Wobble Stools, Soccer Balls, Jump Ropes, and Pedometers: Encouraging Health and Sports in K-12 Schools
By Dr. Alan Brown
In examining fully-funded projects on DonorsChoose.org in the category of health and sports from 2004 to 2016, I found a total of 75 projects split among four sub-categories, many of which overlapped. These categories include: (1) Gym and Fitness with 35 projects; (2) Team Sports with 34 projects; (3) Health & Wellness with 30 projects; and (4) Nutrition with 4 projects.
72 of 75 projects were from teachers in elementary schools (37 projects in grades preK-2 and 36 projects in grades 3-5). Only three projects were created by high school teachers, and one of those three projects was to support an after-school activity for elementary students. Over the span of twelve years, there was not a single funded project created by middle grade teachers.
The average cost of these funded projects was $633.95, although when subtracting six outlier projects of over $1000, the average cost was $389.36. The average number of donors minus four extreme outlier projects was 2.65 donors (3.5 donors if you include the outliers).
In total, 76% projects were created by female teachers, although 40% of those projects came from three individual teachers. Of the 18 projects created by male teachers, 56% of the projects were created by one teacher. Out of the four teachers mentioned, two were from Ibraham Elementary School and two were from Diggs-Latham Elementary School. Not surprisingly, 39% of all projects were created by teachers from those two schools, primarily between the years of 2004-2005 (Ibraham) and 2007-2009 (Diggs-Latham).
I broke project requests into six themes based on demonstrated need. The most prevalent theme was sports equipment, which contained 55% of projects. Two of the next three most prevalent themes with a combined 24% were classroom resources (e.g., blankets, mats, fitness boards) and content area resources (skeletal systems and composite kits for science, poly spots for mathematics), but these codes were only found between 2004 and 2011. Various forms of playground equipment also made up approximately 11% of funded projects. Classroom seating accounted for 8% of funded projects while classroom supplies (e.g., snacks, hand soap, Kleenex) made up 4% of projects. However, these latter two themes—and classroom seating in particular—seem increasingly relevant in that these projects were all funded since 2014, which may foreshadow future proposals in the category of health and sports.
I was surprised by the lack of fully-funded health and sports projects at the secondary level. Furthermore, I was intrigued by the fact that only 28% of projects (21 of 75), and none from 2009-2016, were created by physical education teachers. The vast majority of health and sports projects came from classroom teachers in elementary schools who were looking for ways to keep their kids active in an era when students may be receiving less but needing more time for recess and physical activity (Ridgers, Salmon, Parrish, Stanley, & Okely, 2012).
One of the fastest growing trends in project requests since 2014 has been for classroom seating, including requests for wobble stools, bouncy bands, stability balls, Adirondack chairs, desk pedal exercisers, and hokki stools. It remains to be seen if this trend reflects a fad that will come and go with time, much like pedometers between the years of 2004 and 2007, or if the push for more flexible and active seating will represent an emergent approach to classroom organization, particularly for teachers who teach exceptional children. To this point, exactly half (7 of 14) of the fully-funded projects since 2014 categorized their projects as serving students with special needs.
29% of projects also requested some form of sports or playground equipment for students to use outside the classroom. Findings from this inquiry suggest that WSFCS should investigate not only the availability of structural playground equipment but also the needs for basic athletic equipment such as soccer balls, basketballs, kick balls, jump ropes, hula-hoops, and cones, particularly in high need schools.
Ridgers, N. D., Salmon, J., Parrish, A. M., Stanley, R. M., & Okely, A. D. (2012). Physical activity during school recess: A systematic review. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 43(3), 320-328.