Kinesiology works to get future generations moving

March 24, 2011 -- With millions of Americans battling obesity, Assistant Professor of Kinesiology Claudia Guedes is dedicated to educating the next generation on the importance of staying active throughout their lives.

A photo of SF State students Justin Birdsell and Ashley Hooper working with students during Outreach Day at the Willie Brown Academy.

SF State students Justin Birdsell and Ashley Hooper work with students during Outreach Day at the Willie Brown Academy.

Guedes leads the pedagogy area in the Kinesiology department, where she educates future physical education teachers who will be on the front lines fighting childhood obesity. While school districts have reduced the number of certified physical education teachers in the past decade, recent attention given to childhood obesity is increasing the need for well-trained physical educators who can create lesson plans that guide the development of fundamental and specialized motor skills and lifelong fitness behaviors and habits.

"Things have changed completely in the past 10 years," Guedes said. "We are going to have a higher demand for physical education specialists. Physical education is not just playing games. Our graduates are trained in designing curricula based on identifying students' needs incorporating the latest scientific research and implementing the California Standards for Physical Education in the public schools."

Guedes said that nearly 15 years ago, the state cut the number of qualified physical education specialists, leaving classroom teachers to plan and deliver physical education classes. But that trend has changed as the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization have focused more attention on childhood obesity.

One of Guedes' biggest challenges is changing the misconception that planning for physical education courses is as simple as throwing a ball on a field. Physical educators in elementary schools are crucial to helping students continue and enjoy physical activity later in life. That means teaching proper movement skills -- how to properly throw a ball or how to shoot a basketball for example -- to increase confidence and enjoyment of physical activity.   

"You need basics," Guedes said. "No kid will participate in a physical activity to fail. A failure becomes a weakness and weakness becomes a social barrier. If students don't develop fundamental motor skills in K-5, when they get to middle school, it will be a challenge for them to participate in physical education classes. You don't like math if you're not good at it, and it's the same with physical education."

Physical education majors at SF State learn basic science to understand human movement, motor skills development and curriculum models. The students then take classes in applied sciences to support the diverse curriculum models currently used in physical education pedagogy.  The holistic major is the only Bay Area program that is not only accredited, but meets all standards of the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing.

The program has continued to grow. In 2005, the program had 57 majors and now counts 120 declared majors. As parents continue to demand more of school physical education programs, Guedes said SF State  is poised to be a leader in the preparation of qualified physical education specialists. Among last year's 20 graduating students, 12 received positions in local school districts and eight were accepted into graduate programs.

"It's important for students to learn how to read, write and do math, but if they're not healthy, they're not going to perform as well," she said. "Expanding these programs is a national trend -- physical education is the profession of the future."

-- Michael Bruntz