It Starts With Us…


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During Game 7 of the World Series, Collin had the opportunity to chat with Jessica Shawley about Physical Education Teacher Leadership in an interview for the SHAPE America Podcast. During the interview Jessica mentioned something that hit home with him. It was about 50 Million Strong.

For those that don’t know, 50 Million Strong by 2029 is an initiative put forth by the Society of Health and Physical Educators’ (SHAPE America). It is an initiative to empower all children through effective health and physical education programs to live healthy, active lives. In the United States there are about 50 million children that are enrolled in school, the call to action is to empower the youngest children in school so that by the year they graduate (2029) they are living healthy, active lives.

We will be honest, there has been much confusion about the focus of 50 Million Strong since it was announced. Is the focus only on physical activity and getting kids active, or is it on creating effective programs that give children the confidence and competence in a wide range of skills to move in a variety of environments? As we all start to wind down this path of understanding, one thing we know for sure is that it is imperative all students become physically active within their lives so they are empowered to become lifelong movers and learners.

Below is the audio clip from the SHAPE America Podcast where Collin interviewed Jessica Shawley. Please press play to hear what she said as this is the foundation of what we believe to be the 50 Million Strong initiative.

“It starts small, and it starts with us”, is such a simple statement but so very important. Jessica shared that it must start with the teachers, and that “we have to be the catalyst for change in the gym and in our classroom. It is about the whole school community… we have to start planting seeds now.” We believe that in order for 50 Million Strong to happen, it starts with the grassroots teacher leaders. It starts with us.

We wanted to hear what our colleagues thought about the 50 Million Strong initiative and how they believe it begins with each of us as we move forward.


zs7ghkfaBob Knipe (@kniper1)

It is hard to commit to a goal without seeing the steps to get there. 50 Million Strong is an ambitious goal that before now the Physical Education field hasn’t been able to rally behind. We are now all in. Like John F Kennedy this is our “Moonshot”. President Kennedy didn’t start off with a clear cut proposal with action steps, but instead with a vision for the future that unified a nation. Each of the 2oo,ooo+ Health and Physical Educators are pieces of this 50 Million Strong vision, that we can see as a puzzle. A puzzle that we don’t even know what will look like when put together in 2029. How could we know when we have never been there? As a nation we have never taken the steps needed to state wellness for all as a major national priority. What will this new national landscape look like? Will these activist, our current students, demand that the healthy choice be the easy choice? How will it effect what workers demand of their work places? Parents of their children’s schools? What we do know is that every child should have the equal opportunity to learn the knowledge, habits, and physical and social skills needed to live and value a healthy and active lifestyle now and for a lifetime. Schools are uniquely positioned to offer this to each of the 50 Million students in today’s’ public schools. If given the chance our nation’s Health and Physical Education Students and Teachers can usher in a new norm for our country. Teachers and students are waiting. It is time we move together and demand wellness for all children.


6147Andrew Horne (@MrHorne101)

Like any big goal, you have to start by taking small, consistent steps in order to make progress towards achieving it.  So, in order to have 50 million students achieve physical and health literacy by 2029, “it starts with us” by taking the necessary small steps to consistently impact the students we serve on a daily basis. We are all co-authors and co-creators to making our profession what we want it to be. Sometimes a tiny change to the way we behave or to the way we think can lead to big changes. I think about John F. Kennedy’s infamous words when he said, “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country” and applying it to the 50 million strong mission. Try replacing the word “country” with “students” or “profession” as a reminder to do our individual parts to achieve this tremendous goal.  Ask not what your students/profession can do for you, ask what you can do for your students/profession to ensure they are both physically and health literate.


devoreBrian Devore (@bdevore7)

To me, 50 Million Strong means empowering a generation of students to take charge of their own health and physical activity for a lifetime. When students learn skills like throwing, catching, kicking, and moving, we are creating opportunities for them to confidently participate in a variety of activities. As physical educators, it starts with us to teach them the necessary skills to be confident and competent movers for the rest of their lives.


49rjcqjrJessica Shawley (@JessicaShawley)

50 Million Strong by 2029 means more to me now than I could have imagined as I realize my son is the class of 2030. So everyday, the 50 Million Strong starts with me as a parent and then continues through me as a teacher. And the amazing thing about the 50 Million Strong campaign is its about the kids. It’s NOT about us, its about what happens THROUGH us. So, it definitely starts with us. One step at a time, one day at a time, one kid at a time. Teachers are the catalyst for change. Its ‘The Power of One’ philosophy.


Sarah Gietschier-HartmanSarah Gietschier-Hartman (@GHSaysRockChalk)

SHAPE America’s 50 Million Strong initiative asks America’s health and physical educators to get all of the nation’s children physically active, enthusiastic, and committed to making healthy lifestyle choices. I know 50 Million Strong starts with us, and each of us needs to determine how we are going to commit to this challenge. I’ve made a commitment to help the #PhysEd community reach 50 Million Strong by creating a FUN learning environment for my middle school students every day. According to Mark Collard, author of Serious Fun: Your Step-by-Step Guide To Leading Remarkably Fun Programs That Make A Difference and founder of playmeo (an innovative online platform of experiential group games resources), “obvious fun is very hard to stand away from. It’s contagious…and invites people to laugh, share, [and] play. If there’s no fun, people find it difficult to engage.” I believe if my students are having fun, they will be more likely to continue being physically active as they grow, and will make stronger relationships with their peers, themselves, and the content they are learning. A fun learning environment can help us on our path to 50 Million Strong.


fafc7ca156f96e27c969a7cae88bcaa3Jo Bailey (@LovePhyEd)

Every day, with every class, and with every student, I am trusted. I am trusted and charged with helping my students find their fun, their joy, their passion, and their motivation for movement. Every day, with every class, and with every student I can make a difference – the question is what will that difference look like? Will it be turning my students on to a lifetime journey of physical activity or will it be turning them off? It is a huge responsibility.

At the high school level we are the exit ticket, in some ways the last chance. From the equipment I choose to use with my students to the activities I choose to deliver my content, I am acutely aware that every decision can be a further step (or skip!) down the pathway of lifetime physical activity or a step away from it. More than anything though, is the need to empower my students. To believe in them; to let them know they can when they say they can’t; to show them how amazing they already are and to challenge them to see where this could take them.

To me,  #50MillionStrong means that, when my students throw their graduation caps in the air on their very last day of high school, they are saying “Hello World, I am coming to explore you, interact with you, and be active with you – show me what you’ve got!” or to paraphrase the words of Dr. Seuss:

I am off to great places,

Today is my day!

My mountain is waiting

… and I am on my way!


patty_kestellPatty Kestell (@pk_lv2teachpe)

Being a part of the 50 Million Strong initiative from SHAPE America has helped create a clear vision for where I would like my students to be by 2029. As an elementary PE teacher, helping my students develop strong fundamental, physical literacy skills is a critical piece in developing their confidence, competency, and motivation to continue learning new physical activity skills.

One of the components of 50 Million Strong is that ALL students will lead healthy and active lives by 2029. While this can feel like a bit of a daunting goal, if I just focus on doing all I can to achieve success with my students, this goal becomes more attainable and realistic.

My goal to incorporate 50 Million Strong within my PE program has been to expose and empower my students to explore a wide variety of physical activities. At the end of the day, as I reflect on my lessons, I think about these questions regarding my students. Did my lesson or unit challenge ALL of my students at an appropriate level in which they could achieve success? Have I broken skills down so that all can build the competence and confidence they need to move to the next level? Do my students have the resiliency skills and growth mindset to help them take healthy risks and develop the willingness to persevere while learning new skills? Have I exposed my students to a wide variety of physical activities that will continue to spur their interest and desire to continue participating or exploring the activity on their own? Have I developed the requisite fundamental skills and joy of movement that students need to be successful at the middle and high school level, so that they will continue to grow in their internal desire to stay healthy and active as they become adults?

1As an extension of my PE classroom, I offer a variety of activities for my students to participate in to help promote the importance of living a healthy, active lifestyle. Students participate in Jump Rope and Hoops for Heart activities which complement the PE curriculum in emphasizing the importance of keeping their heart healthy, and knowing what activities can develop great cardio respiratory endurance. We work with a local farm to provide a variety of Farm to School activities for our students, such as 4th grade monthly nutrition lessons, school wide taste tests, and field trips to the farm to learn how food makes it from the farm to their table. We also have a very active Fuel Up to Play 60 program with 30 student wellness team members who actively promote healthy nutrition and physical activity plays throughout the year within our school. These students have a chance to be leaders in our school and have a positive impact on promoting healthy lifestyles to their peers. We have a running club in spring that culminates with a 5k running event, which is open to all family members who are interested. One of my favorite events of all, and one that I feel helps to build the connections we want our students to have as part of 50 Million Strong, is our Thorson Family Wellness Night. This night is jam packed with lots of wellness and physical activities for students and families to participate in, and local wellness businesses, services and activity clubs share great resources with our families. Students get a stamp on their wellness passport for all the activities they participate in. Our Fuel Up to Play 60 team has several activities that they are in charge of and help run, so it is a great way for them to engage with their peers as well.

As a part of my commitment to 50 Million Strong, I feel the biggest challenge I have is to find the means and the tools to empower my students to develop the necessary skills and desire needed to lead a healthy, active lifestyle. This challenge starts with each of us as educators, and in my school, it begins with me! I gladly accept this 50 Million Strong by 2029 challenge on behalf of ALL of my students!


What does 50 Million Strong mean to you and how does “it start with us?” Please share in the comments below.

Are you attending the SHAPE America conference in Boston on March 14th? Join in on this discussion at the 50 Million Strong by 2029 Forum from 1-5pm. We want your voices there to share how “It starts with us.”

Collin & Naomi

3 Comments on “It Starts With Us…

  1. Greatly enjoyed the previous comments. It’s exciting to read the different ways that people are thinking about achieving the vision of 50 Million Strong by 2029 – a country in which all about school-aged students choose to be regularly physically active and do their best to make healthy lifestyle choices. I think it’s important to remember that there is not going to be one route, one path to success. Across the country, physical and health educators and their students have widely different opportunities and face a variety of challenges. What is going to work in one city or one school might not work in another. For this reason, I think it’s helpful to view 50 Million Strong not so much as an initiative but as a commitment. It’s not a program but rather a way of thinking. And I see this thinking reflected in some of the previous comments. Basically, each one of us needs to recognize that the ultimate measure of our success is whether or not the students we teach are choosing to be regularly physically active and healthy. Yes, we certainly should be trying to help our students improve their skills and knowledge (which some people might suggest is meeting standards), but if it doesn’t result in a behavior change by our students can we truly view ourselves as “good” or successful teachers? In my vision of 50 Million Strong, I hope to see it spread like an epidemic! Something not controlled or even controllable. If the nation’s 200,000 or more physical and health educators can come together toward a single focus we have the opportunity to not only transform the lives of America’s youth, but also change the way that others view and support (or don’t support) our teaching profession. Look forward to seeing many of you at the 50 Million Strong by 2029 Forum in Boston on Tuesday, March 14, 1-5 pm.

  2. 50 Million strong by 2029 is a great goal, but one that PE can’t do alone. Yes, if you are a Physical Educator, it starts with you. But it doesn’t end there. I would hate for PE teachers to believe that they are the ONLY or even the MOST IMPORTANT factor in meeting the goal of 50 Million strong. This initiative has to be a systemic initiative. It has to involve multiple stakeholders: communities, politicians, parents, teachers, schools, universities, advertisers, business, etc.

    Steve made some great comments (here in the comment section) on how this initiative is going to have to honor difference and context, and how behavior change is what we are really looking for (whether or not we are meeting standards). But I would like to highlight a slight flaw in the way that we might conceive of behavior change. Steve says:

    “Basically, each one of us needs to recognize that the ultimate measure of our success is whether or not the students we teach are choosing to be regularly physically active and healthy.”

    While I agree with this sentiment, I would say that it (slightly) neglects the power of the environment on decision-making. First, when Steve says “our success,” does he mean PE teachers? Or does he mean the whole system? I can do my best to help my students love movement, but if they live in an unsafe neighborhood with no inspiring places to play, and with a dearth of healthy models, they are going to stay inside and look at a screen. So this HAS to be a collective effort across multiple sectors. We need better youth sports programs (that don’t overemphasize winning), more parks, more after-school programs, better PE, more PE, better PETE programs, more PETE programs, more recess, a shift in values (e.g. PLAY is learning), etc. This can’t just fall on the shoulders of PE teachers, and we shouldn’t be asking for that kind of responsibility either.

    So is the measure of “our” success whether or not kids are “choosing” to be active/healthy? Or is the ultimate measure that kids DON’T EVEN NEED TO CHOOSE, but simply DO WHAT COMES NATURAL TO THEM in a healthy, inspiring environment? For me, our kids shouldn’t even have to choose. It should just be the way things are. Until we can address “the way things are,” (cultural, social, ecological, economic conditions), I’m not so sure we can get 50 million strong by 2029.

    Having said all that, yes, I agree that we PE teachers have to acknowledge that we have a huge influence. We also have to realize that our influence only goes so far.

    Keep up the work everybody!

  3. Pingback: The PE Playbook – January 2017 Edition – drowningintheshallow

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