Friday, May 4, 2007

What about “free play” during PHYSICAL EDUCATION CLASS?

A question from a Play Nice Newsletter reader.
Do you support “free play” time during physical education?

Put simply. I don’t. Physical education time is at such a premium. Rarely is there enough time to teach to the physical education standards. Physical Education is the discipline that teaches students the knowledge and skills to be physically competent. Physical Education determines the curriculum content that students need to know and be able to demonstrate at a specific grade level. Physical Education is not unstructured or free play. At its best, Physical Education promotes and facilitates the attainment of movement skills, physical fitness, and the development and improvement of physical activity that can be maintained throughout life. It is important to note that if students do not receive the necessary instruction and opportunities to learn motor and physical skills and habits at the appropriate developmental levels, they will have tremendous challenges learning them at a later time in their lives.

I think the “free play” notion is tied to the misinformation that a child’s physical development “naturally” occurs during the process of growing. As a consequence, numerous physical education classes have been planned as “free-play” or a time for students to “release some energy.” It is important here to cite the research which states that mature fundamental movement skills do not develop on their own (Gallahue & Ozmun 1995; Roberton & Halvorson, 1984; Seefeldt 1986).

So “free play” is meant for recess NOT PHYSICAL EDUCATION.