Dodgeball may be a thing of the past in phys. ed. classes, but old-school gymnastics is still very much alive, at least at Shaw Avenue School.
Students are the in the middle of a two-week unit where they climb ropes and ladders, jump off a spring board, vault over a box and walk across a balance beam. It’s not only a series of activities that build strength and endurance, but also teamwork. Children in the upper and lower grades are paired together during these two weeks.
This is the 14th year the school has run the gymnastics unit. Principal Johane Ligonde said it gives the students a little break from the rigors of test preparation, yet still keeps them sharp. “We have to take care of our bodies, our minds to perform at our best,” she said.
Phys. ed. teacher Nicholas Clark said that this combination of activities allows children to exercise all parts of their bodies. It also improves balance, coordination, agility and communication, he explained.
Before students step foot on the equipment, they learn all the safety regulations. There are also plenty of mats surrounding the equipment, and additional staff members help supervise and guide the children.
Students in kindergarten, first- and second-grades are paired up with fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders. The older students, who are experienced gymnasts at this point in their elementary school careers, help show their younger schoolmates how to properly use the equipment. “The older kids really look out for the younger ones,” Clark said.
Shanya Success, a fifth-grader, said her favorite activities are climbing the ladder, which runs from the floor to the ceiling, and jumping off the springboard. She said she enjoys working with the younger students because of their enthusiasm. Their willingness to learn, she said, motivates her to teach.
Fifth-grader Chris Lewis particularly likes the flip, where he gets a running start and then vaults over a box. “It’s like a rush,” he said, adding that the gymnastics unit helps build stamina.
Ligonde said that she enjoys watching the students encourage each one another, which builds confidence. “This is my favorite unit in gym,” she said.