The World According to SPARK


Dr. Thom McKenzie and Mr. Paul Rosengard, have been conducting SPARK research and disseminating those findings worldwide (with the help of MANY of our friends) since 1989.

In the weeks and months to come, we hope to share stories of what we’ve learned, people we’ve met, and how our work-life experiences have shaped the thoughts we have today.  Our observations will cover a variety of public health topics: Childhood obesity, physical activity promotion, coordinated school health, healthy eating, best practices and resources, the latest research, behavior and environmental change, and much more.

We’ll tag team this task and have a different contributor each week. Please plan to join us every Wednesday when a new blog is posted!

The World According to SPARK– Saipan, Portugal, England, Norway, Canada, China — all trips that I was able to make because of SPARK.  I know, tough job but someone had to do it…

Besides sight seeing, learning about different cultures, trying new foods (ever had duck tongue in China?), and thoroughly enjoying the people, it was fascinating to meet and speak with physical educators in each of these places.  I was surprised to see firsthand that physical education (PE) around the world looks very much like PE in the US.  Students are doing many of the same activities and using the same manipulatives and equipment at grade levels as they do here.  Movement is truly the universal language and maybe something else that can bring us closer together.

Yet, the story is not completely positive.  Teachers complaints mirrored those we hear often in America:  They don’t feel their subject is valued like other subjects instructed, administrators are less than supportive of PE, PE days and minutes are insufficient, facilities are too small, too cold, or somehow sub-par, and classes can be too large.

I also saw some of the same instructional traits, that could be improved.  A lot of fitness without purpose or enjoyment, direct and command style teaching and little student choice or empowerment.  Differentiated learning was almost non-existent as classes take a “one-size fits all” approach to instruction, and teachers all over the world, just like here in the U.S., talk too much.  I know these are generalizations, and there are many outstanding PE programs in the US and certainly all over the world.  But my contention is there are still too many in need of improvement.

If you have traveled and seen PE programs in schools around the world, please write and share your views.

-Paul Rosengard