Can the Right PE Equipment Affect Educational Outcomes?

by SPARK


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It is believed the SPARK team was among the first researchers and educators to scientifically examine the effects of content-matched equipment on elementary physical education outcomes.  The original Project SPARK (Sports, Play, and Active Recreation for Kids) experimented with equipment items of varying sizes, shapes, weights and textures to determine if they could foster greater inclusion, activity, and enjoyment during PE and PA classes.  Their analysis continued with Middle School (Project’s M-SPAN – Middle School Physical Activity and Nutrition; and TAAG – Trial of Activity for Adolescent Girls), Early Childhood (Power Play), After School (BOLT – Building Opportunities for Leisure Time), and High School (POPI – Pittsburgh Obesity Prevention Initiative) PE and PA opportunities and spanned from 1989 to present day.

Equipment was found to be a critical component of a quality physical education program, not only because tools needed to be provided in sufficient number so students could participate, but also because equipment can be used to differentiate instruction, increase the levels of students participating and their enjoyment of PE and PA, and build an individual’s self-confidence and self-efficacy.  For example, many people recall the fear of having to forearm pass a regulation volleyball when returning a serve.  The anticipated pain of the heavy and hard ball made a lot of students wish they were somewhere else; and others flinch and use incorrect form.  Substituting a larger, softer, and lighter ball means pain free practice, and increases students’ chances for successful passing.  Teaching a lesson where students can access different size, shape, weight and texture manipulatives also promotes inclusion (some students will have success passing a smaller ball to their partner while others are ready for the challenge of a larger one).  When students can experiment with a variety of objects (e.g., a throwing lesson using many different types of balls) they enjoy a richer and more stimulating physical education experience.

The SPARK staff are expert at recommending age-appropriate equipment for their different programs.  Additionally, they understand how equipment can be used to achieve other non-health related outcomes such as teamwork (culture building and collaboration), retention (when students enjoy PE more they participate at higher levels and want to be in school), and academic achievement (SPARK is the only PE program to ever show that students can spend more time in SPARK PE and less in the classroom and do as well or better on standardized test scores – Research Quarterly June 1999).

Click Here to learn more about SPARK Physical Education equipment sets.

Additionally, SPARK experts are available via 800-SPARK-PE (800-772-7573) and email spark@sparkpe.org to respond to any and all concerns regarding equipment and how it can be used to align with learning standards and foster greater student achievement.

Need funding for equipment? Check out the SPARK Grant Finder tool.

  • Kballard

    This is great information – I hope lots of folks read it – I will keep as a one pager to share with people!

  • Amesker17

    I think equipment type gets under estimated a lot in the physical education classroom.  When the students feel safe, they are more likely to try harder.

  • Pauljjohnson80

    Very true If the kids feel safe and feel excited and ready to participate they are more likely to experience success.

  • Mr. J

    Everything is based on cost when it comes down to getting equipment. I would rather go with no equipment for 2 years and save $200 to get a good set of gator balls then use other kinds that are too hard or just fall apart after one year of use.  Many schools also have someone purchasing equipment for PE that do not have the knowledge to purchase what will last. The PE teachers usually do not get a say in what is purchased.
    Supply companies also hike prices sky high. Usualy can find same stuff or better at the local walmart discount shelf or biglots, yet then they are never in the quantity you need.
    Improvising is key.  Stay out of the political fight for school funds its a waste of time and burns bridges for other more important things.

  • Pauljjohnson80

    Very true If the kids feel safe and feel excited and ready to participate they are more likely to experience success.

  • Mr. J

    Everything is based on cost when it comes down to getting equipment. I would rather go with no equipment for 2 years and save $200 to get a good set of gator balls then use other kinds that are too hard or just fall apart after one year of use.  Many schools also have someone purchasing equipment for PE that do not have the knowledge to purchase what will last. The PE teachers usually do not get a say in what is purchased.
    Supply companies also hike prices sky high. Usualy can find same stuff or better at the local walmart discount shelf or biglots, yet then they are never in the quantity you need.
    Improvising is key.  Stay out of the political fight for school funds its a waste of time and burns bridges for other more important things.