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Promoting Diversity and Inclusion, Part 4: Making PE Less Divisive

Physical Education (PE) classes have long been portrayed as creating a great divide: a divide between boys and girls, between kids who love sports and those who dread them, between kids who hit their growth spurt early and those who are on the smaller side.

PE horror stories are commonplace not just in movies and television but in conversations with friends and families. We’ve all heard stories about being chosen last for a team or being made fun of when changing or showering for PE class. Many school nurses hear these heart-breaking stories from kids who visit them as a way to escape PE class.

In our 4th Promoting Diversity and Inclusion post, we discuss how, as an essential part of the educational team, school nurses can help promote a more inclusive environment in PE class.

The Importance of Physical Education


Communicating the importance of physical education can be a strong first step in advocating for ways to make physical education more inclusive.


Mix It Up

Mixing up physical education norms can encourage more children to participate in and increase their enjoyment of PE class.


  • Alternative choices that achieve the physical activity goal for the day could be offered. If a student feels uncomfortable doing competitive sports with athletes twice his size, for example, he could be given the option to practice skills with a friend instead of participating in a game.
  • Shaking up gender division can be more inclusive. Rather than dividing teams or classes by gender, they can be divided by how competitive they would like to be. They can play competitively with the star basketball player or choose to play with kids who are more interested in getting a chance to make a basket than winning.
  • Providing privacy can remove obstacles. For some students, changing in gym class can be the only thing stopping them from getting the exercise they need. Finding a private area to change could make all the difference for more modest students.


Managing Special Needs

By law, activities for students with physical disabilities or developmental disorders must be adapted so that they can engage in the same activities as their peers. More information about making PE more inclusive for students with special needs can be found in this article. For more information, download the research brief PDF, Inclusion in School Physical Education and Physical Activity.

While Aunt Sally’s PE horror stories and those you see in movies and on TV can be entertaining, hearing these stories from your students can be heartbreaking. A more inclusive environment can help students incorporate physical activity into their lives. Students who may have carried an aversion to physical activity with them beyond school could instead discover physical activities that they enjoy for life.

Promote physical activity in fun ways with The Busy Body Book or posters like Be Active! and Live 54321 + 8.

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