Led by the Aspen Institute’s Sports & Society Program, with support from Under Armour, Project Play: Baltimore is a multi-year initiative designed to help stakeholders grow the quality and quantity of sport options available to local youth in East Baltimore. As a partner of Project Play: Baltimore, the National Fitness Foundation recently committed $50,000 in grants to directly support access to fitness education training for Baltimore-area physical education teachers and to provide equipment, professional development, and recognition items that celebrate students and schools for their efforts to be active.
In our latest blog, Meredith Aronson, Director of Strategy & Partnerships for the National Fitness Foundation and Andre Fountain, Project Coordinator for the Aspen Institute’s Sports & Society Program describe their experience at a recent training for physical educators and why opportunities like these are crucial in helping Baltimore kids get active through sports.
When strategizing how to get kids active through sports, Project Play: Baltimore relies on a simple idea: no single organization can do this alone. It takes a diverse group of leaders coming together to provide every child an opportunity to be active through sports.
Through conducting in-depth research and surveys, as well as hosting group roundtables and panel discussions, the Aspen Institute has sought to understand the current state of youth sport opportunities in East Baltimore and to share these findings with key experts and local stakeholders.
The Project Play: Baltimore Huddle, held at the Under Armour House at Fayette, brought together leading organizations for a strategy discussion on how to grow the quality and quantity of sport options for youth in East Baltimore.
At the Baltimore Huddle, participants discussed the findings of the State of Play: Baltimore, a hyperlocal comprehensive analysis of youth sports opportunities within the area. The findings revealed that among high school students in Baltimore, only 26 percent of males and 16 percent of females met the CDC’s recommendation of 60 minutes of daily physical activity and that stakeholders in East Baltimore are struggling to get kids active through sports.” The report identified quality physical education as one strategy that can help address these concerns.
Physical education is an evidenced-based solution to get students active today and fit for life. Through multiple surveys with stakeholder groups in East Baltimore, it became evident that providing high-quality PE programs could help Baltimore kids from all backgrounds participate in a variety of sports. The National Fitness Foundation, America’s health and fitness charity and manager of the Presidential Youth Program for fitness education and assessment in schools, provided support as an important partner for Project Play: Baltimore’s vision.
At the 2017 Project Play Summit, the Foundation announced a $50,000 commitment in grants and trainings to support Baltimore-area PE programs. On January 26, we teamed up to host a Presidential Youth Fitness Program training for Baltimore City Public Schools. Led by certified Presidential Youth Fitness Program trainers Jon Ray and Mary Beth French, the training brought together more than 40 physical educators at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in Baltimore to learn best practices and strategies in fitness education and assessment. Through small group breakout sessions and assessment demonstrations, the training gave participants an opportunity to openly discuss challenges and discover solutions that they could implement within their physical education classrooms.
While the training was just the beginning of a larger effort to support and enhance Baltimore-area PE programs, it demonstrates the type of impact that can be made when stakeholders come together towards a common goal. Through providing opportunities that give Baltimore youth the skills and confidence to be physically active, we become one step closer towards a reality where all kids are engaged, knowledgeable and lifelong sports participants.