By Kathryn Reed
With baby boomers retiring and about two-thirds of U.S. residents being overweight, health is becoming a greater priority. It begins at the kindergarten level in both South Shore K-12 districts and continues at Lake Tahoe Community College.
Physical activity courses have long been popular at the college, but the institution is taking it to the next level. This is the first year students have the opportunity to pursue an associate of arts degree in Physical Education and Health.
Students must take a core 28 units. Those focusing on Exercise Science must take another 11.75 units in classes like Nutrition for Fitness and Sport, and Care and Prevention of Athletic Injuries. While the Health segment of the major is 11 units, with classes like Nutrition, and Human Sexuality.
“We decided to do a program that would better fit our students’ needs,” explained Cynthea Preston, LTCC dean of instruction.
The curriculum is geared toward preparing students for employment in the fitness world as well as transferring to a four-year college to pursue a bachelor’s degree.
Of the 13 students in Tim Johnson’s Care and Prevention of Athletic Injuries course last fall, some were contemplating pursuing an AA, others want to become personal trainers or physical therapists, some are in it for personal knowledge.
“I want to stay here and focus on seniors and kids,” said student Judy Sabo as to why she was in the class.
Tufon Kalbassi wants to get his physical trainer certificate and then decide about physical therapy school.
With the state signing off on paperwork for the program after the start of this school year, the college was not able to publicize the major earlier.
Even though physical activity is a main goal of the K-12 districts, enlightening students about why that’s necessary and how good nutrition plays a role are components of the programs on both sides of the state line.
A couple years ago Nevada revamped its phys ed program, which falls under the wellness policy.
“The emphasis is on a lifetime of health and activity in all of our PE programs, whether they’re taking basketball or a general PE class,” said Nancy Bryant, Douglas County School District assistant superintendent. “We want to give them skills to be active as a lifestyle.”
Elementary students must have 60 minutes of physical education each week. Specialized instructors and regular classroom teachers are part of mix.
Middle school students get one-half credit for every 60 hours of PE. They must have one credit by the end of eighth grade.
High school students need two credits to graduate. They can petition to have a sport or band count as one unit.
All students are supposed to get 30 minutes of activity a day. Recess, lunch and walking from class to class count as being up and moving.
California is a little more stringent with its rules. Elementary students are supposed to get 200 minutes of physical education every two weeks. The district has three instructors dedicated to phys ed instruction. They are able to provide all but 20 minutes of the requirements. The classroom teacher makes up the deficit.
“PE standards include a whole bunch of things like health and nutrition. Teachers found out they were already doing a lot of that,” explained Steve Hayward, who teaches PE at Bijou. “We have encouraged teachers if they do five minutes of stretching every morning or go out five minute before recess and jog around the playground, they will have the 20 minutes for the week.”
Nonetheless, Hayward longs for the days when the district had PE specialists at each elementary school. He’s thankful the program has grown back to three instructors, but hopes more will be added so he and others don’t have to keep dealing with 30 or 40 kids at once. Class-size reduction is not adhered to for PE.
At the middle school, the sixth-graders get PE everyday, while the seventh- and eighth-graders who are on a block schedule participate in it every other day.
“PE instruction has changed a lot through the last decade. It’s very standards driven now,” Hayward said. “It helps kids do a specific skill at each grade level. If we can instill healthy habits at an early age, they won’t be bumps on the couch. We want them to enjoy physical activity.”
Because of the 4x4 schedule at South Tahoe High, the district was awarded a two-year waiver from the state in September. Students are supposed to get 400 minutes of PE every two weeks. Students on 4x4 get the equivalent in one term.
Ninth grade PE is mandatory, while PE 2 can be taken as a sophomore, junior or senior. Sports no longer counts as a PE credit.
“Physical education in school is not a mini sports thing. Sports is something different. Physical education is a smorgasbord … body movement, dance, noncompetitive games, total inclusion,” Hayward said.