Students design program that takes kid’s literature to the gym

November 09, 2010

By the time professor Andi Hoffman’s Physical Education student interns stand at the front of a class, they’ve had plenty of practice – including presenting at a professional conference.

Six seniors took that step in October when they presented “Incorporating Children’s Literature into Physical Education,” activities they designed, at the Maryland Association of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance conference.

“It’s better for them to overcome the self-consciousness of speaking in front of a group before they do their student-teaching internships,” Hoffman says. “So I throw them into the water and see if they can swim.”

In fact, Hoffman gives them many opportunities to learn how to swim and much support as they test their first strokes. The process of developing a physical education program began last spring when seniors Brett Bonneville, Rebecca Corbran, Josh LeBrun, Samuel Morris, Victoria Pickett and Lauren Wildasin were juniors.

Encouraged by their professor to connect with colleagues – these days that means interns and teachers – in other fields, the Exercise Science majors participated in a reading night at Elmer Wolfe Elementary School in Union Bridge, Md. They planned physical education activities centered on “Owney the Mail Pouch Pooch” by McDaniel professor Mona Kerby and “Olly the Oyster Cleans the Bay” by Elaine Allen and illustrator Kelli Nash.

“Physical education is vital to the development of all students,” Hoffman says, adding that whenever possible learning should be integrated with the subjects complementing each other.

The student-designed activities based on the two children’s books at Elmer Wolfe incorporated marine biology, spelling, reading, environmental science, geography and even a dash of history into push-ups, lunges, running, crab walks and the like. Perhaps the best part, the giggles and cheers of elementary school children left no doubt as to how much fun they were having.

The McDaniel interns expanded on the original reading-night activities to develop the program they presented at the recent MAHPERD conference. When their program is in the classroom, the schoolchildren explore Olly the Oyster’s undersea world, learning that oysters help clean the water and that they live together in oyster reefs where animals such as crabs, worms and fish also make a home. They learn what Olly and other sea critters eat and what purpose each serves. Owney the Mail Pouch Pooch takes them on a cross-country jaunt and gives them a glimpse of life a century ago.

All the while, they are involved in physical activities – taking care of both mind and body.