At Wildwood, play is important, encouraged, and often, inspired.
At the Wildwood speedway pod students teamed up with partners: one sits on a colored, platform scooter and the other stands behind with hands on partner’s shoulders, ready to “drive” around the figure-8 Wildwood Speedway track. Fun, right? It’s also about the art of negotiation. Wildwood physical education teacher, Tyler Williams, says the Speedway includes a four-way intersection that requires thoughtful navigation. “You have to be safe and look both ways before you go through,” Williams tells the students. He cues the music and twenty students start their way around the track with smiles, laughs, and screams of joy.
The Wildwood Speedway is just one example of the purposeful play that our elementary physical education team designs for students in kindergarten through fifth grade. “The idea is to have fun,” says Williams, “but the kids are also practicing interpersonal skills, like cooperating and caring for others, and especially the Life Skill of common sense.” Williams stops the music, pausing the action, just as two groups of students get into a jam in the Speedway’s intersection. Williams uses the opportunity to talk the students through strategies to avoid this problem again.
Like so many classes at Wildwood, P.E. is also a collaborative effort. While one group of pod students are with Williams on the Speedway, fellow P.E. teachers Hasan Muhammad and Darren Pasco coach another group of pod students on the big yard through the finer points of jumping rope. The students are in groups of three, two students holding the ends of a jump rope and at third poised to leap over.
Pasco tosses out a metaphor to help the kids visualize their jumps. “How do we build a house? We start with the first floor,” says Pasco, as students take their first leap over the held rope. The “house” gets progressively taller, as ropes go higher and students grunt and giggle in their efforts to make it over the rope.
Pasco explains the logic behind this seemingly simple game: “One of our focuses with the kids at this age is on helping them to develop their gross motor skills. We start with hopping on one and two legs. Today you see we’re having the kids jump over a held rope and eventually they’ll learn to jump a spinning rope.” The simple joy of setting a physical challenge and meeting it, brings smiles to their faces- and to their teachers. “The skills that our kids develop in the pods,” Pasco says, “are the ones that they will build upon as the curriculum moves more into team sports.”
Play more, learn more. It’s something we understand at Wildwood.