A few years ago, the first unit of each school year at STS was Cross Country running. The culminating event was the ES Cross Country race, where students would race at set distances (depending on their grade level). Results from 1st to last would be posted on the bulletin board outside the PHE office. For some students, this was meaningful. The thrill of competition and the pride of crossing the finish line before your peers was motivating and garnered excitement for the following years race. For others, the anxiety associated with the pressure to perform, and seeing your name near the bottom of the results list was detrimental. For them running may have become associated with thoughts of dread or embarrassment. Much credit goes to Laura Boudens (@LauraBoudens) and Michelle Bartoshyk for critically examining their own beliefs and practices in re-thinking the annual Cross Country unit/race. Laura writes about her process as part of the Meaningful Physical Education book. I've been fortunate to work with these two and build upon the great work they've been doing.
Outlined below is our approach to a unit devoted to students developing an understanding of 'Who We Are'. Through allowing students to make choices of how they engage with our campus trails and understanding the motivations behind those choices. What is not described are some of the more contextual items, such as connections with certain grade- level homeroom classes who were also looking at the trans-disciplinary theme of Who We are (IB-PYP), as well as the annual Terry Fox Run which occurred part way through the unit.
Purpose: To continue re-imagining how students engage with our campus trails, and through a process of reflection come to a greater understanding of 'who we are' as participants in PA.
Grade/Age: Grade 3-6 (8-12yr olds)
Theme: Who We Are
Central Idea: Reflecting on our experiences in outdoor physical activity can effect the connections we feel with movement.
Time: 4 Weeks (16 x 40min Lessons)
Lesson 1 - Nature Walk
In our first lesson, students walked along one of our campus trails. Students had freedom to walk at their own pace, and just needed to check in at certain points. At the end of the lesson, we debriefed on what we might like / dislike about walking.
In addition, students used a numbered/coloured sticker (i.e. #3 Red, was always the same G6 student) to identify which feature they connected with on the walk.
Lesson 2 - Orienteering / Scavenger Hunt
In our second lesson, students were given a 'Pokemon' scavenger hunt, where Pokemon cards were placed around our campus. Students received a list of hints as to the Pokemon's location, and had the class period to find as many as they could.
At the end of the lesson, students reflected on why they/someone might find a scavenger hunt relevant to their interests. Once suggestions were made, students once again used their specific sticker to indicate which they connected with.
Lesson 3 - Trail Running
For our third lesson, the task for students was to run on one of our campus trails. While students were encouraged to run, we also made it acceptable to walk when tired. Before beginning, we talked about some reasons why an individual might find running meaningful.
At the end of the lesson students once again used their sticker to select the feature they connected most with through running of which social and challenge were the most popular choices. Through offering a choice of "something else" we understood that students were often motivated to explore - to see a new trail, or all the trails within a lesson.
For the next couple weeks (about 10 lessons), students would have the opportunity to engage in a number of 'loops' or routes that went around our campus. Initially, we started with only 3 loops, then every couple lessons we would add an additional route as students became more comfortable navigating the trail system (this was a supervision/safety precaution). The progress of these additions is highlighted below (from left to right)
The Choice Board
Each day students had the choice of whether the wished to run/jog, walk or do a scavenger hunt/orienteering activity. In addition, we also wanted to encourage students to think about WHY they were making that choice. Students would first select an activity, then a route, and lastly, what they hoped to get out of it. For example, a student would choose to run the Siksika route to challenge themselves. While another group may choose to walk the Tsuut'ina loop to catch up with friends. When students returned near the end of the class they moved their magnet back to "returned" so we knew whether there were students still out on the trails.
At the end of the unit, students completed a "gallery" walk, where the choice board, their early thoughts on walking, running, searching as well as our Meaningful Experience Mural (left). Students completed the attached handout as a rough draft, intended to help them come to some concise statements about who they are as a PA participant in the outdoors.
The rough copy was used during the final task, which was to complete a video reflection answering those questions. You can listen to the audio recording of a G5 student's response below.
KEY OBSERVATIONS / TAKEAWAYS