It is widely known that the public school curriculum does not adequately address the physical needs of the current generation of elementary and middle school children. In the late 1950's, President Dwight D. Eisenhower created the President's Council on Youth Fitness. Over the past four years, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York and Michelle Obama have teamed up to bring childhood obesity back to the forefront
. A dramatic rise in obesity statistics created a perfect opportunity for them to convince policy makers that obesity was prevalent and creating serious health risks for the low-income and minority populations. In New York City alone, the number of students receiving no physical education classes in an average week rose 6.1 percent in 10 years
. In 2012 alone, more than one-fifth of high school students in New York were not even given an opportunity to work off some of the empty calories and fat they consumed during breakfast and lunch
. Many more probably choose to sit out of gym and not maximize this time for needed cardiovascular and muscular fitness.
Other states and school districts are in need of desperate improvement as well. In San Francisco, only one-fifth of elementary school students exercised for twenty minutes per day; thus meeting the state requirements
. Legislatures in the Miami-Dade School District threatened to cut all physical education classes for sixth, seventh, and eighth graders in the 2011-2012 school year. While administrative educators and policy-makers blame falling property values and budget cuts for the cuts in physical education, our children face serious and life-threatening diseases and health risks.
The combination of large class sizes and a lack of urgency among teachers and students create major time constraints. There is not enough time for teachers to inform students about proper diet and fitness. Students come to school and substitute gum, candy, potato chips and soda for the school breakfast. And the alternative is not a healthy morning meal in the first place. Title I ensures that students in low-income neighborhoods receive free or reduced breakfast and lunch; however, most students pick at the meat, toss the vegetables, and consume other foods that are high in sugar or saturated fats. This unit will allow students to learn first hand the effects of every food they put in their bodies. Students also spend most of the school day sitting down. Many go home to watch television or play video games. Even though metabolic rates are high for elementary and middle school children, poor nutrition and lack of routine or daily exercise has caused childhood obesity to more than triple in the past 30 years
. In 1980, the percentage of children aged 6-11 years old in the United States who were obese was 7%. A similar study in 2008 showed that nearly 20% of children aged 6-11 years old were overweight. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention defines obese or overweight as having excess body weight or fat. The comparison is based on a child's height and weight. Children and teenagers under the age of 17 have a 70% chance of developing a risk factor for cardiovascular disease
. The biggest goal of this unit is to teach children about the potential health risks of an improper diet and provide them with the tools and motivation to develop a fitness routine that fits their personality and lifestyle.
The self-directed projects in the unit will allow students to calculate their daily calorie intake. Based on this measure, students can calculate how many minutes of exercise is needed to prevent unhealthy weight gain.