Happenings in Physical Education


Philanthropium Founded in Germany

Approx. December 1774

The Philanthropium focused on physical activity as an important part of its curriculum, requiring students to participate in 3 hours of sports and recreational activities, and 2 hours of manual labor.

Royal Gymnastic Central Institute founded


Round Hill School Founded in Massachusetts

Approx. 1823

Is the first school to offer physical education in the United States

First College Gymnasium is Established at Harvard University


The "Battle of the Systems"

Approx. 1830 - 1920

Early leaders in physical education launch into a series of debates regarding which physical education system (American, German, Swedish, or English) could best provide a nationwide physical education program for America.

Cincinatti, Ohio school system begins to offer physical education programs to school children


First public school system to offer physical education

California passes a law requiring exercise periods twice a day in public schools


First state to require physical education

Brown v. Board of Education


The ruling of this Supreme Court case gave African-Americans the same rights to physical education as White students.

The President's Council on Youth Fitness


Founded by President Eisenhower, this council aimed to promote physical fitness in America's youth.

President's Council on Youth Fitness is Changed to President's Council on Physical Fitness


Changed by President Kennedy, this change made the council more effective at encouraging public school systems to adopt physical education programs.

The Presidential Physical Fitness Award is created


The Presidential Sports Award Program is created


Federal Education Act Amended by The House of Representatives


Gender discrimination in school physical education programs is lifted, giving women opportunities to participate in athletic programs in high school and college.

U.S. Congress declares May as "National Physical Fitness and Sports Month"


Surgeon General David Satcher releases "The Surgeon General's Report on Physical Activity and Health"


This report encouraged physical activity as a means to combat the rising rates of obesity in the United States.


Influential Figures in Physical Education

Johann Bernhard Basedow

1724 - 1790

Important educational reformer, founding the Philanthropium, one of the first schools to ever incorporate physical education.

Pehr Henrik Ling

1776 - 1839

Pioneered Physical Education in Sweden. Founded the Royal Gymnastic Central Institute in Sweden to train gymnastic instructors.

Frederick Ludwig Jahn

1778 - 1852

Called "the father of gymnastics" by some, founded the first open-air gymnasium in Berlin, Germany, which led the spread of the Turnverein (gymnastics association) movement. Also Influenced Charles Beck's work at the Round Hill School in America and Charles Follen's work in Boston and at Harvard University.

Charles Follen

1796 - 1840

Established the first college gymnasium at Harvard University

Charles Beck

1798 - 1866

Established the gymnasium at the Round Hill School in the United States and ran the school's physical education program. Also translated Frederick Ludwig Jahn's 1816 work "Deutsche Turnkunst" into English as "Treatise on Gymnasticks, taken chiefly from the German of F. L. Jahn."

John Dewey

1859 - 1952

Education reformer who, along with his supporters, challenged traditional education, which led to education reforms that introduced physical education to US schools.