Blowing Off S.T.E.A.M. in Physical Education: Make Your Own Jump Rope

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.

STEAM 2

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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STOPWATCH – The Great Motivator

stopwatch old school

“What is the one piece of equipment you must have as a physical education teacher?” This is a question that frequently comes up on social media or through casual conversation with peers. I love having great music in the gym. Students respond well to an updated playlist on a kicking sound system. Equipment like hula hoops and swim noodles are so versatile, with countless fitness, cooperative, and competitive applications. And of course, there are jump ropes. Jumping rope is like riding a bike, every child should be able to do it.  However, without hesitation, my answer is a stopwatch. I couldn’t imagine teaching PE without my Timex watch.

I remember when my own three children were young, very young. They were 6, 5, and 3 years old when I created a backyard obstacle course for them. The set up was not fancy and rather simple. They’d playfully run through the course, taking their time crawling under, jumping over, climbing through and sprinting across a variety of obstacles before crossing a finish line. Eventually they would grow bored of the sequence of prepositional challenges. That is, until I introduced them to my stopwatch. “How fast can you get through the course? I’ll time you.” Immediately, this simple question changed the level of competition in the Cahill household forever. My kids were obsessed with attempting to set a new personal best, then later with beating each other’s record. To this day, now 14, 13, and 11 years old, my kids still enjoy being timed, whether its crushing a mountain bike course, running the bases, or swimming a lap in the pool. “Can you time me to see how long it takes me to get ready for bed?”

Our students are equally motivated by a stopwatch. At Trinity School, we discuss the importance of the personal best rather than comparing oneself to the other students. (However, we’re not naïve to the natural instinct to see how you stack up to your peers.) “How many times can you and a partner toss and catch a disc successfully in 45 seconds?” “How long can you hold a plank?” “Can you touch the four walls of the gym in less than 10 seconds?” “When I say go, you have 35 seconds to pick up all the equipment, place it in its correct container, then line up quietly.” Often, during my morning running program, students will ask, “Can you time me to see how long it takes me to run a lap?”

Along with the above examples, there are countless other ways to motivate students using a stopwatch throughout each and every day. Below you will find two of my all time favorite uses for a stopwatch.

My Top Two Favorite Stopwatch Challenges

1.  The 150 Lap Challenge (adjust the number of laps based on class size, age level, and lap distance)

Along with a little pep talk on teamwork, this challenge is sure to get your students amped up to run. The goal is for the class, as a team, to complete 150 laps as quickly as possible. It’s even more motivational if you have the capability to connect an iPad timer to a projector so the students can watch the seconds tick by.  However, I promise they’ll be energized if you use your stopwatch like me. I tally their cumulative laps and give updates along the way. “25 laps completed…75 laps completed…150 laps complete…etc.  Once they hit 150 laps, I stop the clock and give them their time.  I’ll log their score for a future 150 lap challenge.  Sometimes, I’ll post each class’ score in the gym. This sets up some friendly class versus class competitions for the future.

2.  Beat the Clock

I religiously use this game to reinforce signals and formations throughout the year. First, I’ll ask the class to perform a certain locomotor skill. On a given signal (music, whistle, etc.) the students stop, look, and listen. I’ll then give the class a task to complete in set amount of time. “You have 10 seconds to form a perfect circle around me.” “You have 12 seconds to quietly line up at the door in boy, girl formation.” “You have 7 seconds to stand in your own personal space.” As the year progresses I give them less time and/or more complicated challenges.  After each challenge I’ll playfully give a score update. The class receives a point if they “beat the clock, and I receive one if they don’t.  You won’t regret this challenge, especially the first several weeks of school.

Bonus Game: Omnikin Beachball Challenge

This is a quick challenge to attempt to keep the ball in the air as long as possible. I always ask the class to shoot for a personal best, but also give them the school record for added motivation.  After three or four initial attempts, the group will sit in a circle to discuss what worked and what didn’t work. This is where they come up with a strategy to hopefully beat their personal record.

You may be thinking about all the fancy timer applications you can find on your devices. One particular favorite is the Tabata Pro timer, which has countless features. I have it and use it frequently. But there’s something real and challenging about a good old-fashioned stopwatch strapped to your wrist, ready to BEEP! It’s always there for you, it never has to be charged, and it is so very easy to use.

After reading this post, how long will it take you to comment on how you challenge your students with a stopwatch in your classes?

Ready, set, GO!


If you enjoyed this post, consider following my blog to receive future posts and fitness challenges.

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September’s Back to School Fitness Challenge

Once again this year, I’ll be creating a monthly take-home fitness challenge for my students. The goal is to introduce a variety of exercises and routines that are quick, easy, and fun to perform, yet challenging enough to increase heart rates and help build strength. Ultimately, promoting lifelong fitness and its countless health related benefits will hopefully be a main take away for our students and families.

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For the month of September, students will be challenged with an AMRAP (as many repetitions as possible). I will spend the week prior to the challenge discussing the workout and practicing the four exercises that make up the AMRAP during PE class. This allows me to help them with form before setting them off to do the workout at home. I also encourage the students to teach their parents the workout. Many parents inform me that they too take the monthly challenges!

At the end of the month, students turn in their calendars. In return they each receive an award certificate with either a gold, silver or bronze sticker and a plastic shoe token.

For an editable copy, click Back to School Challenge.

For and editable copy of the award certificate, click Back to School Challenge Certificate.

 


If you enjoyed this post, consider following my blog to receive future posts and fitness challenges.

Follow me on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/justybubpe.

Check out my Facebook group called Keeping Kids in Motion!

Youtube Channel

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