Fourth-graders walking through a Shreveport neighborhood are a sign of a new trend in physical education.

Prompted by increasing concerns about childhood obesity, as well as a federal requirement that school systems promote health and nutrition, Caddo school officials are creating a wellness policy.

Board members are expected to approve the policy without comment after a public hearing June 27. The proposed policy consolidates parts of a lunch program and physical education guidelines and adds goals for teaching health and promoting nutritious eating habits.

Elementary-age students typically attend PE once a week. Teachers are finding other ways to work exercise into the day to meet a requirement that children have at least 150 minutes per week of physical activity, said Karen Eason, principal at Shreve Island Elementary in Shreveport.

On Friday, Shreve Island students pelted each other with foam balls in a dodge ball pit, ran a race over miniature hurdles and jumped rope during the school’s Jump Rope for Heart fundraiser.

“A lot of teachers are incorporating activity with math and reading,” Eason said. “Last week fourth-graders walked around the neighborhood taking pictures, then came up with LEAP-like problems based on the pictures.”

Shreve Island’s PTA plans to put a walking track around the school playground by this fall.

“A lot of schools have running clubs. We’re thinking about that,” Eason said.

Walking, running and physical activity tied to lessons represent the new face of physical education, said Kaye Cochran, president-elect of the Louisiana Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance.

Cochran, who just retired after teaching PE in Caddo Parish schools for 33 years, is working with the district’s physical education directors to pilot middle and high school programs that focus more on lifelong activity and fitness than team sports.

Tuesday, she and others with the state PE association handed out rubber wristbands bearing the exhortation, “No Child Left on Their Behinds!” to state legislators.

“I want people to bring fun and enthusiasm to PE,” Cochran said. “PE can be a dumping ground. I want to rise above that.”