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The IMPACT of Physical Education: Improving Fitness at 60 Schools in San Diego Unified School District

New program gets students moving, improves BMI numbers

Post Date:08/22/2023 4:31 PM
Children exercising at school

By Deirdre Kleske, HHSA CalFresh Healthy Living program 

The County of San Diego’s CalFresh Healthy Living program contracted with the San Diego Unified School District to implement the “Increasing Movement Through Physical Activity in Class Time” (IMPACT) program in 60 schools, engaging and improving students’ health and fitness. 

A group of eight physical education leaders were enlisted to provided technical assistance and support to other physical educators and classroom teachers to implement the IMPACT curriculum. IMPACT was designed to keep students moving throughout the school day and improve teachers’ delivery of a standards-based physical education curriculum. IMPACT is a 20-minute, station-based program that increases daily moderate-to-vigorous physical activity. Activities can be taught by a physical education teacher but are also easily implemented by classroom teachers.  

Bringing the IMPACT program to San Diego Unified schools was critical as only about 25 percent of children get the recommended 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity daily, and 25 percent of American youth ages 10 to 17 are overweight or obese. In the San Diego district, an average of 35 percent of fifth-, seventh-, and ninth-graders were considered overweight or obese based on the body mass index component of the California Physical Fitness Test (PFT) in 2019. In that same year, nearly 30 percent of ninth-graders failed five out of six components of the fitness test, which is a requirement for a student to receive a two-year exemption from physical education in grades 10 to 12. 

Adding to this, the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year was among the most challenging in the recent history of education. More than half the students in the district returned to an in-person format after an extended absence from school due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With students returning to in-person instruction, schools needed to socially integrate students back into classrooms and provide quality, daily physical education that met the California education code requirements.  

The IMPACT program provided organizational structure to ensure schools were meeting the recommended physical education components. Since 2020, and with the support of the CalFresh Healthy Living program, the San Diego Unified School District increased from 24 to more than 60 schools implementing IMPACT and the number of students benefiting from IMPACT has increased from 12,000 to nearly 30,000. 

IMPACT equipment, curriculum, training, and support were provided to create a sustainable program to improve student health and fitness. As a result, district physical education leaders have increased their ability to deliver technical assistance and built the capacity of school site staff to deliver quality, standards-based physical education instruction.  

Learn more at SDUSD IMPACT

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