Take a walk through any of our schools on any given day, and you will see students getting active in all manner of Physical Education (PE) activities!
There are some that those of us who have been out of school for a while will remember, like jump rope, kickball, and everyone’s favorite, the parachute. And there are other, more contemporary additions to our PE program, including exercises and practices that help strengthen a student’s mind/body connection. Our PE program is all about giving students wide-ranging opportunities to grow physically, mentally, and socially.
Beginning in elementary school, our PE classes are designed to encourage a lifetime of wellness. Students are given chances to explore many kinds of physical activities, while building an understanding and appreciation for the benefits of leading a healthy lifestyle. As they develop their interests and abilities, students also learn how to evaluate and access resources for leading a healthy and active lifestyle in their community. One very specific long-range goal of our PE program is to introduce them to activities that can become personal pursuits, whether that means post-secondary study, career pathways, or just finding a heartfelt and healthful hobby they can enjoy for a lifetime.
This week, we dropped in on a PE class at Park Avenue Elementary School, where some second graders were rotating through three activity stations, with the guidance of their teachers. Here’s a look at three of the activities that were going on, and how those activities can have such positive impacts on young learners.
This is one we all remember! Interestingly, though, while the physical health benefits of jumping rope have been known for some time, the effects it can have on a person’s mental and emotional health have been studied and published in more recent decades. For example, we know jumping rope improves coordination, benefits cardiovascular health, and increases leg muscles while reducing the risk of leg injuries. But, did you know that jumping rope also helps improve cognitive function? As you jump rope, your body learns the motor patterns required to do so, engaging your nervous system to open up communication between your brain, hands and leg muscles, and this helps improve cognitive function.
Yoga is a more modern addition to P.E. classes, but Warwick Valley has been on the forefront of implementing both yoga and related mindfulness practices, to great benefit, in our schools for some time. Yoga is accepted by the New York State Department of Education as a fulfillment of P.E. requirements, and is a uniquely valuable fitness activity that checks all five boxes for health-related fitness: cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength, muscular endurance, flexibility, and body composition. Yoga is on par with running, swimming, and weight training when it comes to delivering results for the body. And, since the mind is a muscle itself, we use yoga and mindfulness to train it for empathy, compassion, focus, and attention. We know that students not only do better when they are focused and ready to learn, but that the benefits of cultivating these skills can help anyone boost their happiness and resilience, both of which are foundational for achieving optimal wellness and success throughout life.
Learning about the numerous intellectual and emotional benefits of cup stacking often surprises folks who recall more traditional, perhaps more physically demanding gym class activities. Simple in appearance and application, cup stacking delivers benefits that are far more complex. First, the seemingly simple task requires coordination and precision that demands students’ focus and concentration. It improves fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination, and the repetitive nature helps with long-term memory and recall. Students typically stack in groups, which means they’re working on skills reflected in our Portrait of a Graduate, like communication and collaboration. Finally, stacking cups can boost self-esteem and provide a sense of accomplishment.