What You'll Learn

There are many reasons why we may not be as active as we should, and they can be different for each person. Not all kids like to play . . . not all kids like sports . . . not all kids can do the same things.

What You'll Do

You will implement changes to overcome some of those barriers, and finally you will develop a strategy for staying focused on inclusiveness in physical activities.

Why This Play

This Play is about figuring out what keeps kids from getting physical activity and helping to break those barriers.

It is well known that physical activity can help prevent long-term health risks.i ii Physical activity plays an important role in improving overall health in children, which is why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have set forth a recommendation of getting at least 60 minutes of physical activity per day. The data shows, though, that only 42.2% of children aged 12 to 15 have adequate levels of cardiorespiratory fitness.iii Because the average middle schooler in America spends more than 1,000 hours per year in a classroom,iv this means that the school environment has the potential of playing a large role in helping drive positive change for childhood health.

Warm Up Activity Idea!

Not quite ready for the full Play? Try this:

Look at the CDC's Overcoming Barriers to Physical Activity information. Then work with your school counselor and PE teacher to find ways of addressing each barrier one by one. Start small and eventually build to the big kickoff and implementation of schoolwide strategies.


iThe Wellness Impact: Executive Summary. 2013. GenYouth Foundation et al. Accessed January 21, 2019.

ii Warburton, D., Nicol, C., & Bredin, S., Health benefits of physical activity: the evidence2006. Canadian Medical Association Journal. Accessed January 21, 2019.

iii Gahche, J., Fakhouri, T., Carroll, D., Burt, V., Wang, C.-Y., & Fulton, J., Cardiorespiratory fitness levels among US youth ages 12–15 years: United States, 1999–2004 and 2012. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2014. Accessed January 21, 2019.

iv DeSilver, D., School days: How the U.S. compares with other countries. 2014. Pew Charitable Trust. Accessed January 21, 2019.

What to Do

Download the All-Ability Guide
Credit: NFL/Shriners

There are three main steps to this Play. First, you will hold an assembly to build awareness about barriers to being physically active. Then you will implement changes to overcome some of those barriers, and finally you will develop a strategy for staying focused on inclusiveness in physical activities.  

Step 1: Hold a Kickoff Assembly

Hold an All In, All Abilities — We All Can! Kickoff Assembly.

  • Invite local athletes from the community (elementary schools can invite high schools; high schools can invite colleges).
    • Ask your guests to speak to the audience about challenges they’ve faced in their own physical activity programs and how they overcame them.
    • Help prompt their comments by starting with questions and providing ideas from a team brainstorm during kickoff planning.
    • The goal is to “reach” kids without singling them out or making them feel uncomfortable.

Here are some ideas to make your assembly fun, friendly and nonthreatening, and which will help get your schoolmates to try new activities without feeling embarrassed. They’ll also learn about other’s challenges when they participate:

⚠️ Note: Use care with this activity to keep students safe while rolling. If using school chairs, provide belts for students to keep them from falling, and have plenty of adult supervision to help control speed.

  • Who’s Never Tried . . . (fill in the blank)? 
    • “Who’s never tried hopscotch?” Use Hula-hoops for the course and have a couple of teachers try it as a demonstration. Then play steel drum music and get a group of “bunny” volunteers to hop around as if they’re looking for veggies in the garden! “Bunnies” in wheelchairs can hopscotch by maneuvering the twists and turns from hoop to hoop.
    • “Who’s never tried to jump rope?” Show ways students can start with something easy, like jumping back and forth over a rope on the ground. Have several students, including those with physical and intellectual disabilities, demonstrate different ways of jumping rope — from rope ladders on the floor and traditional jump rope to double Dutch. Use this video of wheelchair jump rope for one idea.
    • “Who’s never had to play a game without being able to hear?” Provide disposable earplugs and have students play a round of Quarterback Scramble (see Shriners/Fuel Up to Play 60 All-Ability Guide for this game [p. 7] and many other activities you can try).
    • “Who’s never tried to race in a wheelchair?” Use real wheelchairs or borrow rolling chairs from the school office or teacher’s lounge.
    • These are just a few ideas. Your team can make up your own list based on your school inventory. In fact, encourage less active students to volunteer their own ideas to help them take ownership of their physical activity and empower them to participate!

Have your Fuel Up to Play 60 students survey their classmates to find out what students’ most and least favorite things are about the different physical activity opportunities at your school.

  • Include PE, recess, sports, before- or after-school clubs, and any other opportunities offered.
  • Meet with your team to discuss the findings and make a plan to improve things for everyone. You can do this during school lunches prior to your kickoff or have students complete it as part of the assembly.


Step 2: Implement changes

Work with your team to implement changes.

  • Using the CDC’s Barriers to Physical Activity resource, work with your before- and after-school club advisors, recess supervisors, PE teachers and coaches to encourage them to modify their activities to be more inclusive.
    • Partner with the more eager of these adults to get their anecdotal information on whether and how their changes work and share successes with other adults as appropriate.
    • Be sure to highlight, in a respectful way, stories and anecdotes that show how your Play is working.
  • Share the Play 60 All-Ability Guide with the adults in your school. Developed in partnership with Shriners Hospitals for Children, it has great ideas for activities that can encourage students of all abilities to get involved in physical activity.


Step 3: Don’t forget the invisible barriers

  • Encourage your Fuel Up to Play 60 students to observe their peers on the playground to see who may not be participating in activities. Some students just need something specific to do or a little bit of encouragement. Have students form a buddy system and be sure they invite others into their games.
  • Here are some specific ideasthat, with school adults and student leaders working together, can help. Assign teams of students to work with adults to implement one or more of these ideas:
    • Buddy benches: This is a way to be sure students who want to be included get to be included. It’s a very specific program that has had anecdotal success in schools all over the world.
      • Check out the concept, guidelines and some scenarios you can use with kids to help them visualize how Buddy benches can work.
      • Talk to your principal about getting a Buddy bench going on your school grounds.
    • Mix it up! Use the principles of Tolerance.org’s Mix It Up at Lunch Dayto keep building on students’ understanding of and attention to their peers’ physical activity needs.
      • Use the ideas provided through the program videos and include some physically focused discussions as part of at least one of your Mix It Up activities.
      • Have students who don’t play on a sports team make up new rules for a game; then pair players from the sport with those who made the new rules and have the rule makers teach the players.
    • Making PE accessible. Use these ideas from the Shriners/Play 60 All-Ability Guideto help adjust your PE classes (or recess games) to be sure students with physical and intellectual disabilities can participate.
      • Build on these ideas to address other student needs throughout your PE program.
      • For students with autism spectrum disorder, consider ideas like this and the information provided here.

Who Can Help?

You are not in this alone. There are many people who can help make this Play a success. By involving the following people, you’ll build their awareness of the issue as they help you to solve it. Here’s a list of people who can help and some specific ways they can do that.


  • Approve your plan and its various impacts on recess, free time, PE classes and more
  • Engage with teachers and coaches to get their support
  • Encourage student participation


  • Participate in activities
  • Encourage student participation


  • Assist with gathering information about where changes might be helpful
  • Encourage peers to participate


  • Participate and incorporate some of the new ideas into family activities
  • Provide information to your team about what works to help their children get more interested in physical activities
  • Volunteer to help with activities

Put together a team to talk about how to best approach this Play. Talk about your goals and ways to address issues of inclusivity while respecting everyone’s differences. Have volunteers talk about how they feel about school and about their strengths and limitations. The goal is to create an atmosphere where everyone can be as healthy as possible while feeling accepted and included.

Share this Unleashing the Human Spirit video from the U.S. Special Olympics to inspire your team to help create opportunities for all students to be included.

Credit: U.S. Special Olympics

As with any game that’s worth playing and winning, you are bound to run into challenges. That's why getting help from others is so important. You’re more likely to achieve your goals when everyone works together.

Build Interest

  • Start conversations at school to find out what kids think about when it comes to getting others active.
    • Set up a comment box near the cafeteria or gym and ask kids to make suggestions about what would make them feel more included.
    • Interview students with disabilities, too, to determine what barriers they encounter and what can be done to help.
  • Find ways to highlight challenges that are:
    • Physical (e.g., missing the right equipment).
    • Psychological (e.g., someone thinks he or she won’t be good at something)
  • Work with your art teacher or department to create a series of motivational posters to place around the school reminding students that they can find ways to be active no matter what challenges they may face. Include posters encouraging students to reach out to their less active peers to include them in the action, too.
  • For middle and high schools: Using what you find out about barriers and from your creative discussions with students, have your student team consider designing a project through GENYOUth’s AdCap program, a project design and grants program that can help you create something really special for your school! 
  • Create a “makerspace where students can experiment with ideas on how to help with this Play. Some ideas include:
    • Design an indoor obstacle course that works for all abilities.
    • Create an app to help local families and the school work more closely together.

Share Your Results

  • Create promotional materials such as posters and flyers to highlight new ways your school is inviting everyone to participate and announce the positive changes you’ve made to your physical activity programs.
  • Get the word out on your school’s website or blog, in your school newsletter and student newspaper and on social media!
  • Share student stories, videos and pics on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram tagging FUTP 60 (FB: @FuelUpToPlay60; TW and IG: @FUTP60) and using #FuelGreatness!
  • Scrimmage Time: Hold friendly competitions on the playground using the games and ideas you learn through the development of this Play. Have classes repeat some of the activities tried in the Kickoff assembly, challenging them to include everyone in the class and encouraging those who have been less active to embrace the new — and hopefully more fun — climate of the school. 
  • Think long term.  Keep this inclusive program and the climate it helps create going from year to year. Make “We All Can” a student club and have student leaders pass on what they know from one year to the next. You can even join the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition’s Commit to Inclusion Campaign. Each year make the club more inclusive by encouraging those with and without disabilities to be part of the overall planning!


This section features ideas on ways to involve everyone in your school and community. Think about ideas for differentiating between older and younger students and ways to bring in the family connection.

Put students in the driver’s seat as much as possible. They’ll learn valuable life lessons on how to plan and implement programs, and they’ll feel great about helping their school!

For Older Students

  • Have students keep a log of the efforts they make to implement the ideas in this Play (or ideas of their own). Encourage them to interview those students whose attitudes toward physical activity have changed, get their feedback on what worked and write an article for the school or local newspaper.
  • Look into the possibility of students earning service learning hours.

For All Students

  • Have your Fuel Up to Play 60 students volunteer to help in PE classes by demonstrating new activities and/or helping other students get more active.
  • Host a program at your school’s next parent-teacher organization meeting where students talk about and/or demonstrate some of the changes that are being made at school. 


For Everyone

  • Help design activities. 
  • Gather donations of equipment and materials. 
  • Design fun rewards and incentives to keep students active. 
  • Help organize activities by using these ideas for how to make recess fun for all students.

For School Adults

  • Work with your school's parent-teacher organization and ask if they will volunteer time to help improve the playground or lead recess activities based on some of your new strategies and ideas.
  • Host community-building events once a month in your school’s gym or all-purpose room.
  • Encourage parents, community leaders and students to come together and participate in fun, physical activities for all ability levels. 
  • Serve nutritious snacks that are easy to eat like low-fat yogurt, low-fat string cheese, pre-sliced fruits or small bowls of carrots. 
  • To address the issue of bullying, start or end each event with some of the elements from Shriners Hospitals’ Cut the Bull program. There are many resources, examples, testimonials and a toolkit of activities that can help your community come together to take a stand against bullying while being active and having fun!