Comprehensive School Physical Activity Program
In 2008 the term “Comprehensive School Physical Activity Programs” (CSPAP) was coined. It is important to note that the components of a CSPAP are not new and have been in place at many schools for years. However, the introduction of the term and subsequent efforts by countless organizations is galvanizing physical activity promotion for youth at the school level and beyond. As CSPAPs become mainstream and more common in schools, they are poised to positively impact the lives of children and the entire school community.
A CSPAP is a school-based, multifaceted approach to physical activity promotion. The components are: Physical Education, Physical Activity During School, Physical Activity Before and After School, Staff Involvement, and Family and Community Engagement. These components are “comprehensive” in that virtually all physical activity opportunities fall under one component. From classroom activities, to volunteers from a local business helping with recess, to nurses from a local hospital conducting wellness checks for faculty and parents, to high school intramurals, to a middle school before school activity club, to the physical education teachers developing a Professional Learning Community focusing on better physical activity promotion during physical education, to parents participating in physical education demonstration nights, the opportunities to promote physical activity for the entire school community are countless.
As I have conducted workshops, given presentations, and written about CSPAPS over the last 7 years, I hear three common concerns. One, you are trying to eliminate physical education. My counter to that statement is, “Actually, I am trying to make physical education and the physical educator one of the most valued members of the school community.” For the most part the public understands the importance of physical activity. So, if we market ourselves as the physical activity person at the school and let the community know “I care about the health of every student”, how can we go wrong? No other professional in our communities understands youth, schools, and the importance of physical activity more than the physical educator. It is essential that we take this opportunity to make school the hub of physical activity in our communities. What better way to provide students with the skills, knowledge, and attitude to be active than with a CSPAP, which includes physical education?
Another concern I hear is “My school can’t do all five components. We’ll never be able to have a CSPAP.” I think we should look at a CSPAP as a menu of all the ways we can get our school community moving. Schools don’t have to eat from every category on the menu. For example, I have worked in schools where parental involvement is low. Getting families to attend a family night may be impossible. Or maybe an afterschool program is just not feasible. Whatever the situation, I encourage schools to start with the low hanging fruit. Pick something and go with it. Start small. Be successful with that and then grow. Think big, act small. Using this mantra will help schools grow a successful CSPAP.
Lastly, I hear, “AAAAAH, this is just another fad that PE is jumping on”. I have no way of knowing if the term CSPAP will be a fad or fade. I do know that youth will always benefit, physically, emotionally, and cognitively from physical activity. And for schools to reach their full potential, physical activity must be a part of the educational process. So will CSPAPs be around for the long haul? I don’t know. But to best serve our youth and community, physical activity in schools has to be.