Teachers Innovate Major Changes to Health & PE Classes at King’s High School
May 13, 2016
Three years ago at King’s High School, Health & Fitness Teacher Jamie Lyon had an idea that inspired a string of innovative changes to the way students at King’s learn health and fitness.
King’s freshmen had traditionally been offered one semester of coed health and one of gender-separate physical education. Lyon initially decided to change Girl’s PE so that rather than meeting 5 days in the gym, the class would meet in the gym on Monday/Wednesday/Friday for physical activities and in the classroom on Tuesday/Thursday, where they would focus on female health (nutrition, body image, relationships, sex-education, etc.).
The new program was well received, inspiring additional changes this year. Lyon is now team teaching with Health & Fitness Teacher Jordan Gage. Now, both male and female students take one full year of Healthy Living Fitness, rather than one semester of health and one of PE. The new class follows this model: Mondays and Wednesdays are gender-separate in the gym focusing on lifelong fitness. Tuesdays and Thursdays are co-ed in the classroom presenting a cutting edge, new health curriculum. Fridays are flexible days designed to enhance whatever students are learning.
On gym days, Lyon and Gage transitioned the focus from team sports to overall fitness. Research shows that less than 4% of adults stay physically fit and healthy from team sports. The new goal is to provide students with experiences in a wide variety of exercises in hopes that they will find a few that they enjoy and are motivated to continue doing later in life. King’s students do weight training, circuit training, agility training, long runs, power walks, yoga, Pilates, Zumba, badminton and yes, they still do a few “game days” for fun!
In the classroom, Lyon and Gage adapted curriculum from two new health books and then added a Christian perspective. Some of the highlights from this year were nutrition, identity and body image, eating disorders, first aid and CPR, mental health, emotional health, personality development and relationships.
On Fridays, a speaker might be invited to share his/her expertise in a certain area. The class might do a “Taste of Health” cooking class in which students get to create and eat healthy meals. Sometimes students meet in the gym for “game day” and students work together in team activities.
“We decided to structure Healthy Living Fitness in this way for a number of reasons,” said Lyon. “First, it was important to us that our students are getting exercise all year long and not just for half of the year. We want it to model real life. Research shows the effects of exercise reach far beyond physical fitness and have an effect on our learning, focus, self-esteem and mood. Second, we liked the idea of having students be able to flow in and out of gender separate learning. Mr. Gage and myself team teach, so on gym days I take the ladies and he takes the gentlemen. Most classroom days are coed, but our structure allows us to switch back to gender separate for topics that we feel would be better taught in that environment. Lastly, the year-long structure allows our class to become a comfortable and safe place. For example, we are just currently teaching our relationship unit and since students have been together all year, we see them opening up, sharing and being vulnerable with one another.”
Family & student feedback on the changes
Students and parents seem to be responding well to the new curriculum and layout. “I absolutely love that class!” said Alyssa Culberson, the parent of a freshman girl at King’s. “I love the teachers. I love what the students are learning and how relevant it is to their lives!” Student Callie Wright said, “Health class is amazing, but the thing that makes it so amazing is definitely our teachers. It’s obvious they love what they do and want us to love it, too… It’s an absolute joy to come to class every day and learn about how to better my physical and spiritual health!” Lyon added that many students are excited about the progress they’re making from the fitness days.
Of course, with change comes some push back. Things like more rigorous homework and tests have prompted a few parent questions, but overall the freshman class is excited about the changes. Gage said, “At parent night, we emphasize how this might just be one of the most valuable and life applicable classes that students will take. In our class, students learn about things they will experience every day as adults. The challenging work represents how important this material is.”
Additionally, the relationships that Lyon and Gage build with their students allow them to be friends and mentors to students throughout their high school experience. “After their freshman year, students are only required to take one more semester of PE and that can be waived if they are varsity athletes,” said Lyon. “Our goal is to add more health and fitness classes in the future, but we hope that the skills and lessons they learn in Healthy Living Fitness will help them to make healthy choices for the rest of their lives.”