Greene PE official website of Nathanael Greene Middle School Physical Education Department

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PE History

Physical education goes back as far as 386 B.C.E. to Plato's school in ancient Greece where competition and intensity were second nature. Plato believed, "lack of activity destroys the good condition of every human being, while movement and methodical physical save it and preserve it".  Gymnastics was the form of physical education taught in ancient Greece. Boys and young men were expected to practice gymnastics regularly.   A healthy body was celebrated through the competitive gymnastics and races of the Olympic Games.

1774 First Physical Education Teacher

Johann Friedrich Simon was the first Modern Physical Education teacher.  He was a part of the curriculum at Johann Basedow's Philantropium in Dessau, Germany. The Philantropium was an experimental school with a portion of its curriculum devoted to physical training, including fencing, horseback riding, dancing, and ball games.

1810 Father of modern physical educationFriedrich Ludwig Jahn (1778-1852) of Germany was the father of modern physical education.  Some of his methods, such as the balance beam, parallel bars, and rings, serve as the fundamental equipment for gymnastics.  He created the first gymnastics club for youth and adults and believed that physical education was the cornerstone of national health and strength and important in strengthening character and national identity.  
1825 First Physical Education Teacher in the United States.  Charles Beck was the first formal instructor of physical education in the country at the Round Hill School.  It was the first school to make physical education an important part in an educational curriculum. 

1853 First city requires PE in school

In 1853 Boston became the first city to require and mandated that P.E become a daily part of the curriculum for all the schools within the city limits. Once Boston made this crucial decision it was not long before other cities around the country began implementing the same policy.

1866 First state to mandate PE

In 1866 California took the first step forward and became the first state to require all schools in the state to have P.E be apart of the curriculum with the goal of keeping kids active and educating them on physical education. Many States soon followed suite.

WW II Army physical fitness. The current emphasis on overall health and fitness, and particularly physical stamina and endurance, stems from World War II, when 45 percent of the first 2 million males drafted failed their physicals. To get the men in fighting shape, the Army implemented a systematic physical development program as part of the Combat Basic Training course.  The test included squat jumps, sit-ups, pull-ups, push-ups, and a 300 yard run. The emphasis was on functional fitness and giving American GI’s the strength, mobility, and endurance they would need to tackle real tasks on the battlefield. Starting in 1941, physical education was given increased time, attention and priority in American schools.  

1950 Fitness in the United States 

By 1950, there were over 400 United States colleges and universities offering majors in physical education and there was increasing recognition of the scientific foundation of physical education. This was the beginning of the foundation for physical education. In 1957 President Eisenhower acted on his dismay at the physical weakness of American youth and brought physical education to the surface.