Physical Education Happenings

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Europe Involved in Calisthenics & Gymnastics

Europe was very interested in activity, especially in gymnastics, anatomy of the body, and hygiene of the body.

Focusing on physical education


The Young Men's Christian Association introduced and focused on physical education. From this, colleges were encouraged to focus on more physical sports like football, track, and field.

Physical Education Mandatory

Approx. 1860

Shortly after the civil war, many states had laws that said physical education was a requirement in a school's curriculum.

Majors in Physical Education


In the 1950's, physical education majors were offered in more than 400 different institutes. America looked to Europe and wanted to follow their examples.

Women allowed to participate in athletic competitions


A change in the Federal Education Act said that women from high school and college were finally allowed to take part in different athletic events. Gender-based discrimination was no longer permitted in government funded programs.

Public School Athletic League

In 1903, the Public School Athletic League was founded in order to maintain a sports program in public schools across New York.


Approx. 1903

An athletic extravaganza was held at Madison Square Garden on December 26, 1903. Many events were held, all competed by boys. In spring, the league held its first outdoor track and field championship and the Brooklyn boys won. Every year after that, the championships expanded by including city wide events. Years and years later, more sports were added like soccer, cross country, swimming, baseball, tennis, and more.

Dr. Luther Halsey Gulick

Approx. 1903

Dr. Gulick, a director of physical training for New York public schools, found many boys playing on school sports teams, only that wasn't their school they went to! He also noticed that not many kids participated in athletics. He teamed up with George W. Wingate and James E. Sullivan. They presented their ideas of finding a program that got all students to get up and get active to the superintendent of schools, William H. Maxwell. Maxwell accepted their idea and PSAL was soon formed.

Expansion & Funding

Approx. 1910

The founders of PSAL recruited more people, like businessmen of New York City to be on the board of directors. By 1910, the league was expanded into 25 different districts throughout New York. Championships and competitions were held at different levels. In 1914, the Board of Education was fully funding the PSAL.

More sports added

Approx. 1930

In the late 1920's to early 1930's, even more sports were included to complete PSAL's athletics program. More athletic powers were getting stronger too, like Jefferson, Textile, Brooklyn Technical High School, and more. Two more sports were added: handball and fencing. By now, PSAL had many sports, some derived from Europe. The Great Depression in the 1930's, however, cut into PSAL and some sports had to be dropped.

Kenneth H. Cooper

Cooper introduced the idea of aerobics.

Cooper Test


Cooper establishes the Cooper Test, a 1.5 mile, 12-minute run, in order to establish how fit the runner is.

Cooper coins the term "aerobics"


Kenneth Cooper knew the benefits of exercise were both life-changing and life-saving. He based all of his work on scientific legitimacy, coining the term aerobic. He introduced the word in his 1968 book, Aerobics.

The Cooper Clinic

Approx. 1970

A preventive medicine facility called the Cooper Clinic, was started by none other than Dr. Cooper himself. The clinic offered physical exams. Not only did they offer exams, but also Dr. Cooper was the first physician in Dallas to use the treadmill stress test to detect the early signs of heart disease! Everyone was amazed at his uncanny ability to use other tools in order to solve problems.

The Cooper Institute


The Cooper Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated medicine research and education, studied in 1989 that moderate physical activity can decrease death risks by 58 percent! This news shocked many that didn't exercise.

Round Hill School

Round Hill Private School was the first to include physical education as a main part of the curriculum.

German Inspiration; School Established


George Bancroft and Joseph Cogswell founded the Round Hill School for Boys in 1823. Bancroft, who studied at the University of Gottingen, wanted to introduce the ways Germany taught their kids to America.

Calisthenics in a Girl's School


Shortly after Round Hill School, Catherine Beecher founded the Hartford Female Seminary. The Seminary included calisthenics in its curriculum. Beecher was regarded as the first American to design a program of exercise for American children. She even encouraged other public schools to make physical education mandatory in their curriculum, too.

Ohio Offers Physical Education Program


Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1855, finally offered a physical education program to children in public schools. Other schools saw this example and followed suit.

California Passes Law Requiring PE


California became the first state to pass a law requiring public schools to have twice a day exercise periods. Beecher influenced others (including this law) and thus started the American system of exercise.

The 3 R's

John Dewey expanded the 3 R's to include physical education and movement.

Physical Training Schools

Approx. 1890

Several training schools for physical education teachers were established in the 1890's. Each school offered a strong background in anatomy and physiology, too, similarly to how the Europeans did it earlier.

Psychology to Physical Education

Approx. 1927

In the early 1900's, Dewey and psychologists Stanley G. Hall and Edward Thorndike supported that a child's play was crucial in order for the child's ability to learn. With other psychologists's work and research, The New Physical Education was published in 1927.

Motor Skill Testing


Again in the early 1900's, Charles McCloy argued against Dewey and the other's propositions. He said that the education of the physical activities emphasized the development of one's skills. The maintenance of the body, too, was the primary objective of physical education. McCloy contributed to physical education development by testing kid's motor skills.

Elementary Student's PE Progresses Further


A study called Kraus-Weber found that American children were far less fit than other European children. The President's Council on Physical Fitness was then established to help stop the growing laziness and unfitness of American children. In the 1950's and 1960's, elementary physical education grew largely, making it so one has to take it everyday. Unfortunately, since the 1970's, many schools no longer make kids take PE everyday, but maybe once a week.