Thursday, August 29th, 2013
A survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds that schools are making some strides in helping kids make healthy choices. The report revealed a jump in the number of schools phasing out junk foods, and found more elementary schools offering gym classes. More from The Washington Post:
[A]fter years of efforts to phase out junk food like candy and chips, the percentage of school districts that prohibited such food in vending machines increased from 29.8 percent in 2006 to 43.4 percent in 2012, according to the CDC’s 2012 School Health Policies and Practices Study. Also, slightly more than half of school districts – up from about 35 percent in 2000 — made information available to families on the nutrition and caloric content of foods available to students.
“Schools play a critical role in the health and well-being of our youth,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, in the news release. “Good news for students and parents — more students have access to healthy food, better physical fitness activities through initiatives such as ‘Let’s Move,’ and campuses that are completely tobacco free.”
Since 2000, the number of school districts that require elementary schools to teach physical education increased. In addition, the number of districts entering into agreements with local YMCAs, Boys & Girls Clubs or local parks and recreation departments went up, according to the study.
Meanwhile, the percentage of districts with policies that prohibited all tobacco use during any school-related activity increased from 46.7 percent in 2000 to 67.5 percent in 2012.
The CDC study is a periodic, national survey that examines key components of school health at the state, district, school, and classroom level, including health education; physical education and activity; health services; mental health and social services; nutrition services; healthy and safe school environment; faculty and staff health promotion; and family and community involvement.
Image: Student in cafeteria, via Shutterstock
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Friday, May 24th, 2013
On the witness stand at the trial concerning whether yoga classes at the public schools in the Encinitas Union School District in Southern California are legal, Indiana University religious studies professor Candy Brown testified that the program is, essentially, religious in nature and therefore inappropriately defined as a purely physical education program. The San Diego Union-Tribune has more:
The district introduced yoga as a pilot program in 2011 and expanded it to all nine of its schools in January. Funding comes from the KP Jois Foundation, which champions a style of yoga called Ashtanga.
Yoga is part of the campuses’ physical-education offerings, and district officials said students are simply doing stretching exercises with no religious connections. Families uncomfortable with the exercises can have their students opt out.
Some parents said the district should not offer yoga at all because its religious roots can never be eliminated. Stephen and Jennifer Sedlock are suing the district in San Diego Superior Court; they’re being represented by attorney Dean Broyles, president of the Escondido-based National Center for Law & Policy.
Brown, a professor at Indiana University, began her second day on the witness stand Tuesday morning by recalling the origins of Ashtanga yoga and how they have been modified in Encinitas schools. Quoting from the KP Jois Foundation’s literature and referring to her own research, Brown said the very act of performing yoga moves can be considered religious.
“The purpose of Ashtanga yoga is to become one with Brahma,” she said, referring to a Hindu deity.
Brown also said there is no distinction between the physical and spiritual aspects of yoga. Children in the district’s program do not chant or use terms associated with Hinduism, but Brown said that does not make the yoga secular.
“Jois is very, very clear that the practice may appear physical, but that is very, very wrong,” she said. “It produces spiritual transformation.”
Citing written statements from teachers in the district, Brown said there is evidence that some children have chanted while performing poses. Judge John Meyer suggested that those students may have learned the chants outside of school, but Brown said it still demonstrates that they have an understanding of yoga’s spiritual ties.
Image: Girl doing yoga, via Shutterstock
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Thursday, January 10th, 2013
Although parents have expressed vocal concern that a yoga program in place in five Encinitas, California schools are religiously inappropriate because of the practice’s Hindu roots, organizers of the program say the it will continue and expand to all nine of the city’s elementary schools. Proponents of the program say that it is part of an important physical education and healthy living program designed to help kids care for their bodies and regulate their emotions.
More from the local public radio station, KPBS.org:
Schools across the country are focusing more on teaching students to make healthy choices. Encinitas Superintendent Tim Baird said yoga is just one part of the district’s physical education curriculum.
“We also have a nutrition program, we also have a life skills program where kids learn about perseverance and responsibility,” he said.
The whole wellness program is supported by a $500,000 grant from the K.P. Jois Foundation. The Encinitas-based group promotes a kind of yoga called Ashtanga.
But, when Mary Eady visited a yoga class at her son’s Encinitas school last year, she saw much more than a fitness program.
“They were being taught to thank the sun for their lives and the warmth that it brought, the life that it brought to the earth,” she said, “and they were told to do that right before they did their sun salutation exercises.”
Those looked like religious teachings to Eady, so she opted her son out of the classes. The more she reads about the Jois Foundation and its founders’ beliefs in the spiritual benefits of Ashtanga yoga, the more convinced Eady is that it can’t be separated from its Hindu roots.
“It’s stated in the curriculum that it’s meant to shape the way that they view the world, it’s meant to shape the way that they make life decisions,” she said. “It’s meant to shape the way that they regulate their emotions and the way that they view themselves.”
Eady is part of a group of parents working with Dean Broyles, president and chief counsel of the Escondido-based National Center for Law and Policy.
“And then the question becomes – if it is religious, which it is, who decides when enough religion has been stripped out of the program to make it legal,” he said. “I mean that’s the problem when you introduce religion into the curriculum and actually immerse and marinate children in the program.”
Eady and the other parents want the classes made completely voluntary and moved to before or after the school day. They say school officials haven’t responded to their specific concerns.
Image: Child doing yoga, via Shutterstock
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Friday, October 5th, 2012
Kids who participate in school or community based exercise programs get more movement in their lives during the programs themselves, but are not likely to carry that over into a more active lifestyle, a new review of program outcomes in the US and UK has found. From The New York Times:
To be included in the review, the studies had to have involved children younger than 16, lasted for at least four weeks, and reported objectively measured levels of physical fitness, like wearing motion sensors that tracked how much they moved, not just during the exercise classes but throughout the rest of the day. The studies included an American program in which elementary school-age students were led through a 90-minute session of vigorous running and playing after school, three times a week. Another program involved Scottish preschool youngsters and 30 minutes of moderate physical playtime during school hours, three times a week.
In each case, the investigators had expected that the programs would increase the children’s overall daily physical activity.
That didn’t happen, as the review’s authors found when they carefully parsed outcomes. The American students, for instance, increased their overall daily physical activity by about five minutes per day. But only during the first few weeks of the program; by the end, their overall daily physical activity had returned to about where it had been before the program began. The wee Scottish participants actually became less physically active over all on the days when they had the 30-minute play sessions.
The review authors found similar results for the rest of the studies that they perused. In general, well-designed, well-implemented and obviously very well-meaning physical activity interventions, including ones lasting for up to 90 minutes, added at best about four minutes of additional walking or running to most youngsters’ overall daily physical activity levels.
The programs “just didn’t work,” at least in terms of getting young people to move more, said Brad Metcalf, a research fellow and medical statistician at Peninsula College, who led the review.
Parents might want to consider incorporating more active time into home life, such as these yoga moves designed for families by Parents.com.
Image: Red tricycle, via Shutterstock
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Monday, September 17th, 2012
The Obama administration is phasing out a test of youth fitness that dates back to 1966, replacing it with a fitness screening that it hopes will minimize comparisons and competition between children and instead encourages positive fitness experiences that will lead to lifelong health.
The Presidential Youth Fitness Program will replace the long-practiced Youth Fitness Test, and it will feature awards and ways to recognize students’ progress in physical fitness activities. The new program was developed by The Cooper Institute, which is a nonprofit organization, and it will become the standard in American public schools for the 2013-2014 school year.
Image: Child on playground, via Shutterstock.
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