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A Healthy and Active Lifestyle

Childhood obesity is an increasing problem in the United States and it will take a concerted effort to reverse the trend. Keven Prusak and his colleagues in the Physical Education Department are addressing that concern with their research-based course, Healthy and Active Lifestyle Management (HALM). This child-centered approach to P.E. breaks from the sports, pseudo-athletic programs of the past. Prusak said, “The target has moved and we would be wise to move with it.” The emphasis for prospective P.E. teachers in the past was developing athletic skills but that approach wasn’t addressing the needs of children. The new program promotes a healthy and active lifestyle that can have a lifetime influence on students.

Revising the program was hard for the P.E. department. It meant departing from an area where they excelled. The change has not been easy or quick but prospective physical education teachers are now being trained in a proactive program that increases the awareness of conditions and diseases that can be prevented through living a healthy lifestyle specifically associated with three questions: What do I eat? How active am I? What is my motivation to do either?

In the HALM course, McKay School of Education physical education majors first learn how to manage and monitor themselves so they can teach their students from empathy and personal knowledge. They also learn effective teaching methods such as using object lessons to teach HALM skills and concepts. For example, one strategy, wearing a heavy backpack while playing basketball, teaches kids what it is like to be overweight. Students of the HALM class are also helping to write additional object lessons for nutrition and chronic disease for use in the public schools. Their work along with their faculty mentors will be submitted as a featured article to a national journal, with the students as co-authors.

In another out-of-the-box class, Advocacy in Physical Education, Todd Pennington teaches McKay School physical education majors to market and advertise a consistent message on a healthy and active lifestyle to parents, teachers, and students using public relations tools and a media campaign. Students wonder if they have slipped, unawares, into a marketing class in the business school. However, Pennington points out that P.E. has a valuable contribution to make to the health and well being of our nation’s youth. New teachers must be effective at getting that message out.

The Healthy and Active Lifestyle Management program has been adopted in the schools in Connecticut where Prusak served as a consultant. Prusak acknowledges,  “This is not your father’s P.E. But we hope it will be your kid’s P.E.!”

5 July 2010