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PE plans for the future

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GRUNDY CENTER - Physical education leaders from around the world spent the morning in Grundy Center listening to their colleagues discuss the future of their profession.

They spent the afternoon watching it.

Some of the biggest names in physical education and health gathered Thursday and today for the Global Forum for Physical Education Pedagogy 2010, hosted by the University of Northern Iowa and the Grundy Center school district. By the end of the forum, the international scholars will have helped craft a consensus statement guiding physical education teachers and researchers toward programs that experts believe will help combat childhood obesity and physical inactivity.

Shellie Pfohl, a UNI graduate and executive director of the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, said it will take a renewed commitment from educators, administrators, researchers, communities and politicians around the world to bring relevant physical education curriculum to the next generation.

Grundy Center teachers have been working toward that goal for years, using technology in the gym to monitor student participation and track their progress. But Gudrun Doll-Tepper, the vice president for education with the German Olympic Sports Confederation, said just because the program is working in Iowa or the United States doesn't mean it is the right option for everyone.

"I think it will be very difficult to find a global solution to this problem," she said. "Each country, each nation, has their own situation. There are things here that aren't so different from things in my country, it's just the structure that is different. ... But just because something is working here doesn't mean I can take it to Bavaria and have the same results."

Margaret Talbot, president of the International Council of Sports Science and Physical Education, said it will take a "radical change" in the physical education teacher education program and tenacity to get the changes pushed through.

"We have to be prepared for the long haul," said Talbot, of the United Kingdom. "This is going to take a long, long time."

Tony Loomis is part of the movement to change PE teachers. After five years teaching in Connecticut, Loomis came to UNI to be part of a graduate program partnership with Grundy Center. When he graduates he will return to the Naugatuck, Conn., school district and begin implementing the lessons he learned in Grundy Center. He, and many other experts, believe the work done in gymnasiums can benefit the work done in the traditional classroom. The biggest hurdle is finding a way to bring the new technology and techniques to PE classes.

"The money is out there and available for those who are willing to take the time to find it," he said.

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