PE in San Dieguito school district stresses physical literacy with goal of lifelong fitness

In PE, students are exposed to a variety of sports, learning the skills through rubrics.

Jasmine Stiles has been teaching PE at Carmel Valley Middle School for the last 19 years. Her goal this year as the San Dieguito Union High School District PE coordinator is to dispel the myths in the community about what happens in PE class.

“A lot of families don’t know how awesome our program is and how important it is for social, emotional and physical development,” Stiles said, noting that many students opt into Independent Study PE. “I want to expose as many kids as possible to our program because I know what it does. There are so many positive benefits.”

This is not the PE most people grew up with—the teacher bringing out the equipment and setting kids off to play. And it’s not just running endless laps.

“We no longer do participation gets credit,” Stiles said. “The biggest question PE teachers must ask is: ‘How do you know every student is learning?’”

To teach physical literacy, Stiles stresses student engagement.

According to the SHAPE America national PE standards, physical literacy is “the ability to move with competence and confidence in a wide variety of physical activities in multiple environments that benefit the health development of the whole person.”

At Carmel Valley Middle School, rather than just sending the kids out to play street hockey, the game is broken up into skill learning. The students use three to five point rubrics for each skill. For example, when learning how to pass, the rubric spells out hand position, blade position and keeping the knees bent.

Stiles has developed rubrics for every single sport and for conditioning exercises such as curl-ups and push-ups.

Students work the skills on their own using the rubrics, guiding and giving each other feedback, like “get your dominant hand lower.” Students evaluate and rate themselves and others, sometimes using video to study their forms.

“We teach technique to the nth degree,” said Stiles, adding that students never leave a unit without learning the essential skills that will help them be successful at the game or activity.

In PE class, the goal is to get moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) 60 percent of the class time as well as for students to recognize the value of physical activity for health, enjoyment, challenge, self-expression and/or social interaction.

Students take PE three times a week, starting each class with flexibility and ballistic stretches, strength and conditioning exercises and cardiovascular conditioning to get their heart rates up and challenge their lungs. At least once a month they do a 1,500 meter timed run and in May, every student runs a 5K

One day a week is a shorter class and they focus on a health and wellness –they have done a self-defense unit, learned about nutrition, focused on drug prevention and trends like vaping, and done social emotional learning activities on friendships and relationships.

“I believe at this age, this is the most important class these kids take,” said CVMS PE teacher Michelle Brown.

Brown was an English teacher for 25 years before making the transition to PE this year. As much as she loves getting the kids’ hearts pumping, she finds it so valuable to catch kids at an early age to teach them about making good choices and setting habits now, “helping them understand and believe in the importance of being healthy. Your health affects everything, as we all know as adults.”

The activity units are three weeks long and range from yoga to lacrosse to pickleball. Stiles said while they could choose to devote longer to each activity or sport, she wants to expose them to as many things as she can so they have options when they are older.

“The ultimate goal is lifelong fitness. The more options they have, the less afraid they will be to try something as an adult,” Stiles said.

Students might not like every activity but overcoming obstacles and challenges only makes them stronger both physically and mentally. She said there is value in helping students learn the skills they need to be successful, so they can feel accomplished, to see that they have improved, to help gain self-confidence or discover a sport or activity that they didn’t know they could love.

She knows that three of 50 students will stay in shape the rest of their life, 10 will be in and out of shape for the rest of their lives and, unfortunately, 75 percent to 85 percent will stay out of shape—Stiles doesn’t want that to happen, she wants her students to break the mold.

“You have one body. The most valuable asset you’ll ever have is your health,” Stiles tells her students.

Stiles works to set a positive example for her students—recently she became a professional in prone paddleboarding at the age of 54, which she tried for the first time six years ago.

“You can compete at any level and you can be excited about the goals you set,” said Stiles, a masters swimmer who surfs, lifts and runs. “I know personally that lifelong fitness changes your life.”