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New, 'Kinder' Phys Ed Engages Less Athletic Students

The P.E. program at Patriot High School in Nokesville, VA, represents a major shift in philosophy and focus. There, gym teachers take steps to include and engage less-active students, ensuring that classes don’t appeal only to the most athletic students.

Leaving behind dodgeball and other games that use kids as targets, contests based on physical ability, and the use of exercise as punishment, the program instead emphasizes personal fitness plans and activities that accommodate students' strengths and interests.

Patriot's program is part of a larger effort to combat the increasingly sedentary lifestyles and soaring obesity rate of young people. Despite the demonstrated link between exercise and academic performance, in a 2007 survey of school administrators, 44 percent said they had reduced time for physical education and recess in order to focus more on reading and math instruction.

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