September 2011 Issue
August 31, 2011

It's what we do: motivating students through creative, off-campus experiences

Author: Michele Sampsell
Source: NYSUT United
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Michele Sampsell

Michele Sampsell

I'm a member of the Onondaga-Cortland-Madison BOCES Federation of Teachers, and I teach physical education for all students — 150 total — in grades 9-12 in an alternative high school. Our school is located within an adult learning center where limited space is provided for physical education. My "gym space" consists of a classroom with some fitness equipment and very little floor space for group activities. Outdoor space is a busy parking lot.

Alternative high school students are the kids who are not successful in a traditional school setting. As you might imagine, these are kids who rarely attended physical education in the first place. I always tell my students from the beginning that my goal is for them to find one activity that they enjoyed this year and perform that activity outside of school.

Since we do not have a gym, I like to take my students off campus so they can see what opportunities are in the community for them to participate in. These are not field trips; they are extended learning opportunities that are scheduled during their regular P.E. classes. Students do not miss any academic classroom time as a result.

During the 2010-11 academic year, I was able to take my students bowling for three weeks. Students were able to learn bowling skills, how to keep score and bowling etiquette. This unit came complete with bowling trophies that were awarded during a school assembly. We also spent two weeks in the fall and two weeks in the spring utilizing a local park and a vendor for rollerblading and biking where all equipment and safety gear were provided. Unique equipment was available including tandem bikes, conference bikes for three to seven people and Surrey Quadricycles. This provided students with new experiences, along with peer and team building opportunities.

I implemented a walking challenge where the reward was skating at a local ice-skating rink. Last year, I set up a unit for five weeks at a local fitness facility which also had a pool, track and tennis courts.

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