on the December/January Whole Child Podcast
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