Healthy Body, Healthy Mind: Why PE Is A Core Academic Tenet
Jun 26, 2019
“Every time you're active, you feel better, think better and sleep better.” - Prof. Kathleen Janz, University of Iowa, Member of the 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee
STEM, arts, language… physical education?
Unlike many other subjects, physical education has long sparked debate among parents and educators alike. Some question the subject’s place within an academic curriculum. In many states, physical education programs might even be at risk of defunding as schools aim to cut costs and focus on other classes.
At World Academy, we believe that cutting physical activity out of the school day is wholly counterproductive to student development - and we’re not the only ones. Numerous studies have shown just how vital physical activity is to a student’s academic development.
That is why we support physical activity, team sports and physical-based learning as a pillar of a well-rounded education, providing students with the tools they need to focus on wellness, improve their cognitive development, build resilience, support teamwork and develop habits that make for happy, healthy lives.
Wellness: The Most Important Foundation for Education
A key part of our mission is to nurture and enhance the physical development of our students. As such, our curriculum has been crafted to prioritize and attend to the “whole” child, meaning that it focuses on the cognitive-intellectual, socio-emotional, cultural, creative, and physical growth of our students.
That means that physical development is, in fact, one of five core tenets of childhood development that our primary educational philosophy seeks to address.
A healthy mind starts with a healthy body. Being healthy is what allows students to apply themselves fully in the classroom, uninhibited by conditions that could potentially pose as a hindrance to the learning process.
Because exercise is a fundamental part of maintaining wellness, we’ve incorporated physical activity into our school day and after-school programs to ensure we’re doing our part to keep our students healthy.
Getting Smart by Staying Active
Physical activity allows students to stay healthy and fully participate in classroom activities, but the benefits don’t stop there.
In addition to helping maintain overall wellness, physical activity has also been linked to increased recall, cognitive and problem-solving abilities among children.
In one of many recent studies tying academic performance to staying active, Active Living Research reports that children who participated in PE courses were actually able to remember a greater percentage of vocabulary words as opposed to students enrolled only in sedentary classes.
Consequently, keeping physical activity tied to our learning environment design has become a priority. With numerous indoor and outdoor spaces dedicated to physical play and an expansive Gymnasium incorporated into the overall design of our learning space, World Academy welcomes and encourages physical activity as a vital part of the school day.
Building Resilience through Adventurous Play
Playgrounds, gymnasiums, swimming pools, climbing walls and other spaces designed for physical play are environments that enable students to get valuable experience in what will become an important part of their lives: risk-taking.
Safety will always be the ultimate priority, but inviting children to step outside their comfort zone and take risks in a supervised environment can be remarkably beneficial.
Challenging, sensory-rich play that encourages children to make choices and assess risks is often referred to as adventurous play, and scholars and educators have been singing the praises of this type of activity in terms of benefits to childhood development.
Allowing children to be bold and make their own decisions can act as a rehearsal for dealing with truly risky situations. It can teach them about their own capabilities to master new challenges, give them an opportunity to learn from their shortcomings, and understand they can make good choices.
Our Elementary and Preschool Playgrounds, our Natural Playground, our Rock Climbing Wall, Soccer Field, Swimming Pools, Basketball areas and Cabin, available to our oldest students, are all spaces designed to provide age-appropriate challenges and encourage self-directed play. Our hope is to help our students push themselves in new and exciting ways and, ultimately, show them the resilience that they are capable of. We are intentionally setting the stage for thoughtful, safe choices and reviewing how different options can have different outcomes.
Setting the Stage for A Healthy Future
As educators, our job is not only to provide students with information and insight about the world that surrounds them - it is also to teach students about the ways they can choose to navigate the complexities and challenges of the world, both presently and in the future.
To many teachers, this primarily means getting children into study habits that will help them through high school and beyond. To World Academy, it also means emphasizing to our students the importance of staying active and good nutrition to inspire them to adopt healthy habits as adults.
At World Academy, we believe that seamlessly integrating physical activity into our curriculum encourages students to participate in an active, healthy lifestyle which, in turn, will become second nature. This will introduce our students to the numerous benefits of staying active, including preventing certain chronic conditions, relieving stress and anxiety, and helping combat depression.
We understand that there is a world of opportunity outside of World Academy, and we want our students prepared to make the most of it. It is our responsibility to equip them with 21st century skills vital for success in the ever-changing global future, including the ability to stay healthy, well informed and active members of their respective communities.