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Developing a Daily Physical Activity Program

By CIRA Ontario


Although most people support the need for daily physical activity in schools as mandated by provincial, state, or federal curriculum policies, starting a school DPA program can be a daunting task. Ensuring that both students and staff are able to participate in the required amount of daily physical activity is the challenge. Where to begin? Several steps and methods for developing and implementing a successful DPA program are presented in this chapter. Many schools have found that a combination of methods works best for meeting their needs.

To make DPA happen and to build sustainability into the program, the organization of DPA needs to be bigger than yourself. You need to surround yourself with lots of good people, develop broad ownership for DPA, and dream big. To reach your dreams, you will need to set attainable goals and plan to celebrate their completion. The three steps that follow and the rest of the chapter help you make DPA a long-term success.

NASPE (2006) outlines three steps to begin your DPA program:

Step 1: Appoint a leadership team to develop and oversee DPA in your school. Involve everyone who can help facilitate the school’s plan.

Step 2: Involve the school employees as well as students’ families and the community.

Step 3: Create a vision statement and action plan appropriate to the specific school, addressing components of the comprehensive school physical activity program (CSPAP). The action plan should include the baseline assessment; objectives and activities to meet each objective; defined outcomes; timelines; and persons responsible for each component area.

Setting Up the Action Plan

for Daily Physical Activity

There are various approaches for conducting a baseline assessment of the CSPAP components as they currently exist in the school. The component areas are as follows:

Quality physical education

Before-school strategies

During-school strategies

After-school strategies

Staff personal wellness

Implementing Daily Physical Activity

Daily physical activity programs can be implemented in various ways within a school. Each approach has advantages and disadvantages. Schools may choose a method of implementation based on the number of students and the resources available to them. The following are some of the methods a school may use to set up its own daily physical activity program (CAHPERD 2006a).

Daily Physical Education

Physical activity is a major component of a quality physical education program (Ontario Education 2006). There are many advantages to this option. One of the reasons students may not receive the recommended minutes of physical activity is that classroom teachers may not have the knowledge or confidence to implement the program themselves. If students have scheduled daily physical education, classroom teachers may be less apprehensive about a daily physical activity program. Also, because physical activity time takes place during physical education, there is often greater flexibility in activity options. Students are exposed to more variety and may find an activity they will continue to pursue and enjoy throughout their lives. There are also some downfalls to this method of DPA implementation. This program produces the best results if led by a qualified physical education teacher. Often many schools, especially elementary, do not have the resources to hire a full-time physical education teacher. Also, scheduling physical education for all classes every day may prove to be difficult, especially if the school does not have sufficient facilities or has a large number of students enrolled; however, if schools have flexible timetabling options and fewer students, this option has potential to be very successful.

Schoolwide DPA

Some schools schedule a block of physical activity for the participation of the entire school. Schoolwide DPA involves the entire school in physical activity at the same time. The activities can be completed in 10-minute blocks or in one time frame. How the program works is to have five different 10- to 20-minute activities or routines, one for each day of the week. The variety helps keep students motivated. The music and instruction is played over the public address (PA) system at a designated time each day, and teachers or student leaders can lead the program. The routines can be changed two or three times a year for variety. DPA can be scheduled immediately before a break in the day (e.g., recess, lunch), allowing students to use the break time to freshen up, change, hydrate, and refuel.

Schools have several options when choosing to implement a schoolwide daily physical activity program. The first option is for the physical activity to take place in all classrooms after announcements (Ontario Education 2006). A second option is to take a few minutes from each period throughout the day and accumulate them at the end of the day for physical activity. In the third option, the entire school performs an activity together outside or in the gymnasium at a regularly scheduled time (Ontario Education 2006). Staff, student leaders, and community specialists can lead the students. The scheduled time for the physical activity can be rotated throughout the week to prevent the same subject being affected by the decreased time. DPA can also be part of special school events, such as celebrations or theme days (Ontario Education 2006). With a commonly scheduled time and the entire school involved, everyone is ensured of participation, and only one master copy of the music is required in the office.

Choosing to organize schoolwide DPA provides students with the opportunity to receive more than the minimum of daily physical activity on the days they have physical education class. Schools may invite guest presenters or members from the community to help with the program, promoting important relationships between students and the community. A schoolwide physical activity program also presents the opportunity for increased parental involvement. Despite its many benefits, some schools may find a schoolwide physical activity program difficult to coordinate and schedule. Some school staff may not consider a schoolwide program as important as other subject areas. Some schools may not have the facilities or resources to allow all students and staff to participate together in one location. Despite these disadvantages, a schoolwide DPA program ensures all students can participate in an active, healthy lifestyle.

Individual Classroom DPA With Cross-Curricular Links

DPA can also be led by the classroom teacher either during a schoolwide time period or at a time set by the individual teacher. The classroom teacher can establish strong cross-curricular links between DPA and other subjects so that DPA can be appropriately scheduled within another subject’s allocated time period (e.g., teaching a folk dance in social studies). Physical activity can be done in the classroom, out of doors, or in other open spaces. Integration of physical activity and other subjects can help develop learning experiences for the students, enhance fitness and health, and provide an opportunity for educational exchange and discovery. When students see that physical activity can be integrated into all aspects of their lives, they are more likely to remember and appreciate physical activity on their own.

There are several advantages to this method of DPA. First, because physical activity can be done in any space at any time during the day, this method is easier to schedule into a school day. Secondly, students can experience hands-on opportunities to develop understanding of curriculum and link their knowledge to other concepts (Ontario Education 2006). Physical activity can help increase information retention and cater to different learning styles (Alberta Education 2005). Cross-curricular linking can give more meaning to concepts and make learning fun (Alberta Education 2005). Third, teachers have control over the classroom scheduling and can schedule DPA to fit with the rest of the curriculum for the day.

Some teachers may not appreciate the importance of being physically active on a daily basis. When the classroom teacher is solely responsible for DPA time, rather than a schoolwide time, some teachers may be tempted to neglect DPA in favor of other school subjects. Also, because classroom teachers do not always have a physical education background, they may not believe they have the knowledge or skills to think of classroom activities. Finally, because physical activity in the classroom can be linked with other subject areas, students may not receive an adequate warm-up or cool-down, which are important components of a daily physical activity program and of teaching students how to live a healthy lifestyle.


This is an excerpt from Everybody Move, Second Edition.




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