MS. REBECCA SHEIR
I'm Rebecca Sheir. Welcome back to "Metro Connection." Today, we are all about learning. We just spent some time in our local private schools. We're going to switch gears now and talk about the D.C. public schools. DCPS began this new school year with more than 450 new teachers, dozens of new principals and nearly 90,000 new text books. And as we look at the year ahead, we can no doubt expect a lot of talk about students scores in reading and math. But that's not what we're going to talk about right now. No, right now our focus is physical education. And joining me in the studio to jabber about gym is WAMU's Kavitha Cardoza. Kavitha, thanks for being here.
MS. KAVITHA CARDOZA
Thanks for having me.
All right. So we've watched for years as school systems around the country have cut physical education from student's schedules, but DCPS is trying to improve the way it teaches phys. ed. How so?
The most basic change has to do with the types of games children play, Rebecca. Here's Heather Holliday who's in charge of physical education for DCPS.
MS. HEATHER HOLLIDAY
Physical education of the past would involve games like dodge ball, elimination games, and if you're not able to compete on the level of everyone else, then you're not getting the same benefits from the class. Those games, you know, sort of exclude the kids that really the class is for, and that's those kids that are overweight or obese.
So instead of dodge ball, for example, students are asked to compete against themselves. Each child has an individualized plan and goals. So for example, in running, if they can do five laps, the next time they try and do six laps. They're trying to beat their previous scores. Students also have individual heart monitors or pedometers so they can track how they're doing.
Wow. So students are just doing their own thing?
Does that mean you won't find kids playing say, volleyball or basketball? Team sports, for example?
You'll still find those sports, but teachers may modify the games. So for example on a volleyball court, teachers may use half the number of players so students are forced to move around a lot more. And PE teachers are for several types of sports including golf, archery and tennis. And high schools often have giant Wii screens that students can use to learn say, yoga and Pilates.
Wii, yoga and Pilates. We have come a long way from the days I was in school. But I have to ask. Is anyone voicing concerns that all this time spent on phys. ed is time that could otherwise be spent on things like reading or math.
Well, I did a series on obesity last year.
I remember it well.
And researchers said that children who are more active, or who actually participate in physical education, can concentrate better in class. They sit still, they don't go as much to the nurse's office. I checked back in recently with Yolandra Hancock. She's the doctor I interviewed for that series. She works with children who are overweight or obese. She says weight problems actually affect how these children do in school.
DR. YOLANDRA HANCOCK
Some researchers believe that there may be something physiologically that's affecting the child's ability to learn. Others believe because of self-esteem issues and bullying, it makes them less eager to attend school and participate in school activities.
Well, while we're talking about physical activity and phys. ed., what about the nutrition side of things. I mean nutrition and exercise do, after all, go hand-in-hand. And I know DCPS has revamped the entire school lunch menu. But is nutrition something that's being taught in health class in the public schools?
Yes, in health class, students now have to learn how to create a meal plan for themselves and their families. As Heather Holliday points out, they learn how to advocate in their families for healthier choices, such as low-fat milk.
We teach skills like reading a food label. We teach refusal skills. Starting in middle school all of our students every single year are required to create a personal fitness plan. They're also required to create meal plans for themselves and/or their family.
Some schools also have family activity night where they teach families how to cook a nutritious meal or they exercise together. At the end of the day though, Rebecca, the point is, are these students becoming healthier and, in many cases, are these students losing weight?
Excellent question. Kavitha Cardoza, thanks so much for bringing us up to speed on what's happening in the D.C. public schools.
And we want to know, do you think phys. ed is working in your local schools? If not, how would you revamp things? You can reach us at email@example.com or send us a tweet. Our handle is wamumetro.
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