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Health and Physical Education


DCPS provides comprehensive, progressive studies in health and physical education (PE) through high-quality instruction rooted in research-based best practices. Each program provides students with necessary skills to engage in a lifetime of wellness and physical activity. The primary goals of comprehensive health education are to develop health literacy in students and to support them in attaining positive health outcomes. The goal of physical education is to develop physically literate students who have the skills, knowledge, and confidence to enjoy a lifetime of healthful physical activity. 

Student Experience

DCPS requires all students to receive health and physical education.

  • Elementary school: Students receive a minimum of 90 minutes of health and physical education per week.
  • Middle school: Students receive a full year of health and physical education.
  • High school: Students must complete 1 credit of physical education and .5 credits of health education in order to graduate.

Program Highlights

2nd Grade Biking in the Park: Students in 2nd grade learn how to safely ride a bike and culminate their learning with their class in a 3–5-mile ride to a nearby park. Each student learns how to fit their helmet, to inspect their bike and to safely ride, manage speed and maintain safe control over the bicycle in a group ride.

3rd grade Swimming: Students learn about water safety and basic swim skills beginning with making bubbles, bobbing, floating, gliding, kicking and swim strokes. Students culminate their learning by jumping into the deep end and swimming safely to the side.

4th-HS Archery: Beginning in 4th grade, students learn the 11 steps of archery. These steps developed by the National Archery in Schools program help students to safely shoot arrows to a target from 10 and 15 meters. Students can compete in the state tournament which is a national tournament qualifier.

6th Grade Hiking and Orienteering: There are several intriguing and fun trails in DC for students to explore, where they learn map reading and compass skills. While hiking students will get the chance to truly immerse themselves in the natural world. The experiential learning-based hikes along various trails will bring the DCPS students up close to amazing flora and fauna, all which is in their own community and will gain an appreciation of the kind of outdoor physical experience they can have so close to home.

7th Grade Parkour: Each school site will have a Parkour course built for students to learn how to safely move using a variety of jumping and landing techniques, rolls and vaulting. Students improve their skills through safe progressions so they can use the outdoors as a creative way to exercise.

8th Grade Rock Climbing: Students will travel to the Bouldering Project gym where through rock climbing students will develop essential decision-making skills to ensure the safety of self and others. Students will learn rock climbing basics on a variety of traverse walls with progressive challenges improving their muscular endurance and flexibility.

8th Grade What’s Cooking?: Cooking skills are essential to a lifetime of healthy eating habits. All 8th graders learn how to cook through its “What’s Cooking?” Unit. This multi-dimensional approach teaches the science of nutrition and its effects on health through cooking basics such as kitchen safety and cooking techniques. As they develop lifelong skills in the kitchen, students investigate the meaning of food in the larger context of family, culture, and community. In response to student feedback, DCPS plans to expand the unit to include cooking with heat so that students will be equipped with all the necessary skills to cook for a lifetime.

HS Swimming: Students can take Swimming 1-3 as an elective course in HS. Students work to refine their swimming skills with the front crawl, back stroke, breaststroke, and butterfly.

HS PADI® Open Water Diver is the first scuba certification level taught by a highly trained PADI instructor. By the end of the Scuba Diving course, students have the skills and knowledge to dive locally or abroad and be an ambassador for the underwater world. This course opens students up to the experience of exploring the other 70 percent of our planet. It supports environmental and ocean protection and allows students to see things they have never seen before on land. The PADI certification is the world’s most recognized scuba certification. In this course students learn how to:

  • Be a confident and skilled diver,
  • Assemble and use scuba gear,
  • Manage buoyancy, and
  • Respectfully approach marine life.

Health Education

In developing health literacy, students build the capacity to obtain, interpret and understand health information and services and to apply core concepts and skills. The vision for health education is that through literacy, life-skills, self-management and awareness strategies, students will ultimately influence the families and communities of Washington, DC.

To assist students in adopting and maintaining healthy behaviors, DCPS provides students with a framework that allows them to learn key concepts and to practice using health skills. Skills-based instruction, which consists of analyzing health influences, accessing and evaluating valid health information and services, interpersonal communication, decision making, goal-setting, practicing health enhancing behaviors and advocacy; revolves around 6 areas of focus:

  • Alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs
  • Disease prevention
  • Mental/emotional health
  • Nutrition
  • Safety
  • Comprehensive sexual health education


PE class provides academic programming that develops motor skill competency and applies concepts related to movement and performance with a focus on instilling understanding and valuing the importance of physical activity throughout one’s lifetime. Physical Education has shifted from a competitive environment to one that is more inclusive and focuses on cooperative challenges, social interaction, self-expression and realizing personal goals while developing students’ intrinsic motivation to engage in physical activity.

PE uses an individualized approach where students create goals to improve or maintain their fitness levels. To support this, students in grades 4 through high school participate in FitnessGram testing, where they assess the five areas of health-related fitness: muscular endurance, muscular strength, cardiovascular endurance, flexibility and body composition. Teachers can use FitnessGram to perform fitness and physical activity assessments. The program provides DCPS with data on PE in each school and across the district, which informs curricular and programmatic decisions related to the quality and quantity of physical education, staff development, recess, and more.

Adapted Physical Education

The adapted physical education (APE) teacher is a direct service provider who is responsible for developing an appropriate physical education plan for individuals with disabilities (USCA 1402(25)). Additionally, the APE teacher positively motivates students to develop appropriate skills, attitudes, and knowledge; utilizes a variety of instructional techniques appropriate to students’ abilities; creates a safe and orderly learning environment; assesses students motor skill development and fitness and determines whether a student needs APE services.

The APE teacher:

  • Provides direct service provider (hands-on teaching).
  • Completes comprehensive motor assessments of individuals with disabilities and making specific program recommendations.
  • Consults for physical education and special education staff providing physical education instruction for individuals with disabilities.
  • Works on IEP (Admission, Review, Discontinuation with multi-disciplinary team) as the MDT member who helps develop the IEP in the psychomotor domain.

PEEL Fellowship

The Physical Education Emerging Leaders (PEEL) Fellowship is a program that raises the caliber of the Health and Physical Education program of DCPS. Each year, 10 fellows are chosen through a competitive application process to participate. To build a culture of wellness the school level, schools with current PEEL fellows identify a Wellness Champion. Wellness Champions are responsible for helping to build the Wellness Program by organizing and engaging the community in wellness events.

Additional Resources

The relationship between physical activity and academic achievement[PDF]
Supporting Quality Physical Education

Contact Information

Miriam Kenyon, Director, Health and Physical Education

Michael Posey, Manager, Physical Education

Marierose Mbinack, Manager, Physical Education

Erin Lumpkins, Manager, HOPE and Health

Joshua Ledbetter, Specialist, Logistics