PE4life is a nonprofit agency that helps schools build fit kids by advocating for and assisting in the development and enhancement of physical education programs and physical activity opportunities in schools and communities. They understand the importance of physical activity to children and youth, and are passionate in their work to help increase PE’s visibility, importance, and place in America’s schools. Their vision is that all children embrace wellness for life.
Jim Baugh, while president of Wilson Sporting Goods and on the Board of Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association, conceived of the idea of PE4life.1 Responding to the downsizing of physical activity times in the schools in part due to the increasing emphasis on academic achievements, Jim began by researching what was new in the physical education field. This is how he connected with Phil Lawler, a physical education teacher and coach in Naperville, Illinois, who was implementing innovative programs.
Phil believed that every child deserved a chance to identify and learn a physical activity they could enjoy throughout their lifetime. He also believed that video games and new technology, such as heart rate monitors and pedometers, should be used to facilitate appropriate physical activity.2 Additionally, Phil worked with Dr. John Ratey, a Harvard Brain Researcher, to create the Learning Readiness PE (LRPE), which utilizes physical exercise to enhance the learning process.
All of these new approaches to physical education were incorporated into PE4life's Core Principles which include: offering a variety of activity options, outlining a K-12 standards based curriculum, providing a safe and encouraging environment for learning skills, utilizing individual assessment tools, capitalizing on new technology, extending activity beyond the classroom, and aiming for physical activity for “every child, every day.”3
PE4life provides programming to schools through both National Reach and Regional Project models. In 2012 their National Reach model had drawn schools from across the nation representing over 40 states to a PE4life training site to participate in programming such as a two-day PE4life Implementation Workshop or to attend a PE4life conference.
In their Regional Project model, they deliver programming and support over an extended period of time to a group of schools within a designated geographic area. Programming is generally delivered at selected training sites within the geographic area. Regional Projects have been done in Iowa, Arkansas, and the Kansas City Metro area as well as in Mississippi and Pennsylvania.
Schools that effectively implement PE4life’s Core Principles in their school will:
- Develop, adopt, and implement a Comprehensive School Physical Activity Program (CSPAP).
- Complete a paradigm shift from a sports-based PE model to a lifetime fitness model, offering a variety of activities to relate to all students.
- Increase the amount of physical activity in which children engage, as well as the percentage of time that students are engaged in Moderate to Vigorous Physical Activity (MVPA).
- Have PE teachers who will be seen as their school’s primary physical activity resource, not only for the students but for the school’s staff and families as well.
- See physical activity extend beyond the school’s gymnasium into the academic classroom and throughout the school environment.
- See physical activity used to improve students’ attention and focus, and to enhance academic learning.
- Realize the numerous benefits of physical activity reflected in their students, including:
- Healthier weight (reduced obesity)
- Improved metabolism (reduced risk of Type 2 diabetes)
- Improved cardiovascular health (reduced hypertension)
- Improved behavior (reduced disciplinary issues)
- Improved attendance (reduced absences)
- Improved attention and focus
- Improved mental health (reduced stress and anxiety)
PE4life believes the physical education classroom is the best venue for helping children understand the benefits of physical activity. If children learn the importance of physical activity during their formative years, and establish a habit of putting this knowledge into practice, it will serve them well throughout their lives, and result in a longer, healthier life.4 Such education is considered a vital part of the solution to obesity. Former Surgeon General Dr. Carmona characterized obesity as the society threat “from within” which is as serious as the outward threat of terrorism.5
- 1. “Jim Baugh: Career Highlights and Accomplishments.” PE4life. < http://www.pe4life.org/useruploads/files/Jim%20Baugh%20bio.pdf > 21 June 2012.
- 2. “Phil Lawler: A Legend and a Friend.” PE4life. < http://www.pe4life.org/about-us/phil-lawler > 21 June 2012.
- 3. “About Us.” PE4life. <http://www.pe4life.org/about-us/ > 21 June 2012.
- 4. Personal correspondence to Playground Professionals. 11 Dec. 2012.
- 5. Op.cit., “Phil Lawler: A Legend and a Friend.”