Search form

Let's Get Physical!

Celebrate National Physical Fitness and Sports Month with Education World's tour of physical fitness Web sites. Get your students moving with hundreds of "active-ities" -- with the emphasis on active! Included: An activity idea from each site!

Each year, on the first Wednesday in May -- which also happens to be the first Wednesday in National Physical Fitness and Sports Month -- millions of school children all over the globe exercise together as part of Project ACES. Project ACES

"Project ACES (All Children Exercising Simultaneously) aims to educate children about the importance of lifelong fitness and to end the stereotype that children are fat, weak, and lazy," says Len Saunders, a Montville, New Jersey, phys ed teacher who created the program in 1989. "Project ACES aims to make fitness fun!"

"There is no specific routine to follow," adds Saunders. "The children might walk, jog, bike, dance, do aerobics, or a combination of all of them for 15 minutes. Many schools invite local celebrities to the event. Most schools get the entire school population out on the playground, put on music, and get everyone in the school have some fun by moving and exercising together."

If the students in your school didn't participate last week in Project ACES, now is the time to start planning for an All Children Exercising Simultaneously assembly in your school in 1999. Join five million students from all 50 states and almost 50 countries in "the world's largest exercise class"! Check out the Project ACES Web site or read an article about Project ACES from the New Bedford (Mass.) Standard-Times.


Are you in a rut? Tired of kickball games and the same old relay races? Want some new ideas for phys ed activities to motivate your students? The Web is full of them! Many Web sites offer unique ideas tried and tested by classroom and PE teachers.

Come along as Education World "runs" through a handful of those sites and shares some of the "active-ities" they offer!


Push-ups can be boring. If that's what you and your students think, you haven't tried any of the innovative push-up ideas offered at my favorite site for exercise ideas, PE Central.


Younger students might try the Partner Patty Cakes Push-Ups. These can be done from the modified or "crab crawl" push-up positions. Two people in push up position face each other. They alternate tapping right hand to right hand and then left to left. (For an added challenge, increase the distance between partners and repeat.)


Older students might enjoy Macarena Push-Ups! Practice the workout first, then add the music as your students place
  1. right hand forward and turn palm up, return, left hand forward and turn palm up, return;
  2. right hand to left shoulder, return, left hand to right shoulder, return;
  3. right hand to right ear, return, left hand to left ear, return;
  4. right hand to left waist, return, left hand to right waist, return;
  5. right hand to right hip, return, left hand to left hip-return;
  6. 1/4 turn to your right and repeat the steps facing the next wall.


Check out PE Central for additional fun lesson ideas!.

PE Central's lesson ideas page includes many more activity ideas, arranged by grade level. In addition, you'll find dozens of ideas for integrating PE into your social studies, science, math, and language arts curricula. And be sure to check out the Instant Activities if it's a quick-and-easy idea you're looking for.

PE Central, produced by doctoral students in the health and PE program at Virginia Tech, is the ultimate WWW site for phys ed and classroom teachers. The site includes every imaginable resource; you'll find assessment ideas, bulletin boards, PE equipment resources, and PD courses and workshops. You'll even find a "Kids PE Quote of the Week" --


A couple weeks ago, the Kids PE Quote of the Week" was submitted by Daria Winker of the Wilkinson Early Childhood Center in St. Louis, Missouri. Winker was trying to explain Project ACES to her students. Children all over the world would be exercising at the same time, she carefully explained, when one of her kindergartners piped up that he didn't want to do this. "When I asked him why," Winker says, "he told me that so many children on our playground would be much too crowded!"



At Clarkdale Elementary School (Austell, Ga.), Diana Gobbi teaches spelling, computer skills, and physical education at the same time!

The lesson starts with a computer keyboard -- but this keyboard is larger than life. It's drawn on the gym floor or painted outside on the concrete!

Gobbi has created laminated activity cards to accompany the keyboard. Each card includes a series of directions such as

  • Jump to spell these computer words: disk, cursor, return.
  • Spell your name.
  • Jump to spell your favorite PE activity.
  • Press return/enter to start this program over for the next person.

Students jump from key to key to complete the activities.

This activity makes a perfect PE learning center activity. Students can work in pairs to complete the activity and to check each other's work. You can check out this activity and others provided on the AskERIC Physical Education Lesson Plans Web site.



The PE specialists in the Clover Park (Washington) School District have created lots of PE activities for you to use.

Squid, a throwing/running/dodging game created by Clover Park teacher Amanda Wagner, goes like this:

  • Set up a square play area. Mark each corner with a cone. (This game can be played indoors or out.)
  • Choose one student to be the "Squid." Squid has a foam ball. The other students (the "fish") assemble on one end of the play area.
  • Squid calls out, "Swim fish swim!" to start play. The fish run to the opposite side without getting hit below the waist by Squid's ball. Students who are hit must freeze where they were hit. They become "frozen fish."
  • When Squid calls out "Swim fish swim" again, the remaining fish take off for the other side. The frozen fish -- who may not move their legs -- try to use their arms to gently tag others as they go by. (Their legs are "frozen," but I guess their arms are slightly thawed!)
  • The game ends when there is one fish left who has not been hit by Squid's ball or tagged by one of the frozen fish. That student becomes the new Squid.

"This game is very easy to play and the young ones [K-2] really like it!" says Wagner.

Another simple game, called Meteorite Ball, comes from Clover Park teacher Rochelle Wolfe. The only tools needed for this game are a volleyball net and a beachball for each student. The rules go like this:

  • Start with equal teams on each side of a volleyball net. Each student should be holding a beachball.
  • On the signal to begin, all students throw or hit the ball over the net. Balls coming from the other team can be immediately picked up and hit or thrown back over the net.
  • The object of the game is to be the team with the fewest beachballs on their side at the end of the set time limit.

"Meteorite Ball is a great endurance activity and a great lead-up to playing volleyball," says Wolfe.



Still looking for ideas? Here are a few more quick ones:

  • Walk Across the Country. Students can walk or jog around a measured course at school, perhaps on a specific day each week. Each student keeps track of the number of miles walked. Each student also chooses a "destination" on a city or state (or U.S.) map. For each mile walked, students move a mile closer to their destination. At the end of a given timespan (e.g., a month, two months), who has traveled the farthest? (You might even involve parents in this one. Students' families could get out and walk together at home and add to the students' "mileage.") For more information about this activity, and for other fitness activities, check out the Health and PE Fitness Activities on
  • Note: The links in this activity are temporarily unavailable (April 2004)
    Name Game. Divide the class into groups of three or four. Give each group a Name Game Sheet. (See the Name Game Sheet on the PE Lesson Plans Web site. Each letter on the sheet has a corresponding activity. For example: A = five jumping jacks, B = five sit ups.) Each child chooses a word to spell using the Name Game Sheet. For example, B-A-T would be spelled by doing five sit ups, then five jumping jacks, then one shrug of the shoulders. If students don't know each other, they might spell their names. Otherwise they might spell out the name of a favorite PE activity, the name of another student in the class, or some other name. Teachers might place upper or lower limits on the number of letters in the name a student chooses. Note: The links in this activity are temporarily unavailable (April 2004)
  • Birdie in a Cage. This game comes from DJ's Physical Education Resource. A ball (beachball, volleyball, any ball) is the only required equipment. Eight to 15 students form a circle. One person ("It") stands in the middle. The ball is passed player to player in the circle. "It" tries to touch the ball. Players in the circle cannot pass to their neighbor immediately to the right or left. When "It" touches the pass of one of the players, the player who made the pass becomes "It." If a bad pass is made and the ball leaves the circle, the passer has to replace "It." Check out DJ's (really David "DJ" Nosbisch, a senior at Illinois State University) Web site for some variations on Birdie in a Cage and for many other activities!



Games Kids Play
Remember all those games you played as kid out in the backyard? The purpose of this page is two-fold: (1) To let you remember some of those games that brought a smile to your face and (2) to catalog a fascinating piece of oral tradition, and make sure none of these games are lost forever. The site includes almost 50 games, including favorites such as Red Rover, Jacks, Statue, Steal the Bacon, Red Light/Green Light, and Kick the Can.

American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance
This site offers lots of info, including the current national standards for physical education.

California Physical Education Resources
Lots of resources here for PE professionals, including a listing of sites and listservs of interest.

Physical Activity and Health: A Report of the Surgeon General
Report includes an executive summary, fact sheets, related information, and more.



Article by Gary Hopkins
Education World®
Copyright © 2008 Education World



Originally published 05/1998
Last updated 03/19/2010