Western Carolina University health and physical education students and faculty recently took part in the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance’s sixth annual SPEAK Out! Day on Capitol Hill.
Taking part were WCU students majoring in health and physical education including Beth Arney from Hickory, Jon Benken from Atlanta, Kyle Bernier from Murphy and Kaylie Dean from Oxford, as well as health and physical education faculty members David Claxton and Tom Watterson.
Participants sought support for co-sponsors of the Promoting Health for Youth Skills in Classrooms and Life Act, or PHYSICAL Act. The bill designates physical education and health education as core subjects, making them eligible for federal funding under Title I and Title II. The funding would help school districts expand physical education and health education programs and professional development for teachers, leading to potential opportunities to dedicate weekly physical activity time, enhanced classroom instruction or development of creative health programs.
The students also encouraged continued support for the Carol M. White Physical Education Program, a grant program in which federal funds support physical education.
“The research is clear on the impact that physical education has on all aspects of a student’s life, from improved academics and behavior in the classroom to increased confidence to excel in other endeavors, both personal and academic, as well as the obvious proven health benefits of being physically active,” said Claxton. “We hope that we helped our legislators understand the importance of having health and physical education recognized as core subjects so that educators at the local level will have the choice to spend federal dollars on health and physical education if they think that is where the money should be spent.”
WCU students and faculty shared stories on the impact of the Carol M. White Physical Education Program on the local level and their interest in seeing passage of more stringent mandates for physical education and health education. In North Carolina, each school district requires students enrolled in pre-kindergarten, kindergarten and grade levels below high school to participate in physical activity as part of the district’s physical education curriculum. The amount of time and days per week are left up to each school. Watterson said adding physical education to the core standards will enable educators to be able to show how successful students can be in their overall health and well-being.
“This overall health extends outside the classroom and has a great impact on the students’ standard of living for the rest of their lives,” said Watterson. For more information about WCU’s health and physical education programs, visit https://www.wcu.edu/learn/programs/health-physical-education-bsed/index.asp.