Okay, maybe I am exaggerating. Truthfully, I could be thinking about grocery shopping, my next bulletin board, or our new puppy, but over the last 2 years I have also had a recurring philosophical debate with myself- “What geometric shape best represents physical education in today’s society?”
This internal discussion began after reading Knowledge/Skills and Physical Activity: Two Different Coins, or Two Sides of the Same Coin? ( Blankenship,2013). The article discusses the direction of physical education. It referred to physical education and physical activity as being two sides of the same coin. The image of physical education as a coin with two sides got me thinking about my beloved Springfield College Triangle and the Humanics Philosophy.
This quote was taken from the Springfield College website. It is the institution from which I received both my masters and my bachelor degree. With the philosophy comes Dr. Luther Hasley Gulick’s inverted equilateral triangle, the symbol that represents the ideal. Dr. Mimi Murray, Professor of Exercise Science and Sport Studies, recently interpreted the triangle for me as follows: The sides of the equilateral triangle represent the emotional, intellectual and physical aspects of a person; the spirit, mind and body. “Gulick also believed that through the equal and harmonious development of the body and mind, which lead up to and support the Spirit across the top of the triangle, one would also develop spiritually. The circle around the triangle is probably as important if not more because it symbolizes the whole person ... a circle is complete with no beginning or ending ... consequently one cannot separate mind and body, as we have vainly tried to do for centuries in education!”
I have used this triangle as a model for teaching physical education for my entire career. While our educational system has created a category in which we are teaching to the physical domain, I have always attempted to do so by educating the whole child; their spirit, mind, and body.
When the new NASPE standards (Couturier et al, 2014) were launched last summer, I began to contemplate how they fit into the triangle.
Standard 1 - The physically literate individual demonstrates competency in a variety of motor skills and movement patterns.
Standard 2 - The physically literate individual applies knowledge of concepts, principles, strategies and tactics related to movement and performance.
Standard 3 - The physically literate individual demonstrates the knowledge and skills to achieve and maintain a health-enhancing level of physical activity and fitness.
Standard 4 - The physically literate individual exhibits responsible personal and social behavior that respects self and others.
Standard 5 - The physically literate individual recognizes the value of physical activity for health, enjoyment, challenge, self-expression and/or social interaction.
The first standard belongs to the physical domain (body). The second standard would fit in the cognitive domain (mind). The third asks for knowledge and application of skills which would suggest both cognition and physical movement. While the fourth and fifth domain would be classified as social/emotional domain (spirit). As I grow as an educator, and not just a physical education teacher, I appreciate the concept of balance more and more. As an educator I embrace the inverted triangle as it is, however, because our educational system demands that we departmentalize, I feel the need to create a physical education specific depiction of Gulick’s philosophy. First, I would expand his two dimensional triangle representation into a three dimensional inverted pyramid. This pyramid would depict the balancing of our physical education standards in an attempt to support the development of a health conscious physically literate active adult.
Likewise, I would change the two dimensional circle that represents the whole child into a three dimensional animated sphere representing how physical education teachers roll, spin, and bounce from one domain to the next in order to educate the whole student. The sphere may come to a rest periodically for a cognitive activity, and then bounce into a physical challenge. The teacher may roll out a social situation and then slow things down to assess student emotional response. Teaching to the whole child is never a static, rote application of a written lesson plan but a constant assessment of student needs and reassessment of what domain needs to be focused on to address those needs.
Now, maybe, I can focus on the exit signs!
Blankenship, Bonnie. “Knowledge/Skills and Physical Activity: Two Different Coins, or Two Sides of the Same Coin?” Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, Volume 84, (Issue 6), 2013.
Couturier, Lynn, Stevie Chepko, and Shirley Holt/Hale. National Standards & Grade-Level Outcomes for k-12 Physical Education. Illinios: Human Kinetics, 2014. Print.
“Humanics Philosophy.” Retrieved from http://www.springfieldcollege.edu/welcome/humanics-philosophy/index#.VKnQCyvF-So)