Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Adirondack Extreme!!!!

This past weekend, my friends Mackenzie and Pete, went with me on a little road trip that was WELL worth it.  We decided to take a car ride up to the Adirondacks, about an 1 1/2 hrs.north of Albany, to a lovely place called Adirondack Extreme.  For all you PE majors: I HIGHLY recommend taking a day and going there to try it out.  Adirondack Extreme is the largest aerial tree top adventure course in the United States!  It consists of numerous different challenges and many fun zip line opportunities as well.  As much fun as it is, it is very challenging.  There are several different obstacles, some being cargo nets to climb up and across, rock walls to climb, bridge activities to defeat, and monkey bars to traverse across.  The course consists of five different levels, with each level getting progressively more difficult and higher in the trees.  By the last course (the black course) you are 50-60 feet up in the trees!!  The course is extremely challenging, requiring you to have a good deal of upper body strength, as well as core strength.  It is an amazing workout and you WILL be sore the next day.  In  my opinion, the most challenging part of the course is called "the Leap of Faith", which is where you have to walk off a platform that is a good 50 feet up in the hair with just a rope to hold on to (you are harnessed in).  The rope does not catch any slack until you approach the ground, where it suddenly throws you into a giant cargo net, which you have to grab onto and climb up until you reach the saftely of the platform.  The toughest part of this is the feeling that you are free-falling, until (all of sudden when it seems you are about to hit the ground) the rope pulls taunt and catches slack.  The course costs $40 and takes anywhere from 3-4 hours to complete.  If you google "Adirondack Extreme" it will take you right to their website, where you can check them out.  I highly recommend taking the time to get a group together and do this!  You will not regret it.  It is in a beautiful location and the course is set up very creatively.  I cannot begin to emphasize how much FUN this is!  One of the gentlemen that works there (whom I happen to know) informed me that they have people travel from all over the state to come complete this course.  So- take the time and go complete the entire course!- And- if you do so, make sure and tell me all about it!!!!! 

Fun Halloween Activity for Elementary Students

This week at my 355 observations I was able to help participate in a class where the teacher set up stations for the children, each one having a Halloween theme.  I thought that it was such a cool idea and the kids seemed to love it so I wanted to share it with the rest of you to keep in mind for future themed teaching ideas.  The stations focused on many different locomotor skills, but in creative, fun ways.  He had Halloween music playing in the background the entire time and each time he stopped the music the students had to rotate to the next station.  Here are the instructions:
Split up students into teams of 2 students if possible.  You may have a few teams of 3

Station 1- Ghost bowling: Students have to knock over as many pins (out of 7) as they can by rolling a ball.   Children should stand from the spot designated with an “X” when rolling the ball.  Have them see what is the most pins they can knock down before rotating on to the next station. 

Variations: If they wish to challenge themselves, they can try it using blindfolds or take a few steps backwards when rolling the ball.
 -However, remember the importance of safety.
( activity works on balance and coordination.  also works on children's ability to roll a ball towards an intended target- control)

Station 2- Flying ghosts: Students will have to swing from one small pile of mats to another using a rope swing.  If they fall in between the mats, they will land on a pit of flames (have a picture of flames on the floor)!  Make sure to remember and place mats on the floor in between the piles of mats for safety purposes.  Students can either swing from one side to another or swing to and back, landing on the same mat they took off from.

Variations- you could challenge students by making the piles of mat farther away from eachother and increasing the height of the pile, or make it easier by moving the piles of mats closer and decreasing the height of the pile.
(activity works on balance, coordination, muscular strength, and some agility)

Station 3-   Ghost Tic Tac Toe: Students will have six bean bags of one color and six of another color.  There is a tic tac toe board made on the gym floor with pictures of ghosts in each square., for a total of nine squares.  Students will have to try and win Ghost tic tac toe by tossing their bean bags in the squares.  A childs ability to properly toss an object (bean bag) while aiming for a smaller target is the main focus in this game.   

Variations: To challenge students, have them stand farther back when tossing bean bags
 (works on some balance as well as their underhand tosses- control)

Station 4- Broom ball- Students will have to knock over as many pins (out of 7) as possible, using a “witches broom” (hockey stick) to hit a large foam ball in an attempt to knock the pins over.  Students will challenge themselves by trying to beat their previous scores. 

Variations: to challenge students, have them stand farther back
(works on coordination and control)

Station 5- Navigating through the cemetery: Student will have to climb the rock walls/cargo nets, seeing how far up they can go.  Make sure there are safety mats underneath rocks walls/cargo nets. 

Variations: to challenge the students, have them try to use different pathways when climbing the rock walls/cargo net.
(works on muscular strength, coordination, and balance)

Station 6: Running Frankensteins: Students will have to run from point A to point B as fast as possible, doing “Frankensteins” (arms out in front, high knees) along the way.

Variations: Have them try to beat their previous time
(works on cardiovascular endurance, coordination, and speed)

Station 7: Throwing Station (using halloween decorations to aim at): Students will have to throw foam ball at different Halloween themed targets on the wall.  Have the targets be different sizes.  Each student gets five throws before it is the next students turn. 

Variations: Have them keep track of their scores, trying to beat their previous scores each time. To challenge students- have them stand a little farther back, or choose the smaller targets to aim for
(works on coordination, balance, control, students ability to throw using proper technique while aiming at a target)

This was an extremely fun activity to help with and I especially enjoyed being able to observe the children performing a variety of tasks using a variety of different locomotor skills.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The importance of really getting to know your students

As a teacher candidate, I believe that one of the most critical components to being a great teacher is getting to know your students, developmentally and personally.  From my observations thus far ,in 256 and 355, I cannot stress the different abilities of kids that I observe who are in the same grade.  Every child learns differently- some are visual learners, some are auditory, some need to do an activity before they will learn it.  Every child learns at a different pace as well.  It is so critical that we tailor our lessons in ways that can and will meet the needs of every student in the classroom.  With all of the cuts being made in the education system right now, I understand that it can be very demanding and exhausting for teachers, but these children need us.  One of the most upsetting observations I have made thus far is that a surprising number of children must either not have great home lives or their parents don’t have the time to spend with them, playing games outside.   As a PE teacher, you have to realize that the 60 minutes a week these children are receiving in physical activity, during PE class, may be the only form of physical activity they are doing all week.  With the huge emphasis on technology these days, so many children would rather sit inside in front of a tv, computer, or video game instead of play outside or participate in sports or after-school activities.  As a future educator, I realize that I have to be creative in designing ways to get children active outside of school- to get them physically active for a lifetime.  So many parents today have to work often and late hours so they aren’t spending the time with their children they should be.  I can’t tell you how many young children reply, when I ask them about what they do when they get home from school for the day, that they go home and watch tv, get on the internet, or play video games.  It’s just really sad that society has become like this.  When I was younger the first thing my friends and I did when we got home was to go outside and play games with each other- wiffle ball, kickball, flashlight tag, etc.  We hated being inside.  I was fortunate enough to have parents who, although busy, always made time to play with me outside and get me involved in sports/physical activity.  As future Physical Educators, it is crucial that we find ways to connect with the students, inside and outside of school; to use creativity to spark a child’s interests in a variety of lifetime physical activities.  We have to realize that many of these children don’t have the support at home and that we have to be their support.  It is one of the most rewarding experiences to know that you’ve made a positive difference in a child’s life.  As difficult as it can be, take the time to get to know all of your students- personally and developmentally.  Some children will be more difficult than others, but persevere in your efforts.  It will be well worth it.  This is why we get into this business- to make a difference in these children’s lives.  We are not there to simply throw the ball out and watch them play for 60 minutes a week.  We are there to find ways to help them improve and learn in any way possible- physically, cognitively, and affectively.  When I was working with the young children at the CHAMP afterschool program, I made it a point to get to know each child the best I could in what little time I had with them- their interests, dislikes, hobbies, etc.  These are the things, or outlets, you can use to get through to them.  For example, one young boy- Nick, loved learning about the United States so I can up with games to play with him that incorporated the states into them and he absolutely loved every second of it.  We had another girl, Leah, who (at first) we had extreme difficulty getting her engaged in the activities.  When we found out that she loved squirrels, we came up with games that involved squirrels in some way and she would participate during the entire activity.  Also, when we had them keep food journals, I was shocked at the lack of healthy diet in the meals these children were getting at home.  Thus, healthy eating is another area that we, as Physical Educators, should be stressing to these children.  My philosophy in life, education, and physical education is to learn by doing.  Don’t give up on something just because it doesn’t work out.  Take a different approach to it.  Keep trying new things until you find something that does work.  The important thing is to be persistent and to never accept defeat.  No one ever said that this job- teaching- was going to be easy, but it is well worth the fight.  When you can see that you’ve changed these children’s lives for the better; there is no greater feeling in the world. 

Experiences with Elementary, Middle School, and High School: What I prefered

I just started my observations for EDU 355 two weeks ago and absolutely love it!!!  When I first came to Cortland I was positive that I wanted to work with High School students and pretty sure that I wanted to also work with Elementary students.  I was also positive that I wanted nothing to do with Middle School Students.  Well- I must say that after my EDU 256 observation and beginning my 355 observations my views have completely changed.  I was turned off of High School altogether and absolutely loved helping teach the Middle School.  I would like to observe in another school district at some point and compare schools to get a better feel for the High School.  I think that I just happened to have a very bad experience and it might not be so at a different school.  I loved working with the Middle School students because they were open to new things and full of energy.  I still don’t quite understand how these students go from this to becoming very lazy and disinterested in PE at the High School level.  As a future PE teacher, it is very important to me to think of ways that I can help run the PE program so that this doesn’t happen and children remain interested in physical activity/sports.  The one thing I did see and like from my High School Experience is that children were given the choice of choosing one activity out of four or five choices that they could participate in every five weeks.   For example, when during the five weeks that I was there, they could choose between ultimate Frisbee, team sports, tennis/kan jam, football, or track.  Having choices seemed to motivate the High School students more than just being forced to do the same, boring unit year after year.  I also decided that I absolutely LOVE working with elementary children.  During my 355 observation this semester, I have been able to observe two different classes, one being first graders and the other third graders.  Don’t get me wrong- you do get those students who test your patience- but I just love how they are all so eager to learn and participate.  I love seeing the excitement on their faces when they do something well and we compliment (positive feedback) them on it.  I love the experience that I am getting from observing two different age levels and seeing the differences in developmental levels of the children.  Some of the first graders are already at a mature stage in various skill themes, while other are still at the elementary stage.  It is the same with the third graders.  I’ve also noticed that many of the children are getting tired very quickly.  They may be able to run around really fast in short bursts, but their endurance is lacking.  Some thoughts I had on this would be to try and come up with ways to motivate children into running for longer periods of time (running club).   Another thing I noticed that the children struggle with is spatial awareness.  Both first and third graders are constantly running into each other.  I really like the way that the teacher deals with this problem.  As a student, if you run into another one of your classmates you are out of the game until the teacher tells you they can come back in.  This helped the problem a lot because none of the children ever like having to sit out from a game; thus they try harder to be aware of where they are in relation to their classmates.  A big thing that I noticed on the first day of observing in the elementary level was that there were vocabulary words written all over the gym walls.  I noticed that these words were included in the daily warm-ups that the teacher had written for each class.  When I asked the teacher about this he said that the school did very poorly last year on their ELA (English, Language, Arts) tests.  As a result, PE was being required to incorporate ELA into their daily lessons.  I was thrilled to hear this because I cannot tell you the amount of children today who cannot spell or struggle with vocabulary.  If we want our children to well- rounded and educated, that is definitely a good place to start- incorporating this words/vocabulary into their daily lives in as many ways as possible.  I look forward to the rest of this semester with all of my remaining observations in the elementary school.  I love that I learn something new every day there.  I am so grateful to have the opportunity to observe in different school settings over my time here at SUNY Cortland and cannot wait for my semester of student teaching!  Even more-so, I cannot wait to have my own classroom!