Thursday, January 19, 2012

School Spotlight: Wellsboro Area School District

We love giving shout-outs to schools who are making positive changes in their schools and Wellsboro Area School District in Wellsboro, PA is doing just that. After attending a PE4life Implementation Workshop in November 2011 at the Titusville, PA training site, the Wellsboro PE Department returned home and immediately began implementing new ideas.

Read the Q&A below with Project Director, Brian Kennedy, to see how Wellsboro's faculty and administration has made big changes, like implementing daily PE at the high school level.

Q. What sort of changes has the Wellsboro PE Department implemented since returning from Titusville?
A. - We will be scheduling daily PE for grades 9-12 starting the 2012-2013 school year. Health and Driver's Education will be integrated into the daily PE schedule, allowing for a classroom (health) and lab (PE) experience. We would like to do the same if possible in the middle school for grades 7 & 8 (daily PE with health integrated into the schedule) as well as increase 5th and 6th grade PE by 42 minutes per week, but it has not been established yet like has been done for the high school.

- We've started utilizing music in PE class as a motivator and prompt for physical activity.

- We've started using rotating warm-up stations at the beginning of class. We were really impressed to see how elementary students at Titusville were self-starting at the beginning of PE class, knowing exactly what warm-up station to go to and what activity to do. It was a very efficient use of time, maximizing the opportunity for activity.

- We are doing little things to maximize the opportunity for activity, like taking attendance while students rotate through the warm-up stations, which does not take away from activity time.

- We are forming/formalizing a coordinated K-12 Health/PE curriculum. This is something we began prior to our Titusville trip, but we returned with renewed focus to work on it.

- We are considering the use of assessment technology with younger students. After seeing elementary students in Titusville use heart rate monitors, we know it's not only possible for elementary and middle school students to use them, but that they can do so in a competent manner.

-We are utilizing newly purchased equipment that we observed in use at Titusville, such as kettlebells, rubber medicine balls, and the Rail Yard fitness course.

Q. What inspired these changes?
A. The main thing that encouraged change was simply the opportunity to step outside regular, daily duties to see different approaches that are successful and to spend time together as a department for the purpose of sharing ideas and planning. The Carol M. White PEP grant afforded us this opportunity and the PE faculty have really used it to their advantage toward the end goal of engaging all students, regardless of interest and ability, in activity that can benefit them now and in adulthood.

Q. What has been your biggest obstacle in implementing change?
A. Schedules and priorities. With so many important facets of a well-rounded education and with the many pressures placed upon administrators and faculty to facilitate learning and meet standards, it's often difficult to find the time in a daily schedule to increase PE time. There's very little objection to increasing PE time in and of itself, but those decisions are not insulated from the rest of the school schedule and curricula. Barriers arise when needed time or resources for PE are pulled from other important academic areas, making it imperative to make recommendations and decisions with an evaluative eye to see how other areas may be affected.

Q. How did you overcome/are you overcoming these challenges?
A. "Overcoming" is a more accurate description because we are still in that process of planning, evaluating, and implementing. We have been able to arrange for daily PE at the high school level (grades 9-12) starting the 2012-2013 school year, and we hope it sets the stage for other positive changes at all grade levels, anything from small changes like modifying games in an effort to increase activity to changes requiring more effort like improving the curriculum. If we can clearly demonstrate that quality, fitness-focused PE can set the stage for learning, putting students in a "ready to learn" position (i.e. improving the receptivity to learning and efficiency of class time), perhaps daily PE for all grade levels is not such a far reach. Of course this will require the perseverance of some to champion the cause of PE and the benefits it can have for student learning and well-being. Thankfully, we have those PE "champions" in each one of our PE faculty members.

Q. How did you get your administrators on board?
A. Despite the many pressures on our administrators, we have had very good support from the start without the resistance that some schools may have experienced; our administrators have been willing to step up and support the efforts to improve PE as much as they can. One factor that certainly doesn't hurt our cause is the fact that some of our administrators are former PE teachers, so they readily see the value in a quality PE program.

Q. What tips/advice would you give someone who would like to make similar changes to their program
A. Making connections to other schools for the purpose of gaining wisdom from their "lessons learned" is probably one of the most useful ways to begin embarking on a path toward change.

To learn more about Wellsboro Area School District and their PE program, check out this article posted in the Wellsboro Gazette (teachers: this is a great example of taking advantage of your local media to promote your program!).

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