As a physical education teacher educator (PETE), I find great value in creating interactive learning environments to foster the learning process. I believe that we all should consider the teaching experience as one that is more than lecturing to students; it is an interactive, guided conversation where we should be able to present relevant concepts, theories and research materials in ways that allow students to participate and integrate those ideas into their daily living and professional endeavors. Additionally, I believe as teacher educators it is our responsibility to enlighten pre‐service teachers with regard to societal perpetuation myths and fallacies of behaviors and beliefs regarding race, which can influence both teachers and the students they will teach. In the field of physical education there is constant dialog regarding the various ways that teachers and coaches can unconsciously hold racial or stereotypical biases when engaged with students of color in sport and physical education settings (Burden, Hodge, O’Bryant, & Harrison, 2004). Additionally, physical education literature has called for the evaluation of culturally relevant pedagogical competence to aid in the enhancement K‐12 physical education teacher training (Burden, et. al, 2004). Therefore, I encourage us all to take up the challenge. In the Department of Health Studies, Physical Education, Sport Management and Human Performance Sciences we are actively striving to develop teaching strategies that will help us and our students be “prepared to teach and liberate students from their provincial origins, from prejudices masquerading as principles, no matter the nationality, socioeconomic status, age or religion” (Scott, 2010).
As HPE teacher education faculty, we began a journey to investigate the possibilities of bridging physical education with community-based physical-activity programming. The initial steps of this group are described in an article entitled “A Collaboration for Health and Physical Education in High Needs Schools and Communities” (Doolittle, Beale, & DeMarzo, 2009). Encouraged by a president who celebrates being an “engaged university” and supported by a dean and department chair who provided encouragement and time for “urban initiatives,” we began talking about and establishing the steps that were needed for a collaborative relationship between the school district, community-based organizations (CBOs) and the university. From the beginning we recognized that this collaboration would represent a huge investment of time, and all parties involved agreed that this would be a valued and respected long-term partnership.
In three years we have developed an intricate web of relationships and programs aimed at two major goals: providing high-quality health, physical education and physical activity programs for children and youth in underserved communities; and learning how to prepare health and physical activity professionals to deliver high impact programs in these schools and communities. The Project Guard/Make a Splash initiative is one program beginning to get a lot of attention since traditional learn-to-swim programs have been difficult to establish in minority communities.
Project Guard/Make a Splash is a collaborative venture with the American Red Cross (ARC) of Nassau County, USA Olympic Swimming: Make A Splash iniative, Adelphi University, the Teaching for Personal and Social Responsibility (TPSR) Alliance and a local low-income, high-minority school district. The main goals of the project are to expand the physical education and physical activity options of low-income, minority high schools beyond traditional programs; improve physical fitness and promote lifelong physical activity; increase minority participation in aquatics; qualify participants for employment as lifeguards in publicly regulated pools; and develop life and occupational skills. This project is directly implemented by the health and physical education faculty at Adelphi and provides internship opportunities for qualified university students. Funded as part of a three-year 21st Century Community Learning Centers grant and now renamed entering its fourth year, Project Guard/Make a Splash E.N.D. (End Needless Drowning), has had more than 300 middle and high school students receive swimming instruction through the TPSR approach, which incorporates life skills with swimming instruction. After three years, more than 300 students earned ARC swimming certificates and of 100 high school lifeguard candidates, 12 high school students have become ARC certified lifeguards, 40 students earned CPR and first aid certificates and four of the 100 lifeguard candidates are continuing on to achieve certification as American Red Cross Water Safety Instructors while in the program. It is my hope that research on this program will lead to the development of new approaches for physical education, aquatic instruction and leadership that will then expand to other underserved and minority communities.