My daughter, who graduated from Seneca Academy last spring, is running cross country this fall at her new school. She has never been much of an athlete, never played team sports, and never really done any serious running in her life. But she is active enough to be healthy and relatively fit. I knew she would be fine playing sports at her new school, but I didn’t expect her to be so good. She is an excellent runner!! I was talking to another parent of two Seneca Academy graduates who had similar experiences. This mom believes Seneca Academy produces good runners and athletes because our “gym” is outside. In addition, I believe it is because we make exercise relevant, meaningful, achievable and fun.
When students think learning is fun, feasible, and relevant they participate more fully, are more motivated, and are more likely to apply what they have learned at school to their everyday lives. This is as true of PE class as any other. There are a multitude of ways that we can strengthen, stretch and move our bodies in enjoyable, engaging ways. They can include, but don’t necessarily require, traditional sports. We can also dance, climb on the jungle gym, do yoga, or play cooperative games. By using our “outdoor classroom” as our gym, we demonstrate that any environment can be used for healthy movement. It also increases students’ time in the fresh air and utilizes our habitat in creative ways.
Seneca Academy has used the SPARK PE curriculum for many years. This program focuses on various types of developmentally appropriate movement for children at all ages. It weaves in specific skills such as kicking and throwing, along with overall fitness and “personal best.” The daily activities use sports materials creatively, such as using hula hoops for agility activities and balls for cooperative problem solving practice. These materials are also used in traditional ways. Whatever the activity, the SPARK program allows for students to participate fully and successfully in physical activities, regardless of their ability. Enabling each student to feel successful and gain enjoyment from movement is the ultimate goal. In addition, Seneca Academy integrates the PE skills and abilities into our units of inquiry. This helps students make connections between what they are learning in the classroom and outside, in PE.
Here is a recent article from the Washington Post indicating that area public schools are finally catching up to Seneca Academy in terms of PE programming!