PHYSICAL ACTIVITY PROGRAMS IN THE ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS OF GREECE
Charalambos K. Andrikopoulos
Director of Stimanga Elementary School,
Although, the famous teachers and philosophers from ancient Greece had emphasized that the physical and intellectual abilities of the young should be developed in harmony, physical activity had been rather undervalued in the educational programs of schools in modern Greece.
However, the problem was realized about twenty years ago, when certain actions by the government were undertaken, aiming to promote physical activity in the elementary schools. In 1985, the 1566 law was voted which stated that “primary school should aim at the intellectual and physical development of students, both of which should be considered within the wider aim of education”.
In accordance to this law, a large number of gymnastics teachers, who had been specifically educated in the university for four years, were hired to organize and teach physical education in the elementary schools, countrywide. Thus, in contrast to the majority of the European countries, where the relative lessons were performed by the teachers themselves, Greece was one of the first countries, to appoint well trained gymnastics teachers in all elementary schools. Although the cost of this action was considerable, it proved to be the cornerstone in the promotion of organized physical activity programs in the primary schools of the country. Furthermore, in the context of the so-called athletic team-work, there are three main targets within the scope of the programs, i)the biological, ii)the pschycopedagogical and iii)the social.
Finally, in 1995 the authors of the program in force, taking into consideration all the benefits and drawbacks of the previous programs, the international tendencies on the field, the prevailing weather conditions, our athletic and folklore tradition and the country’s socioeconomic reality, reformed the program’s objective. After the final program was introduced in schools, the teachers soon realized that it totally suits the new perceptions of physical education and it has also upgraded this subject in the conscience of Greek students and their parents as well.
The purpose of physical education programs in elementary schools should not aim exclusively to support the body development of the students, but also to promote a long-lasting, healthier lifestyle, to contribute to their psychological and intellectual development, and to their harmonious integration in our society through several kinetic and athletic activities. The subject is addressed to the three basic sector of a student’s personality: the physical, the mental and the intellectual. Moreover, it also targets the development of cooperation, team-work and discipline through play.
The annual programming for the nursery and the two first grades of Primary school include:
2. Athletics – gymnastics games
3. Throwing games
4. Games with sports balls
5. Games like movement and music activities
(Figure 1. The new Gymnasium of the elementary school in the village of Stimanga, Greece)
At the first grades the pupils play for the game but for the teacher the game is another way to educate. For the four following last grades it includes:
2. Hand ball
5. Greek traditional dances
Pupils at the last grades should realize that exercise must be a part of their daily life thereafter, aiming not only to achieve the feeling of well being, but also to minimize health hazards, especially those related to cardiovascular diseases.
Throughout the school year school championships are organized with the participation of the every local city apartment. Furthermore, trained gymnastics teachers search for talents in the younger students emplacing in their climbing, power and running abilities.
Furthermore, the fact that the Olympic Games are held in Athens this summer of 2004 gave the Greek government the ability to create a new program in schools, the Olympic education program. Gymnastics teachers were appointed to teach the history of ancient and modern Olympics. They also taught the Olympic sports and in the end of every school year they present athletic and cultural events with the participation of all students in each school.
(Figure 2. Physical activity lesson in the elementary school)
Another important factor contributing to the increase of the teaching hours of Physical Education is the wider school hour’s program till late in the afternoon which was recently adopted. This way the children are being compulsory taught the subject of athletics, excursing their body and mind and at the same time making their extended stay at school more pleasant and productive.
The development of similar activities in the whole country, required acquisition of technical infrastructure, which was certified through the construction of new school buildings and special gymnastics rooms and equipment. The development of the necessary infrastructure was expanded even in small villages, like the new gymnasium built in the village of Stimanga, a 900 inhabitant’s village, placed about 140 km from Athens (figure).
Last but not least I would like to mention that no matter how many changes have already or will occur in the coming years, an educator, a teacher, a gymnastics teacher should always acquire for himself a high level or education. Thus, he should constantly enrich his scientific background following the new developments in the fields of social sciences in pedagogic, psychology and athletics which will give him the chance to organize the lesson constructively, making it pleasant and attractive for the pupils. After all, increased physical activity may be presented as a lesson, but it should be rather considered as an attractively proposed lifestyle for the younger and more promising part of our society, the children.