Monday, May 17, 2010

Center School District Superintendent Challenge

On May 12, 2010, Center School District in Kansas City, MO held their 5th grade Field Day. Boone, Center, Indian Creek and Red Bridge elementary schools were involved in the event. Competitions during Field Day included a softball throw, 50 yard dash, 100 yard dash, 200 yard dash and 400 yard relay.

The final event of the day was the annual Superintendent Challenge. Each year, Center Superintendent, Dr. Robert Bartman, challenges the 5th grade students to an 800 meter race. The school with the most students to cross the finish line before the Superintendent is awarded with a plaque and gets bragging rights for a whole year. Center Elementary won for the second year in a row with 11 students beating Dr. Bartman across the finish line.

Nate Francis, PE4life Program Support Specialist, attended the event and said “It was great for the students, parents and faculty. The kids were stoked when they won the Superintendent Challenge; it’s exciting to see an administrator who interacts with their students.” Center School District has plans to attend a PE4life Workshop to experience PE4life’s Core Principles in action in the near future. 

We all know it’s essential that a successful Physical Education program incorporates community involvement and support from the administrators and decision makers. Challenging your students to a race is a great way for an administrator to not only advocate for physical activity in the district and the community, but also connect with the students on their level.

Kudos to Center School District and thanks for inviting PE4life to be a part of your exhilarating event! Better luck next year, Dr. Bartman!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Time for a shout out!

We’re fortunate enough to have a number of ROCK STAR physical education professionals on the PE4life team. Combined, they have well over a century of PE experience. Their programs have been recognized in media outlets, big and small. Their programs are innovative, fitness-based and let’s not forget – FUN! We’ll just say it; our Academy Directors are pretty stinkin’ cool. We think it’s time we introduce them to you, one by one, starting with PE4life Academy Training Center at Grundy Center’s very own, Rick Schupbach.

If you geek out on PE the way us PE4lifers do, you’ve probably seen Grundy Center in the news lately. It hosted the 2010 Global Forum for Physical Education Pedagogy, where the Executive Director of the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports said about Grundy’s PE program, "this is what every physical education class should be like and look like.” So, what makes Grundy Center’s PE program “perhaps the best in the world” as the article states?  Well there are a number of things, but we’ll only mention three here (for all of them, check out our Core Principles).

First, support from your administration and community is critical. We have to give another huge shout out to Grundy Center School District's Superintendent, John Stevens. John has been a driving force in Grundy Center's program development. Cass Murra, will be taking over as Superintendent next year. She, too, is extremely supportive of the PE program and will play a crucial role in its future.   

Secondly, the use of technology tools to assess students’ fitness levels and progress made. Rick’s program is top of the line in terms of technology and its use of heart rate monitors and assessment equipment.  Partnering with Polar and the University of Northern Iowa, Grundy Center Community Schools is home to the Polar Scholars Graduate Program – students from UNI who come to learn the best practices and methods of incorporating technology into physical education.  

We would have liked to interview Rick on his innermost feelings about his passion for PE, but Rick is a very busy man this week (you know, determining the future of PE with the head of the President’s Council and all. Hey, it ain’t easy bein’ that good!). So, we’ll tell you what we know about Rick Schupbach.
Rick has twenty-six years of teaching experience in Iowa, 21 years in Grundy Center as an elementary Physical Education instructor. In 1993 he was honored as the Iowa Elementary PE teacher of the year. During his tenure at Grundy Center he has presented at numerous conferences and workshops in the Midwest and nationally. These presentations are highlighted by his featured lesson at National PE Day in Washington D.C., and his presentations at the National PE conference in 2005 and 2007. In 2003 Rick’s program at Grundy Center Elementary School was recognized as the 1st Elementary PE4life Academy Training Center in the nation.
Rick pushes for change in the physical education world. He recognizes the need for open-mindedness and innovation and has said this during a presentation “if we continue doing what we have done in the past we will continue to get what we have gotten in the past, to the point of being eliminated from the educational landscape.”

Rick doesn’t just talk the talk. Several years ago, Rick was training for a marathon when he was diagnosed with cancer.  His oncologist said that living his profession literally saved his life.  If he wasn’t in such good physical condition going into his cancer treatments, the result may not have been so good.
What more can we say? We're so grateful to have you on board the PE4life train! Congratulations on your program's well-deserved success, Rick! 
Last year, Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, toured Grundy Center Elementary School to witness their stellar program in action.

Read about the PE4life Academy Training Center at Grundy Center in the news:
PE plans for the future

Grundy Center forum will shape future of PE

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Zumba - Ditch the workout, join the party!

PE4life Program Support Specialist, Nicole Weis, shares her latest fitness craze - ZUMBA!

I have been involved in some sort of physical activity my whole life. Like many
fitness minded people, I have participated in sports since I was 5, and still continue to play softball and volleyball in the summer. You name the fitness class, and I have tried it (Step Aerobics, CardioKick, Spinning, etc). Not to mention, teaching physical education for 5 years, which included leading dance and aerobics classes, fitness routines, or weight training workouts. While these were all great classes, for one reason or another, I never found a fitness class as exhilarating or addicting as Zumba!

For those of you haven’t ditched the workout yet,
here's how the official Zumba website describes the new workout: The Zumba Program unites hypnotic Latin rhythms and easy-to-follow moves to create a one-of-a-kind fitness program that will blow you away. The goal is simple: Want to work out, love to work out, and get hooked. Zumba Fanatics achieve long-term benefits while experiencing an absolute blast in one exciting hour of calorie-burning, body-energizing, awe-inspiring movements meant to engage and captivate for life! In simpler terms, it’s a one hour dance party that tones and sculpts your body while burning fat. Who wouldn’t get addicted to that?

*As of May 2010, the Zumba® program is being taught at over 60,000 locations in 105 countries, has sold millions of DVDs, and has changed the lives of Zumba® Fanatics worldwide with an astonishing 7.5 million participants taking Zumba classes every week.

If you want to find a Zumba class that fits your time schedule or is close to your location, visit the Zumba website at

Or if anyone lives in the North Kansas City area, my Zumba instructor is awesome and teaches it four days a week in St. Joseph. His website is Here's a photo of my instructor, Drew, in action!

Need more inspiration? Listen to this playlist of Zumba sample songs and you're sure to get up and moving!

*Statistic taken from

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Brain Rule #1 - Exercise Boosts Brain Power

We love this guy!

Purchase Dr. John Medina's book "Brain Rules" in the PE4life Pro-Shop here.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Kansas Kids' Fitness Day

Last week 389 third grade students from eight elementary schools in Kansas City, Kansas gathered at Harmon High School for the Kansas Kids' Fitness Day (KKFD). In addition to almost 400 third graders participating, more than 60 high school students ran the event.

Kansas Kids Fitness and Safety Day is a statewide event held every year on the first Friday in May. This event focuses on increasing physical activity and safety awareness among third grade students in Kansas. Nearly 18,000 students participate each year at more than 40 sites across the state.

Nicole Weis, PE4life Program Support Specialist, attended the event for the first time this year and had positive things to say. "The KKFD provided many kids the opportunity to learn firsthand the benefits of a healthy active lifestyle. It was incredible to see almost 400 kids active and involved in a noncompetitive atmosphere, all the while having a great time! The teachers served as excellent role models by partici
pating in the activities with the students, including hula hooping, tug of war, and running through obstacle courses!"

Seven of the eight schools in attendance have attended a PE4life Workshop to experience the PE4life Core Principles in action.

To learn more about the KKFD visit

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Watermelon Feta Salad!

Thanks to Laurie Welty, PE4life Administrative Assistant, for submitting this recipe!

It happens every summer….fresh produce is in abundance and I can’t help myself.  I load up on all the great fruits and vegetables that are not as fresh as in the winter months.  I volunteer in a community garden, have a small patio garden and love the farmers markets in Kansas City, MO and Overland Park, KS.  

The big question - what to do with the extra watermelon left over after having some at a cookout or for dessert?  I found an amazing recipe for Watermelon Feta Salad.  I know….I was a bit skeptical at first as well.  As I read the list of ingredients, I found that I liked them all.  So, I gave it a try one day last summer and it was fabulous!  It is refreshing, quick to prepare, and no cooking needed.  I would love to know what you think.

Watermelon Feta Salad:
1.    Cut a small red onion into bite size strips and place in a small bowl with the juice of two limes
2.    Cut half a watermelon into one inch cubes and de-seed
3.    Combine watermelon and 1 cup feta cheese in a separate larger salad bowl
4.    Add large sprigs of parsley and a handful of chopped mint
5.    Pour onions along with the juice into the salad bowl
6.    Add olive oil to taste and about ¼ cup of pitted Kalamata olives
7.    Season salad with a dash of freshly ground pepper and toss lightly
8.    Enjoy!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

How Will You Be Remembered?

Guest Blogger: Brenda VanLengen
Have you ever thought about what you’d like people to say about you at your funeral? The end of your life may not be something you want to think about, but the way you live your life will be your legacy.

Yesterday, I attended the funeral of a man who I’ve known for nine years, but who will impact my life forever. But, more important than that, the way he lived his life will impact millions of lives.

At the funeral of Phil Lawler, two of his best friends and his three incredible children paid tribute to the man and his legacy. He was remembered for his faith, his devotion to his family, and his passion for his life work in physical education and baseball.

Phil started his career as a gym teacher and coach, similar to many former athletes. He taught PE for years believing that all kids liked sports as much as he did. His PE classes had the typical emphasis on team sports. But, one day about twenty years ago, he read an article in the newspaper about the trend in the U.S. of children getting more overweight and obese and he thought, ‘Aren’t we as physical education professionals the ones responsible for helping children learn to live active lives and be healthy? We need to take the lead and do something about this.’

He examined the way he and his colleagues were delivering physical education and realized that they needed to do more to reach all children, not just the athletically inclined. He changed his philosophy to introduce a wide variety of sports and fitness activities to engage more children. He introduced small-sided games and modified rules so that more children had the opportunity to participate, instead of a traditional PE sport like football where the “best athlete throws the ball to his best friend” and 20 other kids stand around and don’t really participate.

He utilized technology to connect with kids on their level, using heart rate monitors to give children feedback on what was happening within their bodies and searched out high-tech games where children could pedal within a video game or dance and exercise on high tech dance pads. He got the community involved and had firefighters work out with his middle school students and the local cardiologist give cholesterol tests to students.

He wasn’t the only innovative PE teacher in the country, but he was one that really took a bold stand to be inclusive of all children and create a “New PE”. In addition, he let people know about it. He was masterful at networking with people across the country explaining what he was doing in his program and he was able to get national news attention from CNN, CBS and USA Today, among others, to a middle school “gym class.”

That’s when the President of Wilson Sporting Goods (based in Chicago), Jim Baugh, learned about his program. In 1999, Jim had the idea to start a non-profit organization dedicated to returning daily physical education back to schools and liked the way Phil Lawler was doing things in Naperville, Illinois. Not only was the program in Naperville inclusive of all children and doing innovative things, it was offered to every child, every day of the week. Jim Baugh had already reached out to his colleagues in the sporting goods industry to raise the seed money and to start the non-profit organization, PE4life, to raise national awareness about the importance of kids being physically active and the critical role physical education, specifically daily P.E., can and should play. In 2000, Jim hired Anne Flannery as Executive Director and she invited Phil Lawler to Washington D.C. to speak at a national press conference about physical education, a topic that was not on the national media radar, but would be over the next ten years.

A year later, in fall 2001, a few months after I came on board with the organization, PE4life designated Phil’s school at Madison Junior High in the Naperville CUSD 203 as the first PE4life Institute, later to be named PE4life Academy, to provide a “train the trainer” model to help other schools in their quest to gain administrative and community support to improve their physical education programs.

On December 31, 2002, Phil sat with me in a hotel lobby near Chicago O’Hare airport and shared story after story about how he had built his program, garnered support from community leaders, involved members of the medical community, elevated his program to be ranked the #1 curriculum by parents in the community, integrated technology and assessment into his program and how he had been able to get thousands of dollars of equipment donated to his program and generated national media attention. That conversation, combined with many before and after, was the basis for the first PE4life training manual.

Phil retired early from teaching, in 2004, and chose to focus on helping other schools improve their physical education programs, but still continued coaching the Central High School baseball team. He joined the PE4life team as the Director of Education Outreach and over the next several years, Phil, and his colleague Paul Zientarski at Naperville Central High School, tag-teamed to host community teams from school districts from 40 states in the United States and ten foreign countries to showcase their programs and the PE4life principles they embraced. Additionally, Paul created a physical education program at Central High School to stimulate brain activity and placed it before difficult classes, showing that a quality, daily PE program could enhance academic performance.

Even though Phil was first diagnosed with cancer in 2004 and battled it five times over the next six years, he was a keynote speaker at almost every PE4life event over that time. He continued to network and found innovative new products and equipment to enhance PE programs. He became friends with Dr. Kenneth Cooper, the father of aerobics, and Dr. John Ratey a noted brain researcher from Harvard. He appeared in the movie “Super Size Me.” He spoke in front of Congress. He made phone call after phone call to members of Congress, state legislators, corporate executives, medical professionals, school administrators and gym teachers, uh, physical education professionals, throughout the world.

His passion and his commitment for changing the perception of physical education and the actual delivery of physical education has changed the lives of countless children throughout the world.

His close friend, Paul Zientarski, eulogized Phil by naming and describing words that portrayed him – innovator, educator, advocate, networker, communicator, competitor, first class and friend.

Bill Seiple, who coached baseball side by side with Phil since 1982 at Naperville Central, and who is himself a cancer survivor, spoke of Phil’s commitment to the developing the character of young men. He said that some people see things for what they are, but Phil had the gift of seeing things for what they could be.

Phil’s son Todd spoke passionately and proudly of the impact of his father on countless lives and the courage and passion he showed in his battle with cancer. Todd said that whenever anyone spoke to Phil, he gave her or him undivided attention and showed that he truly cared about everything being said. Todd spoke of the last audible word that his father said to him was “Win!” and Todd said he plans to win in everything he does because that’s what his father did.

His daughter Kim talked about the unconditional love Phil showed, to all people no matter their age or their opinion, or even if they didn’t play baseball, she joked. She spoke of his legacy of love and how she would continue that.

His son Scott, the associate head baseball coach at Notre Dame, who bears a strong resemblance to Phil, talked about the strength of his mother as her husband battled cancer for six years. He mentioned that when he was in middle school, everyone would tell him he would be a coach and teacher someday and he never thought that would be true. But, the influence of his father, and his uncle, led him to coaching and teaching. He talked about his father’s passion for physical education and the use of heart rate monitors and joked that he was probably in heaven convincing Jesus to strap on a heart rate monitor. Scott said that Phil was a “man of few words” when it came to his faith and saying that Phil was a man of few words about anything is odd. But, Phil was more a man of action where his faith was concerned. He lived his faith by the way he treated those around him.

The strength and poise of his children was amazing. I was fascinated as I felt Phil’s spirit coming through each one of them as they spoke. Phil had a gift for making you want to listen to everything he had to say. He was confident, passionate, caring, respectful and engaging and each of his children personify his legacy.

Phil made me think about the education of children in a different way. He helped to articulate the principles that are the foundation of the PE4life organization. I heard Phil speak many times over the nine years that I knew him --- to large audiences, small ones and one-on-one. I can repeat many of his stories verbatim. Many of his words and stories are the ones I repeat when I speak to people about PE4life – the story about the first girl he put a heart rate monitor on in PE class, the mother who came up to him with tears streaming down her face recounting her experience with PE, the firefighters who worked out in the fitness center with his students, Dr. John Ratey’s quote that exercise is like fertilizer for the brain, it’s so good it’s like Miracle Grow and on and on.

I have many fond memories of Phil, but one of my favorites was the time that we took at PE4life “field trip” to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City. Phil was mesmerized by the history around him. He was a baseball aficionado and each exhibit or picture elicited a story. He even shared with me where the baseball phrase “can of corn” came from – back in the days when there were mercantiles where people went for groceries and had to ask for the store clerk to get the items off the shelf, typically the cans of corn were on a top shelf. The store clerk would have to turn and hook the can off the top shelf to drop it down and the clerk would hold out his apron to catch the “can of corn” out in front of him.

Phil turned 60 in February and his time on earth was far shorter than any of us hoped it would be. However, Phil lived each of those 60 years to the fullest. He lived his life with purpose, with passion and with integrity. When it comes time for each of us to have our lives recounted, will we be able to have the same said?

Read Brenda's Blog here: She's Got Game.