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MS PE Research

Project M-SPAN:

M-SPAN Physical Education/Activity Goals:

  • Improve physical education content offerings and instructional methodology of teachers in an effort to increase student MVPA.
  • Create physical education staff development sessions which motivate teachers to embrace new ideas and apply those ideas to their teaching.
  • Increase physical activity opportunities on campus throughout the school day (before school, during lunch, after school) for all students.
  • Modify the school environment to make it more conducive to physical activity promotion and facilitate lasting change.

M-SPAN Results:

  • The staff development team conducted 5 workshops over a 2-year period of time for MS PE specialists representing the 12 intervention schools. Attendees evaluated these workshops and the M-SPAN program extremely favorably — as they did the entire intervention approach.  (See inservice evaluation summary in the Addendum.)
  • Moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) in physical education classes increased nearly 20% in intervention schools compared to controls (sites not receiving M-SPAN materials, training, follow-up support).
  • Many sites added physical activity options for students at various times of the school day and the advantages of collaboration with outside organizations and agencies were clearly demonstrated.
Subsequent and Ongoing Research:

TAAG (Trial of Activity for Adolescent Girls): Three years into the dissemination of M-SPAN (SPARK Middle School), the San Diego group (same key staff that developed M-SPAN) received N.I.H. funding to conduct another Middle School PE study, this time a multi-site (N=5) national effort focusing on helping girls become more active on and off campus. TAAG ran from 2002 to 2006, and like M-SPAN, the PE intervention lasted only two years.The results of TAAG in increasing girls’ activity levels during PE class were not statistically significant; however, a number of excellent educational materials were developed, tested and shown to be effective.

The HEALTHY Study (2003-2010):  This N.I.H. funded study examined the effects of a multi-component, middle school school-based PE and PA program addressing risk factors for diabetes among children. A multi-site (N=7) national study, 42 middle schools participated with 21 randomly assigned to intervention.  Intervention consisted of providing MS PE teachers with curriculum, professional development, follow up support, and supplemental equipment. One of the SPARK MS PE trainers identified earlier (Mr. Steve Bruecker) was one of the primary authors of the curriculum used and led the development of both the teacher training program and the coaching/mentoring support model. SPARK aided this study by giving granting permission to incorporate SPARK and M-SPAN content and instruction. Additionally, SPARK Principal Dr. Thom McKenzie, and the SPARK Partnership Development Specialist, Dr. Kymm Ballard, served as Consultants to the study.

The first paper from the Healthy Study was published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine, Spring 2010 (see Addendum for a reprint) and showed impressive improvement in student biological and physiological outcomes and significantly greater reductions in various indexes of adiposity.

HEALTHY Study Principals outreached to SPARK early in 2010 to support their efforts to disseminate their program. SPARK is proud to announce an agreement was reached in September of that year and best practices from the HEALTHY Study PE program have been integrated with the SPARK MS PE program available today.

Research Summary (1996-2010):  SPARK is unique in that it is the only Middle School Physical Education program available today that can cite its development from the three largest and most significant N.I.H. studies ever on this student/teacher population.  Additionally, these projects all identified student MVPA during PE class and the promotion of physical activity outside of class as overarching goals.  Each project utilized different approaches and methodologies to achieve these goals and the SPARK Middle School development team is far richer as a result of subsequent lessons learned.  This is what evidence-based programming is – testing strategies to determine if they are effective, then if they are, disseminating them for the benefit of others.

SPARK is the only organization that has this depth of MS PE research behind it – more than 100 different middle schools and hundreds of physical education specialists from these projects alone.

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