John Ault 's
We are in our third year of Project Fit America. It has been a means for the students to renew an interest in physical fitness while giving them the opportunity to gain status and increase self-esteem. Our otherwise bare hallway walls are adorned with names of students reaching the standards for Station Stars Challenge and fitness clubs. Students can't wait until it's their turn to try to make it in the clubs and earn ribbons and recognition. Each year more and more students are taking part. This year we have 2 possible station stars challenge national records.
Our school was very fortunate to receive the P.F.A. grant. It has been a tremendous supplement to my program. It has made me a more effective teacher and has had a significant impact on student morale and student attitude towards fitness. After watching their peers master station after station, the less fit kids realized just how out of shape they are. Many went home and practiced only to return and show progress on several stations.
I now have students working on strength and jump rope skills from day one of gym class. Every single class throughout the year begins this way. Elementary students who have been sitting in their seats for a period of time do not want to come in a gymnasium and sit on a line and be quiet. They want to run, scream and let out some of that bottled up energy. I teach a P.F.A. warm-up routine that gets students going and when finished they are ready to listen. It is an automatic warm-up that appeals to the child's natural love of music and movement. I indoctrinate each class in September to follow this required routine every time they come to phys. ed. class. It takes 3 or 4 minutes and is geared for cardio and upper body strength.
Here's how it works: Students are signaled by high-energy music to enter the gymnasium. They will blast across the gym floor until they reach the jump rope cart. The students grab a jump rope and begin bouncing or jumping rope to the beat of the music (about a minute or 2). When the music stops, it is their cue to hang up their jump ropes and take their required turn at one of the twin 10-foot strength poles. (These are modified net poles with padded carpet on the base. I filled the holes and painted colored stripes at intervals to the top where I mounted a horn). All students can hold a minimum of five counts; however most will struggle to reach the colored stripes on the pole. Some will honk the horn at the top of the pole. This feat earns status among their peers and a place in an elite club called the Pole Cat Club. Their names are posted in the hall outside the gym. Following the strength pole, students sit under their assigned gym numbers against the padded wall. My student teacher added this little gem. She used this technique when students are fidgeting or not attentive. She instituted the "1,2,3 get ready". When she says 1, students sit pretzel style, on count 2, they place hands on knees, on count 3 they sit up straight, mouths quiet. Now the class is still and ready for instructions. An "energizer" is next in the routine. This is a high cardio one-minute activity. I give them a different one each week. Next, I will use squads or gym numbers and give the 1,2,3 get ready signal for the next set of directions.
Station Stars Challenge days require a little planning. I send a letter with students soliciting parent volunteers. The volunteer picks a convenient time and return the bottom of the letter to school with the student. I in turn pass it on to my coordinator. This is the key person who makes calls to ensure we have enough testers on the test date. There is always a rain-day alternative. I could not make this work without these ladies. They make the calls and get it organized. Our high school is right next door and if we are short adult volunteers we get high school volunteers.
We modified our fitness card to include all the stations and levels on one card. We give students a practice gym class and four classes to go for their goals, twice in the fall and twice again in the spring. I circle the station icon on the Project Fit America certificate for Baby Bear for entry level on a piece of fitness equipment and stamp a silver star in the circle if (level 2) Ma Ma Bear is reached. A larger gold star is stamped inside the circle next to the silver if (level 3) Pa Pa Bear is reached. We had star stamps made and purchased silver and gold stamp pads. We had a stamp made that says Station Stars Challenge for the centerline of the certificates. I use removable adhesive tabs to display alphabetically and by grade each students' certificate on the Wall of Winners located near the locker rooms. These are removed from the wall and sent home in June.
Outside the regular physical education time, we have clubs where students can earn their name on the Pride Wall located out side in the hall of our gym. I run these in the morning before school, at noon recess time and again after school. I offer Baby Bear first by grade level starting with 2nd grade and continuing in order until we reach 5th grade. If they make Baby Bear they are eligible to go on to try for Ma Ma Bear and Pa Pa Bear. These both earn ribbons.
We have a running club called the 3-lap club. This is offered in fall and again in spring. Students name go on the wall if they can gather 3 sticks (tongue depressors) from their partner in 1 minute. Numbered cones mark the direction of the run. It is a complete lap around a full size gym floor before they can grab their first stick from their partner. If they gather 3 sticks in one minute, their name goes on the wall and their certificate is circled. If the weather cooperates, the equivalent is run outside. K-1 runs one lap around the same course. Theirs is called the Fastest Runner Club. The first 3 runners to grab sticks from me get their names on the wall. Our practice soccer field is right next to our playground and on good weather days it's a great opportunity for recess students to walk or jog to earn smile miles.
We have special punch cards made up for Kangaroo Club, Tummy Toughie Club, Smile Miles and Pacer Club. All clubs are open to 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th grade students. Baby Bear earns name on wall on a blue 3x3 sticky note, Ma Ma Bear name goes up higher on a 3x5 yellow sticky note and a red ribbon is earned. Pa Pa Bear is name up on top on a 5x7 index card in large purple letters and earns the prestigious blue ribbon.
Star Wars is a fun & exciting game that the 2nd through 5th graders love. It is played when we move inside for the cold weather about mid-November. The better the teamwork, communication and cooperation, the more battles they get to have. Photos of set up and game in progress.
Procedure: All life supports must be built in front of or to the side of the space station, not in back of it. Ten Life supports on each side of the galaxy include: 2 food banks (15 yogurt cups in a pyramid), radar (a large cone with a lollipop paddle inserted in top), 2 satellites (upright hoop on legs), 2 power plants (a styra foam pin with a disk on top), 3 oxygen units (6 hoop formation). When the music starts, the object is to try to throw death stars (yarn balls) past the star shield guard (who stands on outside of the 2x4). This player attempts to block them from going into the space station with a garbage can lid. Destroying life supports with 2 large jelly balls and foam Frisbees flying saucers is a way to settle a tie. Stop the star wars theme in about 2 minutes (this signals a cease fire). I always have to yell "Cease Fire." Only the shield guard may enter the space station and that person places the yarn balls on the shield for all to see. The team with the most death stars (yarn balls) loses the battle. If a tie occurs, counts the number of life supports still standing and declare that team with the most the winner. Now here is where T.C.C. comes in. Each side must use it to build their 10 life supports before the next battle can start.
Meanies and Buddies (K-1st very active)
Purpose: to improve cardiovascular fitness through continuous activity
You Need: 50-60 small cones (the turtles) spread all over the turtle pond (gym)
Procedure: Introduce the class to your nice turtles. Tell them no one will hurt the turtles during this game (like kicking or slapping them) but there is one-thing turtles don't like. What is it? That's right! They don't like to be turned upside down. It won't hurt them but it makes them mad. What would a turtle's buddy do if he saw one tipped over? Right, turn them back up. Boys, you get to be the Meanies and tip the turtles over on their shell. Girls, you will be the Buddies. But first we must spread them all over the pond. Ready, go. (Dump them out of the garbage can and wait till they are all spread out. On signal, they have one minute. After one minute sound the whistle (FREEZE!) The teacher now needs to determine who won. If more are tipped over the Meanies win, if more are up the Buddies win. Reverse rolls and play a second time. Usually I call a tie.
Dead Turtle (Little ones and even the older ones often beg to play this amusing tag game.)
Purpose: safe running and body control
Procedure: After discussing proper tagging and fair play, I tell this storyline:
"Once upon a time there was a wicked king who had a tumultuous appetite and was a glutton for food. He weighed over 600 pounds. His voracious appetite on occasion could not be satisfied unless he had a generous bowl of turtle soup, consisting of not less than 5 healthy turtles. The people in the town were very nervous when this happened because if they were chosen to go turtle hunting at the royal turtle pond and were unsuccessful getting the 5 turtles for soup they were sent to the guillotine and OFF WITH THEIR HEADS!!!" Eeeks & screams!
The students are the happy turtles and the gym is the royal turtle pond. They know that the king only wants live healthy turtles and if they lie on their shells and put hands and feet straight in the air and exclaim loudly, "dead turtle" (stick out their tongues and close their eyes) then they are safe. But if while running or teasing, the king's hunters tag them on the back, they must raise one hand and go jump into the boiling pot to cook for the king's dinner. Have the students practice a few times being a dead turtle, cautioning them not to clunk the back of their heads to the floor. Drop the yellow shirts on 3 of the turtles and declare the king has chosen them and they have one minute to get the five healthy turtles for his soup or OFF WITH THEIR HEADS!!
The turtles splash and play until the king's hunters put on the yellow vests and count to 5 in their loudest voices. After a minute freeze the class and count the turtles in the soup.
Repeat the game but the hunter must give their vests to the ones not in the soup. Give the ones in the soup a"new life" and the opportunity to play again.
Two of the greatest physical needs of kids, according to fitness test results, are aerobic conditioning and upper body strength. If kids are required to go out and run a mile, they will be turned off. Their greatest desire is to have fun. Physical activities must be presented in a way to make play fun and exciting. Participating in an aerobic game such as Capture the Pins is fun. They may play hard for 15 minutes and receive the same aerobic benefit as running a mile, even though it may be in start and stop movements rather than continuous running. Traditional activities need to be modified to be more exciting and challenging so that kids enjoy playing them. Children need to be more active so they become fitter and enjoy vigorous movement.
Elementary students need and love the natural stimulation of music in physical education class. It can be used to start an activity or game and signal the stop. Traditional lesson activities and games can be modified to include music.
The issue of upper body strength is often hard to address in an elementary physical education class. The Project Fit America equipment has given students the means and incentive to work the upper body. Kids have a natural inclination to climb and hang by their arms. I have introduced the strength pole to the start of every gym class. This is one way to target upper body strength all year, even throughout the winter. The colored stripes up the pole are designed to make it possible for students to set personal goals. The horns at the top are like the carrot which motivates students to stretch beyond their limitations. Students are very pleased to see their name on the wall when they have honked the horn. We call this the Polecat Club. Most are just as pleased to get to the next stripe on the pole. I often throw in a tug o war and sometimes jump in myself. You can feel the pump in your shoulders and arms at the end of a good tug. Another activity students' love is to take turns pulling someone on a parachute back and forth across the gym floor. We are fortunate to have a full sized gym and we use two or three parachutes at a time. It's a great fun cardio workout and also great for arms shoulders and legs.
Children need and enjoy competition, which is geared to their own emotional and physical growth. Competition needs to present in a fair, fun and safe environment. It is undesirable when too high a premium is placed upon winning. Children should compete with friends and peers with no great stress placed on winning. They need to be taught to encourage each other and always put forth their best effort even if they are not winning. When students line up to return to class, there should be smiles on everyone's sweaty face and high fives given by all. When someone asks, "Who won?", the class will automatically read aloud the huge sign above the door- IF YOU HAD FUN YOU WON!