February 12, 2018 For Immediate Release
One Year in, D.C. Public Schools Parkour Program Has Kids Leaping with Confidence
When Miriam Kenyon went looking for a new way to get DC’s public school kids active and engaged, she found parkour and DC’s American Parkour Academy (APK). Together, Kenyon and APK developed a curriculum that has been rolled out to 40 schools across DC and Maryland and is gaining national attention.
Last year, Miriam Kenyon, Director of Health & Physical Education for D.C. Public Schools, faced the same problem as PE instructors across the country. Traditional PE programs that focus on rote exercises and team sports may get kids moving, but they frequently fail to create an appetite for activity that continues beyond the classroom.
Think back to your middle school physical education class. Kids are groaning through pull ups, trudging around tracks, and hoping they won’t be the last kid picked for dodgeball. Now, if you visit a 7th grade physical education classroom in Washington DC, students are vaulting over obstacles, swinging from bars, and playing “the floor is lava.” Each kid is engaged in play, building confidence, and most importantly, experiencing a joy of movement. These students are training parkour.
“Through the practice of parkour, kids develop a true belief in themselves and their abilities. With this self-confidence, they start to look for opportunities to build each other up rather than put others down. This creates a world full of supportive, encouraging citizens,” says Mark Toorock, APK’s founder.
Unlike the “extreme sports” reputation popularized in the media, parkour is fundamentally about learning movement skills and body control and applying these lessons to physical obstacles. Practice begins with basics such as balance, jumping and landing, crawling on all fours, and vaulting low objects. “For kids still learning fundamentals of how their bodies work, it is like practicing the alphabet by singing the song rather than memorizing the letters,” says Toorock.
Parkour offers kids a safe way to explore their environment. For example, the curriculum includes lessons on how to fall safely, teaching students proper technique and encouraging progressions to work towards more advanced goals. Instilling this safety-first attitude has paid off.
“We are proud to report that we had over 2,100 students participate in parkour in D.C. this past year with no injuries reported,” says Kenyon.
DC’s parkour program, originally targeted for 27 schools, is now in over 40 DC and Maryland public schools, and is expanding to charter schools and afterschool programs. With this momentum, Toorock sees a successful model that he hopes to expand to more schools across the country. American Parkour recently attended the the SHAPE America (Society for Health and Physical Education Teachers) conference, Toorock says “It was an amazing experience to have a large group of PE professionals immediately understand what we are doing and want to play on the obstacles. The hardest part about rolling the curriculum out nationally may be getting the teachers to give the kids a turn!”
For more information on implementing parkour in schools, visit americanparkour.com, contact Mark Toorock at [email protected], or call 1-844-4-PARKOUR.
For information regarding Health and Physical Education in the District of Columbia, contact Miriam Kenyon [email protected].
For the original press release click here.