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A High-School Program Blending Health and Wellness, Outdoor Pursuits, and Sport

This is an excerpt from Introduction to Physical Education, Fitness, and Sport-9th Edition by Daryl L. Siedentop & Hans van der Mars.

The physical education staff at Tahoma High School in Maple Valley, Washington, developed a curriculum around the state’s grade-level expectations for health and fitness. Across four required semesters, the physical education program seeks to have students move from Quality Producers in semester 1, to Effective Communicators in semester 2, to Complex Thinkers in semester 3, and finally to Community Contributors in semester 4. For example, in the first semester, students develop a wellness plan that includes a fitness, stress management, and nutrition plan. In the second semester, students implement, evaluate, and revise their plans where necessary. These revised plans are implemented in the third semester with the expectation that they expand their wellness goals and objectives and link them with their life and career goals. In the fourth and final semester, students plan and implement an event that is directly linked to wellness in the community. In the past few years, Tahoma High School seniors have organized events around the removal of invasive plant species, planting of native species, and trail building and maintenance in surrounding community parks and nature preserves, all geared toward ensuring safety and enjoyment for those visiting the parks. In addition, they can apply for a health and fitness leadership position. In that position, they would assist or mentor their peers in semesters 2 and 3.

Students complete four semesters and meet on an eight-period A-B schedule, with four class periods 80 minutes in length each day. Students can choose courses from the club fitness, outdoor academy, and sports and dance program areas (comprehensive list of elective courses after the required year of Foundations in Health and Physical Education): dance, yoga, club fitness, outdoor recreation, outdoor academy, team sports, individual and partner sports, strength and conditioning, advanced strength and conditioning, and unified physical education. These are all separate semester-long classes.

The club fitness program includes both beginning and advanced strength and conditioning, while the courses in the team sports and dance area are delivered using the Sport Education model. Tracy Krause, one of the school’s physical educators and former national Teacher of the Year, developed a program called the Outdoor Academy. This program introduces students to activities such as rock climbing and fly-fishing. Krause teamed up with his colleagues in English language arts and science, which allows for physical education activities to be integrated with these subjects. Throughout the school year, teachers from the various subject areas accompany the students to the various nature preserves and wilderness areas around the greater Seattle–Tacoma area. For example, in the fly-fishing course students not only learn to fly-fish; they also learn to conduct water-quality tests in the streams where they fly-fish, and they read classics such as A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean and Testament of a Fisherman by Robert Traver.

According to the Outdoor Academy program chair Sara Russell-Savarud (a National Board–certified physical educator and 2016 SHAPE America National High School Teacher of the Year), students develop a deeper understanding of and appreciation for the ways in which they can engage in physical activity and the environment in which that takes place. The program currently has a required course for all first-year students called Foundations of Health and Physical Education. In it, ample time is given to introducing students to the basics of rock climbing using the indoor climbing facility. This content was chosen because it fosters student cooperation and connections and because it offers a level playing field. After course completion, students can attend “power hour,” the hour-long lunch period during which students can use the climbing wall. And in an effort to expand physical activity opportunities even further, the Tahoma staff also has developed the Tahoma Climbing Club. This is an after-school activity during which the climbing wall is open on Sunday evenings. Club members practice skills and work toward a culminating climbing competition at the end of the school year.

The Tahoma physical education program is a superb example of how physical education need not be focused exclusively on team sports, physical fitness, or outdoor pursuits. Clearly the expertise of the physical education faculty allows for the blending of the multiple areas of subject matter. Moreover, it is a good example of how physical educators can make their program highly visible within the surrounding communities.

Working in public recreation spaces not only is an opportunity for physical activity but facilitates wellness efforts for the entire community.
Working in public recreation spaces not only is an opportunity for physical activity but facilitates wellness efforts for the entire community.

More Excerpts From Introduction to Physical Education



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