In response to an Associated Press article about the decline of physical education in U.S. schools, Prevention Institute wrote a letter to the editor, expressing support for the author’s argument and seizing the opportunity to make some related points of its own. Prevention Institute’s objectives, then, were:
- to support the original article in decrying the disappearance of physical education from public schools
- to stress the important role schools can play in improving children’s health, even during evenings, weekends, and vacations, by opening up their facilities to children and families
- to celebrate the innovative communities that are already making “joint use” happen
- to paint a picture of locked gyms, tracks, and fields, to make sure that readers have a clear understanding of what’s happening right now, and are therefore motivated to advocate for solutions
- to emphasize that policy change is a critical component of building healthy communities
Prevention Institute: Letter to the editor
School’s out: where can kids play?
by Alice Ricks, Oakland
(San Francisco Chronicle, June 24, 2009, page A-10)
Re: “Mandatory gym not enough to fight fat,” June 21: An Associated Press story described the disappearance of physical education from America’s public schools.
To make matters worse, children are even less likely to have safe places to play now that school is out for the summer. Many communities have no public parks, playgrounds or swimming pools. The result? Children spend the vacation inside and gain weight more than twice as fast as they do during the year.
Schools have a role to play in keeping children healthy year-round. Innovative communities are developing “joint use agreements” that open school recreational facilities to children and families at night, on the weekends, and during vacations. The smart solution is to unlock the thousands of basketball courts, soccer fields and running tracks in neighborhoods all over the country.
Mandatory P.E. class not enough to fight fat
by Nancy Armour, Associated Press
(reprinted in San Francisco Chronicle, June 21, 2009, page A-6)
The gym at Eberhart Elementary School is bright and spacious — with high ceilings, several basketball hoops, even a large, colorful climbing wall.
But for much of the day, the gym doubles as a cafeteria where the school’s 1,800-plus students are offered breakfast and lunch.
There’s another gym on the fourth floor, but it’s so old it has basketball hoops attached to ladders. Time and space limitations mean each class gets physical education just once a week for 40 minutes.
In the fight against childhood obesity, getting kids moving is one of the most effective ways to combat the problem. But only Illinois and Massachusetts require P.E. classes for all kids in kindergarten through 12th grade. And, as Eberhart’s example shows, even those requirements sometimes are not enough. Read full story >
On April 22, 2009, Berkeley Media Studies Group staff noticed “Shut out of parks,” a letter to the editor in the San Francisco Chronicle. The letter pointed out how unfair it is that many young people can’t get to public parks because public transit doesn’t go there. BMSG saw the letter as an opportunity to highlight that point and advocate for joint use. Below is the response BMSG wrote to the Chronicle, which piggybacks on the parks letter and was published just eight days later.
BMSG had four key objectives in writing the letter, which can be used as a model for other letters to the editor:
- Support the argument raised in the original letter that kids don’t always have access to places to play.
- Show that policy change is essential to promoting the active lifestyles people need to be healthy.
- Prime the readers to understand that places shape health outcomes.
- Highlight the commonly shared values of fairness and can-do spirit.
Berkeley Media Studies Group: Letter to the editor
Open the schoolyards
by Ingrid Dries-Daffner, Berkeley
(San Francisco Chronicle, April 30, 2009, page A-10)
Pat Lamken makes an excellent point in her letter “Shut out of parks” (April 22): Kids need more public transportation to our beautiful open spaces outside the city. Otherwise, only people with cars will be able to enjoy the Bay Area’s beautiful parks.
We all know that children are healthier when they have safe places to play. But another issue is the lack of access to open spaces right inside the city limits. Fortunately, we already have those places: schoolyards. But kids often can’t get past the locked gates to the playground after school hours. When schoolyards are closed after hours, some children can’t play outdoors, which means they don’t get the exercise they need to be healthy.
The smart solution is to keep schoolyards open after hours so all children can be more active.
Shut out of parks
by Pat Lamken, San Francisco
(San Francisco Chronicle, April 22, 2009, page A-14)
Minority kids don’t go to parks for an excellent and obvious reason — no public transit. Parks are for people with cars. Look at the East Bay, which has the highest minority population. There is a chain of parks from Richmond clear down to San Jose. And how many have transit access? One bus runs to one park, Tilden, on one day, Sunday. Want to go to Mount Diablo? You can see it from San Francisco, but without a car, it’s easier to get to Hawaii. Want to go to Point Reyes or the Sausalito Discovery Museum? Start jingling those car keys. To repeat, parks are for people with cars, and until you change that, don’t bother teasing kids about what they can’t have.