Cross-Grade Program Perks Up PE

by Erin Anderson, editor

Middle School students have been trying out all kinds of activities as part of the cross-grade PE program, which was recently profiled in EAT magazine because of its cooking component. The classes are unusual both because they include students in Grade 6-8 and because of the array of opportunities. Past sessions have featured diving, water polo, martial arts, and more.

“At the Middle School, PE is about experience,” says Bruce Kuklinski, PE teacher. “It’s about trying as many activities as possible, preparing students for Senior School athletics and beyond.”

While the Middle School boasts several sports teams, PE gives them a chance to find out which approach to fitness they want to continue. By Grade 12, SMUS students have three different PE courses to choose from, focusing on sport, recreation or fitness and conditioning. Getting a taste of new ways to exercise, like akido or curling, also makes these activities less intimidating down the line. Students get to know a little bit about a variety of athletic pursuits and are more likely to find one that’s a good fit for them.

“We look for things they can do throughout their lives,” says Bruce. “It’s about opening their eyes to all the possibilities for fitness.”

Visiting places that offer classes to everyone and having guest instructors also illustrate how fitness can be part of daily life, for years to come. Some of the visiting teachers are in their 60s and 70s, which shows that physical activity isn’t limited to the young. Aside from the physical benefits, the program expands students’ awareness, combining hands-on experience with theory and philosophy. The cross-grade element also allows students to mentor younger participants and to help each other master new exercises.

“This program gives us the opportunity to mix students up so they spend time with peers they might not socialize with or have classes with,” says Bruce. “We also almost always have at least two days of each activity, so students can learn and then help each other.”

The program isn’t entirely physical either. Students are tested to make sure they have gained an understanding of each activity. For example, after spending time in the fitness centre, students are tested on what they’ve learned not only about the equipment, but how often they should exercise and how their bodies build muscle most effectively. Because of the cross-grade set-up, students can build on their knowledge each year while also trying new things.

“The students in Grade 7 are really excited for Grade 8, asking what we’re going to do,” says Bruce. “It’s a very unique program and we’re fortunate to have it.”

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