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Middle School Physical Development Program

Physical activity programs have the potential to play a crucial role in children’s development. They are indispensable for combatting obesity, improving overall health, supporting the formation of exercise habits, and cultivating a positive self-image. In addition to assisting physical development, such programs can indirectly contribute to linguistic, cognitive, social, and emotional growth. The present proposal for an after-school physical activity program aims to bring those benefits to middle school children. It takes the form of indoor and outdoor group game activities, including team sports, tag, and cooperative games with program staff supervision and coordination. The participants are children in the late middle childhood stage of development between the ages of 11 and 13. Their physical and cognitive development up to that point will have equipped them with the skills necessary to participate in complex team games. At the same time, their continued growth in those years makes it especially important to offer them physical training.

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The program draws upon classical theories of human development to refine its approach based on participating children’s developmental characteristics. Piaget’s cognitive theory, which outlines multiple stages of children’s mental development, is fundamental to the program’s theoretical framework. The children in the program belong to Piaget’s concrete operational stage, which suggests sufficiently advanced reasoning to grasp relatively complex game rules (Rathus, 2015). Furthermore, their possession of autonomous morality enables them to cooperate more effectively with other team members and to engage creatively with rule systems. According to Piaget, cognitive development occurs in response to physical maturation and interactions with the environment. As such, physical activities will indirectly support further cognitive improvements. The attachment theory pioneered by Bowlby posits that healthy early relationships are essential for social and emotional development. Although focused on caregiver attachments, it may also be applied to coaching relationships and group cohesion. Bandura’s social learning theory informs the method of instruction used by the program staff, which emphasizes observation and imitation. Combining the insights from different theoretical perspectives allows the program to anticipate typical participants’ needs and interests.

Middle school age is a critical stage in the physical development of children. The growth spurts that occur in those years lead to a dramatic increase in height relative to weight (Rathus, 2015). This change can throw off children’s sense of balance, necessitating training to restore it. Team games offer an ideal way to train gross motor skills, a key area for improvement at this age. Body type differentiation between boys and girls begins to become pronounced during this stage as well, but it is not yet so significant as to cause a substantial gap. Thus, it is an ideal time for maximally inclusive and integrative physical training. Obesity begins to pose a particular challenge at this age, potentially persisting into adulthood if not checked early on. In addition to physical activities, the program will combat it by offering healthy and nutritious snacks to participants. Consistent participation in the physical activity program should assist both physical and social development, helping children gain self-confidence and build vital peer bonds.

The after-school program is aimed at providing maximum benefits to all involved children. As they are likely to have varying preferences and skills, games of each type will alternate between sessions. Efforts will be made to keep all children as engaged as possible, with minimal downtime. For example, tagged players in the tag will switch roles rather than freeze. Non-competitive games, such as fleet ball, will allow more shy or sedentary children to participate fully, while also fostering cooperation. Students with disabilities often suffer from insufficient exercise and low self-esteem, making their inclusion a key priority for the program. The disabilities in question include ADHD, learning disabilities, and physical handicaps. The program’s facilities are all designed and situated to be maximally accessible. Physically disabled participants can be accommodated through careful selection of games and individualized rule modification. Staff training includes sensitivity to the peculiar needs of children with physical and other disabilities, enabling effective coaching during and after games. By entering the individual needs of participating children, the program should ensure optimal developmental outcomes.


Rathus, S. A. (2015). HDEV: Human development (4th ed.). Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.

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