PE vs. Summer Camp


by Elizabeth Beard | Posted on October 16, 2011

SNAG GolfThe acronym “PE” holds a lot of negative associations for some people, bringing back memories of seemingly impossible fitness tests and rope climbs, along with tween and teen mortification about changing in a school locker room and various other indignities like wedgies, dodge ball, and being chosen last for a team. Compare this to most people’s reaction to the words “summer camp.” Even the most modest day camps offer fun recollections of learning new sports, new crafts, new pool games, even new silly songs. A bad day at summer camp still beats a good day at school.


So why isn’t PE more like summer camp? Where is the spirit of adventure in learning something new in PE? How are kids supposed to develop a lifelong love of fitness and physical activity when the experience is often regarded as communal misery? No wonder school systems are tempted to cut PE back to the bare minimum or even eliminate it entirely.


Meanwhile, a number of sports groups and associations are keeping a wary eye on national physical activity statistics, especially for children. They know that the future of their sport depends on young people picking it up, but how do they pry them away from the Xbox? Surely if every kid just tried their sport a few times, they would be hooked.


This is where park and recreation agencies can help. On the one side, we have various sports organizations such as USTA and PGA, and most of them have “player development” programs designed to recruit new people into their particular sport. On the other side, we have schools that need help keeping their PE programs engaging for kids despite budget cuts and the squeeze placed on class time by standardized tests. Park and recreation agencies can act as the bridge between the two, bringing new sports into the schools either during PE or after school.


New indoor versions of outdoor sports such Ten and Under Tennis, Quickball baseball, SNAG golf, and Olympic Archery in Schools are already being used in schools to get kids hooked on sports while they’re still young, enthusiastic, and unafraid of failure. Even schools with tiny athletic facilities can squeeze these games into small gyms or multipurpose rooms. And outdoors, the U.S. Soccer Foundation’s Soccer for Success program goes even a step further, working with schools to help insure academic success as well as physical fitness. Parks and recreation benefits too, by developing a new generation of customers for tennis centers, golf courses, and other types of recreational facilities.


So maybe schools have a thing or two they can learn from park and recreation agencies—how to have fun, how to recreate, and how to keep learning fresh and exciting. It’s a lesson plan that keeps the spirit of summer camp going year-round and maybe even through a lifetime.


Elizabeth Beard
Managing Editor

Parks and recreation agencies should offer programming that teaches and inspires students to engage in lifetime sports ... not organized team sports where there are winners, losers and those just left behind. Parks agencies can complement schools physical education programs by offering vigorous, physically challenging activities. The 21st Century Community Learning Centers grant program is an opportunity for parks agencies to collaborate with schools to provide fitness/wellness programs. by Mark Young on 10/24/2011

Enlightening the world, one helpful article at a time. by Teiya on 11/12/2011

I had the honor of planning, designing and implementing such an experience for 10 years for a private school in our community. My "PE " program was packed full of lifetime sports and adventures: hiking, biking, swimming, skiing, canoeing, fishing, rafting, tennis, gymnastics, ice skating, golf to name just a few. Many of these activities were designed in cooperation with other teachers meeting core requirements in science, english, art, math and social studies. We wrote grants and held fundraisers to off set the cost. I would love to share my experiences as well as follow up with former students to assess their continued involvement. My informal observation of former students says the program was a huge success. Not only physically active adults but stewards of the environment. by Elizabeth Judd (1) on 04/30/2012

Noting the comment above, our 21st Century CLC was fortunate to receive a grant last year for a full instructors kit of SNAG equipment. We use it in our afterschool program, but our PE teacher uses it instructionally with all kids Grades 1-8. Since we share equipment with our local rec. dept., there is potential there too. Plus, we are trying to get our local college (pre-service PE teachers) to join us. So, yes, I agree completely that there are opportunities. We also received a grant that allowed us to buy more than enough x-country ski equipment so that all our students, K- 8 can ski. Again, heavily used as well by PE and Parks & Rec.! by Wendy Ross on 08/29/2012


Physical (In)Activity and the School Day

Melissa May | September 12, 2016

From Inspiration to Action

Kevin Roth | August 5, 2016

How to Rally the Troops

Marla Collum | August 5, 2016

Leave a comment

Blog comments are moderated and will be posted once approved.

Enter the code shown above:

Follow Us

Recent Posts

Popular Posts


22377 Belmont Ridge Road    Ashburn, Va 20148-4501    800.626.NRPA (6772)    © NRPA, All Rights Reserved