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Episode 66 – Action & Advocacy for Active and Healthy Kids

Dr. Jaimie McMullen discusses the need for quality physical education and health promotion in Colorado schools, as well as the long and collaborative process of passing a legislative bill.

Dr. Jaimie McMullen discusses the need for quality physical education and health promotion in Colorado schools, as well as the long and collaborative process of passing a legislative bill.

Why did you get into physical education?

I think I grew up with a love of physical activity. My parents instilled that in me. We were always out doing stuff as a family skiing, I was figure skating from the time I was two years old. We were always encouraged to participate in school sports and things like that. And I grew up in Canada. I remember having physical education every day, which doesn't happen anymore... And so I think for me, I loved movement. I loved being active. I was definitely an athlete, I would say, as a young person and growing up and that love of movement just really stuck with me. So I applied for the University of Hawaii to go to my undergrad because my parents moved there and I had no idea really what I wanted to do, but I was flipping through the big, at the time, it was an actual physical massive book of all of the courses and I found this major called kinesiology that had a course on surfing and paddle boarding and I thought, wow, I want to do whatever that major is! And I came to find out the physical education was one of those choices. So I can't say that my whole life I wanted to be a PE teacher, but it was definitely the love of movement and things that guided me I guess towards where I where I went with my career.

And now you’re teaching future physical educators, what are you most passionate about when it comes to movement?

Oh, I think it's tapping into each individual and trying to find something that they love. So while yes, I did a lot of team sports and things growing up, I think that there's something for everybody when it comes to movement. Even if it's something as simple as a lifetime activity, like gardening. I think that there's something that everybody can find that is going to make them love moving. And so I try to instill that kind of in our undergrads, right. Do as much as you can to try to get to know your students and find out what it is that's going to click with them when it comes to physical activity and movement.

And there's a lot of movement going on in Colorado, especially at the policy level. Would you like to explain a little bit more?

Yeah, so very, very, exciting. At the last hour, literally of the legislative session last week on Friday, we found out that a Senate Bill 19-246 was passed. It's now in, it's an official act now. And part of that bill it is the bill itself is actually the school finance bill. And part of that Bill, Article 99 is the health and wellness through Comprehensive Quality Physical Education instruction pilot program. Say that three times fast. So that pilot program is essentially going to be, you know, one way that we're starting to take the right steps in Colorado for physical education for young people.

Since I arrived at UNC, I have been involved with Shape Colorado. It's a society of health and physical educators of Colorado. It's the governing body essentially for health and physical educators in the state. We also have a national organization Shape America. And as part of what they do with their work, a branch of it is advocacy. And they do an annual lobby day every year where a group of folks from shape Colorado goes down to the state capitol, meets with lawmakers, policy makers, you know, talks to them, advocates for physical education. So March of last year, I guess it probably was... Maybe February, we took five undergrads down to Denver with me for the lobby day Shape Colorado a lobby day in 2018 and we were meeting with representative Janet Buckner. And we were telling her everything about, you know, there's no physical education requirements and Colorado, many middle schools don't get any PE in elementary schools are often getting maybe once or twice a week if that...

For 30 minutes.

Yeah, exactly. And so, PE gets canceled, you know. If there's testing or assemblies and things. And you know, she was really shocked by that and she's always been a huge advocate for education and loved the kind of the work that we've done with Shape Colorado. And she said, and witness of my five undergrads and the other group of folks that were there sounds like we need a pilot program. And I went back, you know, excited obviously, right, that this, you know, policymaker was on our side. And we were debriefing in class the next period. And I had the, the students who were with me tell their peers about the experience and they said, 'oh, and, and one of the representatives, you know, she said, we need a pilot program.' And I kind of, you know, sat them down and said, well, you know, politics doesn't really work like that. You know, things take a lot of time and it's great that she's supportive, but you know, who knows what's going to happen.

I've seen School House Rock.

Yes, exactly [laughs].

You know, it was a lot of work. I think the people that were in that room that day saw an opportunity. And some folks from Shape Colorado, I was not involved in this group, but they revived what is called the PE for All coalition of Colorado and really started to come together with this group of stakeholders that cares about young people, the health and wellness of young people. And especially if it's through physical education and decided we need to do something about this and really push this. And went back to Janet Buckner and got others on board. And essentially what kind of came out in the summer was,' hey, this is happening.' We're going to be drafting this bill and we're going to put it forth and it's going to be for a pilot project. And I'll talk a little bit more later maybe about what the actual pilot programs going to look like.

But we had bipartisan support. So we had, in the Senate, we had a democratic senator, Nancy Todd, and we had Republican Senator Kevin Priola on the bill is our bill sponsors. The of the original bill, which has modified since of actually got passed. And then on the democratic side we had representative Janet Buckner and I'm in the house. And our Republicans sponsor in the house was Representative Jim Wilson, who is a former physical education teacher, many, many moons ago. Bu he was, and so they sponsored that original bill and with everything that happened in the legislature this year, the last minute decided it was in our best interest because we had, our bill had been approved through every step. It was in our best interest to be kind of subsumed within another bill that had already been approved, which was Senate Bill 246 and be added on as an article because things were being kind of held up in the Senate this year with bills getting passed through.

So, so in the end it wasn't what it started as but we still have this great pilot program in place and it was really fun. I mean, we went down, I brought two undergrad students with me in March to a lobby day and they got to see folks from Shape Colorado and American Heart Association, Healthier Colorado. We had some kids there from a charter school and in Denver all testifying on behalf of this bill in front of the House Education Committee. And I think that was so powerful for our undergraduate students to see that and be part of it. And then I guess, yeah, Tuesday last week... whatever date that was [laughs]. I went down and I actually got to testify in front of the state military and Veterans Affairs Committee for the Senate to get the original bill kind of pass through committee. And so that was, that was exhilarating. It was really fun.

Senate Audio:[41:55] Thank you. Please proceed. Thank you Mr. Chair and committee. My name is Dr. Jamie McMullen. I am the president elect for shape Colorado and I'm also an associate professor at University of Northern Colorado in Greeley. I prepare future physical educators to teach quality physical education that my colleague just spoke about. I would like to share some examples of how quality physical education impacts student success. We know that legislators…

What was going on in your mind when you were speaking?

You know, it's hard for me sometimes, Dannon, to figure out why people wouldn't be supportive of this, right? It's physical quality, physical education for all kids in Colorado. Like, you know, we're not trying to push some controversial agenda, you know, this is about getting kids to be more active and healthy.

So I think that's kind of always in the back of my head. I can, you know, politics is a whole different world and you know, I've learned a lot in the last year, but it's still, there's certain things about it that really confused me. I can't imagine going up to anyone on the street and asking them like, 'do you wish kids were more active and healthy and them saying no.' So I guess for me that's kind of always going through my head is at the end of the day it's about the kids in Colorado and trying to make the best possible situation for them when it comes to physical education in schools.

What are the next steps?

Yeah, so, Friday the governor will sign this bill into law as an act. The Senate bill 246 with the comprehensive, quality physical education instruction pilot program is as part of that bill, there has been one point $1.1 million appropriated to this part of the overall bill.

And essentially what that is going to fund is a pilot program for k through eight schools in Colorado. Public schools and charter schools can apply for this grant and it will be funding up to 15 schools and they are going to be required as part of the pilot program to implement the PE for all Colorado coalition's model policy for Quality Physical Education, which essentially includes, I'm a certified physical education teacher. Daily instruction of Physical Education, standards-based instruction, authentic assessment, infusion of technology, consideration of the whole child. So not only just the physical piece but also cognitive and affective goals associated with that. So those schools, the schools that get selected, will implement this pilot for three years. There'll be an ongoing evaluation of that pilot program and essentially, we hope that the data speak for themselves. And at the end of this pilot program we can show the many benefits of quality physical education on, you know, mental, physical, cognitive aspects of the whole child. And then it will be able to be used to help influence policy in the future, to try to get physical education to have, you know, more backing in this state. Because as I mentioned earlier, we don't have any requirements and that's a real problem. In fact, Colorado actually has the second fastest rising childhood obesity rate in the nation.

I'm Dr. Jaimie McMullen, I'm an associate professor and The Physical Education and physical activity leadership program here at UNC.

If people are interested in learning more about the bill and about physical education in general. There's a lot of things that are going on right now. I mean, the Shape Colorado conference is coming up in October of 2019 and that's a great place where all physical health and physical educators come together in the state and learn some really great evaluation tools and quality physical education resources and things like that. Also, of course, UNC has a great physical education program, no bias there at all [laughs]. And so people who are interested in, you know, looking into physical education as a career can go to UNCActiveSchools.com and they can be prompted to find out more about our programs here on campus. I think it's a really exciting time for physical education in Colorado and exciting for us as a teacher preparation program and for all current and pre service physical education teachers.

Because if this bill does what we think it's going to, if we get these data that show the impact of high quality physical education that is taught by licensed teachers and those types of things It's just going to add to, you know, the position of physical education within a school. It's going to be job security for folks who are licensed in physical education. And I just think that, you know, now is really the time to kind of get behind physical education, understand what we're all about. And you know, today's physical education i preparing young people to be physically literate and physically active for a lifetime.

Music: Silver - Jahzzar

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