The Last Word - May 2021
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SHAPE America: Creating Healthy Bodies & Minds

By Emily Tipping


Founded in 1885, SHAPE America - Society of Health and Physical Educators - is the voice of more than 200,000 health and physical education professionals across the United States. The SHAPE America community consists of health and physical educators in addition to advocates, supporters and more than 50 state affiliate organizations.

The goal? To define excellence and set national standards for physical education. SHAPE America's National Standards for K-12 Physical Education are the foundation for physical education programs across the country, and the organization participated in the development of the National Health Education Standards.

Asked about the most important current initiative of the organization, SHAPE America CEO Stephanie Morris said, "Without a doubt, our most important current initiative is health. moves. minds., which is a service-learning program we launched two years ago.

"Across the country, today's children and adolescents—at all grade levels—do not get enough physical activity, and are struggling with anxiety, depression and other mental health challenges," she added. "Understanding these challenges, promoting an active school environment, and teaching students how to cope with stress, bullying and societal pressures can make all the difference. The health. moves. minds. program helps teachers incorporate social and emotional learning concepts through lessons, activities and community-building activities that teach kids to thrive physically and emotionally."

"In the wake of the pandemic, the organization's goals remained unchanged," Morris said, "… but we have adapted to the current environment by offering more resources for different teaching and learning environments. For example," she added, "we worked with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to create and release the 2020-2021 School Reentry Considerations for K-12 Physical Education, Health Education, and Physical Activity. The most important thing we did at the onset of the pandemic was to ask and listen to what our health and physical education community needed, which crystallized to us what we needed to do."

SHAPE also plays a role in recognizing excellence, through its awards program as well as grants. For example, SHAPE America aims to give back to communities in high-need areas with its SHAPE America Impact Schools grant program, which provides funds and professional development opportunities to schools in high-need areas to enhance health and physical education, while also helping teachers continue their studies and build expertise that improves student outcomes.

The organization also offers a variety of professional development opportunities, from standards-based workshops, webinars and timely podcasts for preK-12 educators, college and university faculty, coaches and researchers, to its annual convention and expo, which took place virtually in April 2021.

"SHAPE America is the nation's largest organization of health and physical educators," Morris concluded. "Joining SHAPE America means connecting with a community of like-minded individuals, staying on top of trends and having access to the profession's most accurate and objective measures of teaching and learning. Your membership dues help support the many projects, publications and resources that SHAPE America produces for the profession—and helps ensure that more students across the country have access to standards-based health and physical education programs."

To learn more about SHAPE America, visit www.shapeamerica.org.