Want Smarter, Healthier Kids? Try Physical Education! | Paul Zientarski | TEDxBend

here we go get up get up get up buddy having a strike strike strike stop your feet stop your feet all right drop give me 20 just kidding sit down relax doesn't that sound like your phys ed coaches of old well I spent 40 years as a physical education teacher so guess what I'm here to talk to you about physical education but not the old school PE that you're used to I'm here to talk to you about a physical education program that is individually focused it's engaging its Fitness based and if it's placed correctly in a school day it's the most important aspect of a child's school day now there are two problems facing the world today in our schools one we're lagging behind our international peers scholastically two it's the health issues that our children face well I'm here to tell you why that's occurring I believe it's occurring because physical education is being taken out of the classes you see inactivity has replaced smoking as the number one cause of death in the United States this generation of children is not expected to have the lifespan of their parents because of inactivity and so what we're doing to resolve this is we're taking kids out of he and putting them in seats to sit board and there is no research that shows that that helps I'm going to show you this is the result of more seat time we're 36 in the world in math 25th in the world in reading and 28th in the world of science so what I propose is that we start to think about things a little bit differently and if we use physical education as a way of getting that done then we're going to be in great shape you got it I'm going to talk to you about a physical education program that is Fitness based and I'm going to talk to you about the program we had in April Central High School you see across the country they're dropping physical education here in Bend for example an elementary student may have physical education one day a week a high school student only needs one credit of physical education to graduate heck in Florida you need one semester of physical education graduate high school and get this they can do it online well we have become the potty break in a coffee break for elementary teachers at the high school level we teach all kinds of sports skills and we spend our time testing our students with how many free throws they can make how many volleyballs they can bump against against the wall and we've discovered that beyond the age of 26 only 5 percent of the u.s. population participates in team sports to stay active well no wonder they're dropping physical education we became irrelevant the physical education program in Naperville and you see it in Illinois we have the only we are the only state that mandates daily physical education for all students K through 12 but as we looked around the country people were dropping physical education we were afraid we were going to become extinct so the phys ed teachers in our area got together and we said look we've got to change our emphasis no longer sports based model we need to concentrate on fitness and an emphasis on health and wellness and so as we did that we started to get national and international recognition school districts from all over the country started to come to visit us schools entities from around the world had come to visit us I've done presentations in 22 states in school districts in Illinois and around the country 35 of them have implant– implemented parts of our program and here's what they found increased Fitness increased academic performance better attendance and better behavior in their schools entities like China Japan South Korea have come to see us countries who we emulate for their academic performance and they come to see me to learn about our program as we move to a fitness based program we found that technology was important heart rate monitors became a big part of our program it allowed us as teachers to know how hard our students were working it allowed us as teachers to grade our students based on their efforts not on their sports skills it allowed the students to see how hard they were working and then they could strive to work a little bit better so as we make this transition our equipment became more complex than just bats and balls we needed stationary bikes we needed ellipticals we needed treadmills we need to weight machines those were going to be the things that were going to help our students into the future besides that then we changed the activities who are teaching them we're giving them all kinds of different activities we did kayaking in the pool we did rock climbing we did yoga we had all kinds of dance classes aerobic kickboxing team-building activities those are going to be the activities that our students were going to need as they became a well we still give fitness tests the dreaded Fitness says I know but our fitness test our students are not measured against them cell or their peers they're measured against themselves our students have to own their data because they're tracked from year to year and as a result in our test the students are put in one of two categories they are either unhealthy or healthy and then it's the job of the physical education teacher to move them from one category to the next now we still we still play sports we have to do that in physical education but we did it with small sighted activities where everybody had to participate this is a scene of four-on-four playing and you see what was nice is even though we were playing for and for those who needed the most activity got a lot of activity no scores were set were set it was just about participation so all of a sudden in 2003 I had an aha moment a Harvard researcher by the name of dr. John Rainey had come to visit our program now why would a Harvard researcher come to visit Naperville Illinois I'm glad you asked you see he had just recently discovered that we had participated in an international math and science that's called the TIMSS test eim ms and our students finished number one in the world in science number six in the world in mathematics and he was surprised to understand we still maintained our daily physical education program he was on a journey and this is his favorite quote exercises like fertilizer to brain it's so good it's like Miracle Grow and the first thing he told me was it is exercise that builds brain cells not new learning are you ready exercise builds brain cells not new learning so as he was going on as a journey of understanding how exercise was affecting the brain and learning I took this information I went back to school I went to my administration and teaching staff and created a program called learning readiness PE or LR PE for short this was going to be a physical education program that was going to focus on cardiovascular conditioning and we were going to strategically place students in this class prior to classes that they struggled in well we created it an intervention reading program for our students who are struggling or we're reading below grade level and so what you're seeing is from 2005 to 2010 the blue and the blue bar indicates students who are in the same academic class but have physical education afterwards the red bar indicates those students in the class but have lrp just before the difference is about 56% that was over a semester when we measured it over a year you see growth in in years of reading improvement two years as opposed to three years for those students who were who had physical education after when we included math it became even more dramatic yeah that's what my administration said – Wow so again when we're comparing students that are in the LR PE class are those who are in the same academic class but FPE afterwards a 93 percent difference 93 percent difference well you're all saying ok it's all because of you mr. Zen tarski your phys ed program not at all not at all you see it was as I was bringing information back to our teachers they were taking that information at neuroscience information and they were putting it into practice however I would walk through the halls like this you need me I build those brain cells is up to you now to film and so they started using movement in the learning process I have to math teachers who have created and published brain break books brain breaks come into play about halfway through a class when the students attention starts to wander and so they get the students up out of their desks they participated in activity and the time spent and the brain break is more than gained with the attention they have with the students coming back now okay you want to know how do you know that this exercise works neuroscientists out of the University of Illinois dr. Chuck Gilman does brain scans and students and so on the left hand side you're looking at a composite of twenty students brain scans where the brain is yellow and white it's lit up as resolving the issues of the test on the right hand or and I'm sorry and before they took the test they said quietly on the right hand side it's the same twenty students sitting down taking the same type of test the only difference is they walked for twenty minutes look at the brain activity now with just a twenty minute walk could you imagine what it would look like after our hard physical education class so how do you I know that this program is helping helping our students well it just so happens five days ago true story we get a letter from a student who was involved in the program and she's now studying physical education at the University of Westchester in Pennsylvania and in her class a professor was going to show a clip on the value of exercise and learning guess what it was about neighbor Ville she said hey I was involved in that program and spent an hour and a half talking to her peers about the program it prompted her to write to her LRV II teacher and she's given me permission to read that letter to you right now mr. Adams I wanted to mention that in my class freshman year you really gave me the inspiration to teach and my passion to teach students who struggle in school when I began your class I thought poorly about myself I thought I was in a dumb class the funny thing about LR PE it's exactly opposite of being in a dumb class it's a shame that people don't realize that sooner what is them about increasing your grades especially in a fun and physical way thank you for believing me in a student and then in the program you and the rest of the physical education department should be proud of the impact that you are having I am I have so much hope for this program and pray that it continues to grow your number one student Caitlin the reason the reason I had you stand as I walked in is because I didn't want you to miss this important piece of information and that is this a quality daily physical education program that is engaging and fitness space and strategically placed in the course of the day is the is the most important aspect of a child's day our children deserve to be healthier and achieve their academic potential so it's time to blow the whistle on schools who are cutting back on physical education make physical education than a core subject so it's an every child's school day thank you


  1. When he says “strategically placed” what does this mean? PE first thing in the morning? In the middle of the day? I loved the presentation but wish he would elaborate more on when PE should be implemented for students. Maybe it is right before their math and reading classes?

  2. I ate candy while watching this. Fight me Ted X

  3. first

  4. So very nice.

  5. I'm watching you he showed my PE shows

  6. Some people hate PE because their teachers are horrible. Or they have really low self esteem and confidence but the thing that annoys me the most is how people will simply call you lazy if you don't like PE. You don't know their story why are you judging, Belive me when you call someone lazy it doesn't help calling someone with low confidence it makes it worst. Some teachers don't like the students who don't do well in their class and treat them unfairly I've seen it before my own eyes.

  7. no dank memes here

  8. This video taught me nothing

  9. Illinois no longer requires daily PE…

  10. America needs this more than ever!

  11. Sou brasileiro não sei inglês tchau


  13. All true, many teachers are limited in resources such as facilities and equipment. This guy taught in one of the greatest school districts in the country. They have a rockwall, a pool, a track, an outdoor ropes course, tuff, multiple fields, bikes, treadmills, weights. I would build a bangerang program too if I had those resources.

  14. I am going to try to embed this into my Physical Education classes! Going to try and persuade my school into allowing me to change my classes to the morning! Thank You!

  15. P.E. = pointless exercise

  16. He is so obese

  17. That is great!

  18. This is mind-blowing as a future teacher. I wish every teacher would watch and learn from this.

  19. not all elementary schools in Illinois have PE daily

  20. We love this!

  21. Good stuff! My passion.

  22. Educators understand this, politicians do not quite yet. But they are beginning to see the value of physical activity and the importance of.

  23. I guess he will be glad to know that I am one of the five percent of adults over the age of 25 to be in a sport, since I am 27.

  24. wonderful inspiration ,gives emphasis on physical education in this present internet world

  25. A lot of teachers will be inspired of this video! thumbs up

  26. He talks like he's super pissed

  27. I think he is referring to kinetic learning styles.

  28. At 7:53–8:10
    "Exercise is like fertilizer for the brain… it's so good, it's like Miracle Gro".
    It is exercise that builds new brain cells, not new learning.

  29. Reminds me of the book "Game Changer" by Phil Lawler

  30. As a current PE major I had the same ideas as Paul, now after watching the video I hop I can only teach at a school that will let me implement them.

  31. PE os not a tool for improving academic performance.

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