No Excuses! A Film on Quality Physical Education
In 2011, the Storefront Academy in Harlem, N.Y. (previously named The Children's Storefront School) was selected to receive a special makeover to implement quality physical education and a coordinated school wellness program. Cathrine Himberg began working with the teachers and administrators at the school to retire the "roll out the ball" "gym class" approach, and develop a quality physical education program that fit the students’ needs. After hiring a qualified credentialed physical education teacher, all teachers and most staff at the school participated in SPARK Programs training. A coordinated school wellness initiative was in the making, with quality physical education in the center. Physical activity was promoted during recess as well as in the classrooms in the form of brain breaks. Improvements were made in the cafeteria, and nutrition education encouraged in the classroom, and parents were educated about the project and the important role they could play.
The project was implemented at the Storefront Academy to show that "If you can do quality P.E. here, you can do it anywhere." In order to get parents' and administrators' attention, John Mathieu Roussell created a film about the transformation called "No Excuses!". The barriers the school posed were somewhat unique, and there were many. Lack of space was a serious challenge, and the teachers needed equipment and resources to ensure success. The focus on brain breaks in the classroom allowed classroom teachers and administrators to experience what the research has shown: that physical activity breaks during academic studies enhances learning and academic success. Roussell’s interviews with The Storefront Academy’s students, teachers, and administrators provide insight into their learning and growth over the first year of the project.
In the film, Cathrine Himberg also visits other teachers and administrators in California, South Carolina, Washington, and West Virginia who are experiencing how quality physical education and physical activity throughout the school day can be used as tools to improve students’ academic success, behavior in the classroom, motivation to learn, and overall wellness.
The “make-over” project at The Storefront Academy was funded by private donations, but it can be replicated with less funds as long as there is a REAL teacher involved and support from the administration. It is crucial that education leaders understand why they should care about quality physical education, and realize the important role they play in ensuring that students receive it, along with opportunities to be physically active throughout the day.
We hope that “No Excuses!” and/or these clips from the film will serve as useful tools in garnering administrators’ and parents' support for quality physical education and comprehensive school wellness. Parents and administrators who understand the science behind these concepts, as The Storefront Academy’s Head of School Wendy Reynoso did, will be likely to support the movement toward more movement in schools.
If you enjoyed our film and/or found it useful, we would love if you would share it with anyone who you think ought to see it.
What People Have Said About No Excuses!
- "I first thought the documentary would be much shorter but I could not stop watching it. Very well done and a testimony to what can be done anywhere to get students, parents and staff on board for increasing PA and knowledge about the importance of PA." (Mary Lou Anderson)
- "I just wanted to say that I just watched the "No Excuses!" video and I hardly know how to put my response into proper words. I was inspired, enthused and enlightened. I spent the last decade of my career working in SE Fresno which is a desperately poor area in a perennially poverty stricken county, and the opportunity to work with children of extreme need made me a better teacher and, I hope, a better human being." (Joe Herzog)
- "I just wanted to reach out to you as I share the passion of advocacy and know it has not been as effective as it could be in our nation, states, and communities…Thank you again for this wonderful documentary - my classes watched the video and I had my senior students create discussion questions for my frosh/soph class - really good stuff!" (Kimberly Hurley).
- "I've already shown it to two of my classes - and had them view it on their own. Its a powerful example of what can be done!! "(Anne Larson)
- "I watched it a little while ago. Good stuff to get inspired for the upcoming school year!" (James Overton)
- "I teach in Charlotte-Mecklenburg School district. This film was showed to every health and physical educator in our district this week. It was amazing! They did an excellent job representing all sides of the issue of not enough physical activity and how you could overcome it in school. After we watched the movie we all got certified to be PALs (Physical Activity Leaders) for our schools. This is a fantastic program that relies on stakeholders within the school to help facilitate ways to implement more physical activity at school. I was so proud to be a member of SHAPE America and the program. Best of luck with the roll out!" (Amy Prior)
- "Just watched No Excuses! Great tool for advocating quality physical education. Forwarded it to my county supervisor and school principal." (Dean Schwartz)
- "Just got back from previous two days of PAL training in Charlotte with nearly 300 PE teachers, each of the two days started with a viewing of this movie in the IMAX theater at the Discovery Center. It was a great way to frame the messaging of the day around advocacy and leadership for being a PAL..." (Jamie Sparks)
- "I found the documentary pure inspiration. As a PETE faculty member, I sometimes find myself doubting the future of our valued profession; the constant attacks at the state and LEA levels. I will share this video with my PETE students to show them that it is possible to change people's mindset about how important the role of physical education can infect an entire school in the most positive manner. Well done to all involved!!!!" (Tim Hamel)