Robbing from PETE to pay Paul


I recently attended the PETE (Physical Education Teacher Educators) conference in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. This was a NASPE sponsored event, a bit of a rarity; held only every 3 years. The last PETE gathering occurred in Long Beach, significantly more convenient for Thom McKenzie and I.

While only several hundred people were at the 2009 PETE, those in attendance were among some of our best and brightest: George Graham of Penn State, Jackie Lund of Georgia State, Hans van der Mars of Oregon State, et. al.. It was also terrific seeing a number of University methods instructors who use SPARK in their pedagogy courses. To name a few: Martie Bell from High Point, Jack Gronholz from Martin Luther College, Dwayne Sheehan from Mt. Royal University, Zan Wang from East China Normal University in Shanghai, and Scott Townsend and Derek Mohr from Appalachian State Univ. The latter duo are former students of Lynn Housner, who was unable to attend (although he did send a videoclip introducing the closing keynote speaker, Mike Metzler of Georgia State) due to a previous commitment. Lynn is at West Virginia University and has been supporting SPARK since he attended our very first Physical Education Summer Institute on campus at San Diego State University in 1997.

I had the pleasure or presenting with Thom McKenzie (again — we recently teamed up with Jim Sallis to give a talk at San Diego State), and our lecture focused on three themes: SPARK research, dissemination, and its application for methods instructors. Click Here to see our handout.

For 11 years, I used SPARK as my required text for my methods course at the University of California, San Diego. Unfortunately, this 4 unit class, lecture and lab, did not survive the budget cuts and in 2008, the course was cancelled. Today, UCSD students that wish to become K-12 teachers (generalists) are no longer required to enroll in a single class in teaching physical education. Since approx. 90% of the elementary PE provided in CA is taught by classroom teachers (NASPE State of the Nation Report), this is impossible to justify. Then again, why do we expect busy classroom teachers to instruct their own PE when the data support qualified specialists being the best providers of quantity and quality (SPARK summary paper, American Journal of Public Health)?

Note SPARK’s position on this issue – we advocate for credentialed physical educators instructing PE at every school, every day, to every child, at every grade. We WILL continue to train generalists if they are the only ones available to provide PE to children. SPARK knows children benefit from quality PE and we will help the providers do the best job they can until their schools can relieve them by bringing in a qualified specialist.

I am happy to report SPARK was very well represented at this conference. We were in two poster sessions and another presentation – which was a surprise to me (happens a lot – others are presenting SPARK and we find out at the event itself). We were also cited and recommended by Russ Pate (Univ. of South Carolina, and one of our comrades on the TAAG project) in his keynote address on a Thurs. evening, and Mike Metzler during his plenary on Sat. night. Both major speakers (only two to address the entire assembly) at the conference stressed the themes that Jim, Thom and I have been professing for 20 years – “Health-Promoting” physical education (as Metzger referred to it). Click Here to see SPARK research collaborations and Click Here to view SPARK publications.

Health Promoting in PETE context means that University methods instructors could modify their methodology and prepare their students for new roles (read “The Role of Physical Education in Public Health” by Jim Sallis), that of being the on-campus advocate for not only quality, active standards-based PE, but a physical activity promoter, an advocate for healthy eating, and a champion of wellness behaviors. Click Here to read more about the SPARK Coordinated School Health Initiative.

I want to thank Thom for assembling a great slide set and presenting it effectively – and in record time – Monica Lounsbery from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas for her presentation and support of evidence-based programs, and Nicole Smith of San Diego State and Soojin Yoo of the University of Wisconsin La Crosse for their poster presentations on the SPARK POPI (Pittsburgh Obesity Prevention Initiative) study, and our dissemination work in Clark County, Nevada, respectively.

My takeaway (what I will “rob” from this conference) is that the university world is slowly revolving to a new approach – our approach — to training undergraduate and graduate students. This is “caus de celebre’ and affirmation of our SPARK philosophy. Jim and Thom were far ahead of their time on these issues, and it’s gratifying to see the physical education academics catching on.

In conclusion? What we have robbed from PETE certainly paid Paul. And that’s good news for everyone in the SPARK family.

Speaking of SPARK Family, Click Here to read about the SPARK Family website being constructed NOW.

-Paul Rosengard

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