The year was 1995, my first year teaching physical education in a public school in Washington, DC. I was young and inexperienced yet eager to make a difference in the lives of my students. During my first weeks of school I was informed by the principal that the school had an annual tradition of participating in the American Heart Association’s Jump Rope for Heart fundraiser. This was great news. Not only would we be raising money for a great cause, but my students would have the opportunity to enhance a skill combining fitness and coordination. With this, I set out a goal to help improve my 3rd-5th grade students’ ability to jump rope. I allotted time during each class for them to practice. I also encouraged them to jump rope at home with their own ropes.
(Click Blowing Off STEAM in PE for an editable copy of the challenge!)
Much to my surprise, I soon realized that more than half my students didn’t have their own jump ropes, and unfortunately, with a limited budget, I didn’t have enough ropes to loan them. Jokingly, I mentioned to one of my 4th grade classes, “I guess you’ll just have to make your own.”
With unexpected delight, the very next day, one student walked into class with a jump rope she had made at home. Amanda proudly pulled from a plastic bag a jump rope completely made of rubber bands. I was so impressed with Amanda’s “no excuses” mentality. After Amanda shared her creation with her classmates, a second girl, Bronwyn, said she too made her own jump rope but needed to retrieve it from her classroom. When she returned, she unveiled her creation made of large paperclips.
I’ll never forget Amanda and Bronwyn for their determination to improve their jump rope skills. They were prime examples of the old adage, where there’s a will there’s a way.
22 years later, I still remain inspired by Amanda and Bronwyn. I’ve decided to challenge my students in 1st-6th grades to make their own jump ropes by presenting them with a S.T.E.A.M. challenge.
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