International forum on the promotion of physical activity in school outdoor spaces has received a great deal of interest

Lithuanian Sports University (LSU) together with the partners of the project Nordplus HZ: Nordic-Baltic Learning Environments for Movement Affordances (NPHZ-2017/10130) organized an online international forum Nordic-Baltic Learning Environments for Movement Affordances.

According to LSU Rector Prof. Dr. Diana Rėklaitienė, the topic of the project and forum is now especially relevant. The experiences shared by the representatives of the six countries participating in the project and student experiences in the intensive programs allowed us to look at the traditions, opportunities, and perspectives of promoting physical activity in the Nordic and Baltic countries. This knowledge and findings must reach policymakers who promote physical activity in schools.

Welcoming the participants of the forum, Vice-Minister of Education, Science and Sport Linas Obcarskas noted that the COVID-19 pandemic affected both the physical and mental health of us all. Therefore, it is now very important for both adults and children to use all opportunities to promote physical activity to strengthen health.

Inga Gerulskienė, the Chief Specialist of the Health Promotion Division of the Public Health Department of the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Lithuania, responsible for health-promoting physical activity, welcomed the participants of the forum and later participated in the round table discussions. She mentioned that everyone has faced new challenges in recent years. “We now need to pay much more attention to our health than we did before the pandemic. It is very important to integrate physical activity into various school subjects and to involve the whole school community in the organization of physical activities. We got a lot of useful material from the project and the forum organized by LSU and its partners, on the basis of which we could form our health and physical activity policy in schools,” said I. Gerulskienė.

The part of the forum, which was conducted in English, presented the project activities, results, research findings, and the concept and experience of School in Motion of foreign partner countries. The reports were read by Assoc. Prof. Dr. Renata Rutkauskaitė (Lithuanian Sports University, Lithuania), Prof. Dr. Ingunn Fjortoft (the University of South-Eastern Norway, Faculty of Humanities, Sports and Education Science, Norway), Dr. Thórdís Gísladóttir (the University of Iceland, School of Education, Iceland), Dr. Merike Kull (Movement Laboratory of the Institute of Sports Sciences and Physiotherapy, University of Tartu, Estonia), Dr. Maret Pihu (Faculty of Medicine, Institute of Sport Sciences and Physiotherapy, Estonia), Dr. Jouni Kallio (LIKES Research Center for Physical Activity and Health, Finland). A roundtable discussion followed on how to use schoolyard and outdoor spaces to encourage students to be physically active. The discussion in English was moderated by Prof. Dr. Ingunn Fjortoft (Norway). The first part of the forum was attended by 113 participants, 74 of whom were foreigners.

The main issues discussed in Lithuanian in the second part of the forum with more than 200 participants was “Using schoolyard to increase schoolchildren‘s physical activity and physical education efficiency: what can a teacher do? What can the school administration do? What can a higher education institution do in training future physical education/ primary education teachers? What can education and public health policymakers do?” The discussion was attended by I. Gerulskienė, a representative of the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Lithuania, Dr. Dalia Lapėnienė, Director of the LSU social partner Kaunas Jonas and Petras Vileisiai School,  Assoc. Prof. Dr. R. Rutkauskaitė, Director of the study program of Physical Education and Sports,  Jolanta Lipkevičienė, Director of the public institution “Žalioji gamtos mokykla”, Iveta Ambrulaitienė, English language teacher of Šilutė Pamario Basic School, Asta Igarienė, Physical Education teacher of Kaunas Special Needs School and Chairwoman of the Association of Kaunas Physical Education Teachers, and Dalia Baranauskienė, primary school teacher of Kaunas Jonas and Petras Vileisiai School.

During the discussion, it was concluded that it is very important to promote physical activity in school not only in physical education lessons. The use of school outdoor spaces as well as activities outside lead to better learning outcomes for modern students and strengthen not only their physical but also mental health. In addition, it was noted that the whole school community (children, teachers, administration, parents) and social partners should be involved in promoting physical activity. Sectoral cooperation at all levels (school, university, municipality, ministries) is also very important.

We hope that the recommendations developed in the project and the published research findings will help to understand the importance of the promotion of schoolchildren’s physical activity and will draw the attention of institutions that develop physical activity strategies.

Information provided by Assoc. Prof. Dr Renata Rutkauskaitė and Dr Kristina Visagurskienė