At the beginning of this week I was attending the annual convention of the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance (AAHPERD). I often attend this conference, but this year I was there specifically as a master trainer for Head Start Body Start: The National Center for Physical Development and Outdoor Play. HSBS is a collaboration between the American Association for Physical Activity and Recreation (AAPAR) and the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) and is funded by a grant from the Administration for Children and Families. Its three main objectives are:
- To inform and assist the Office of Head Start in setting national priorities and developing policies.
- To provide resources, training, and technical assistance to Head Start and Early Head Start Centers.
- To administer and support grants for construction or improvement of outdoor play spaces at Head Start Centers.
It was the second objective that took me to Indianapolis, the site of this year's convention. On Tuesday, the HSBS team was responsible for training the physical education professionals who've signed on to be PACs: physical activity consultants who provide training and assistance to Head Start grant recipients, supporting them through site visits and offering in-person coaching and training in providing physical activity and outdoor play.
I share all of this with you because, as more than one of my colleagues commented, it was a day long hoped-for but never really expected. It was a day when physical education and early childhood education came together!
If this doesn't seem all that unusual to you, let me assure you that it is! Physical education teachers know little about early childhood (their elementary methods courses do nothing to prepare them for the realities of very young children!). And early childhood professionals know little about physical education (their pre-service courses may include movement as part of a methods course that also includes art and music!). I can count on the fingers of one hand -- and still have a finger or two left over -- those of us who have chosen early childhood movement/physical education as a career. What I can't count are the number of white hairs on my head that have resulted from this career choice -- because there's been so little understanding of the importance of movement education in the early years.
So, it was extremely gratifying to see a room full of PE professionals receiving the information they'll need to offer their support to the Head Start community. To quote my colleague, Linda Carson, "I never thought that in my lifetime I'd see this day." We're both glad we did!