The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, April 16, 1999


Physical education is more than push-ups in Carlisle

Physical education in Carlisle sounds like much more fun than parents of today's students may remember. Margaret Heigl, Philip LaPalme and Sally Watts described some of their innovative programs to the Carlisle School Committee at their April 6 meeting.

Watts, who teaches all of the kindergarten and grade one physical education classes, as well as some classes in other grades, described how she is integrating the PE curriculum with the academic curriculum for the younger grades. For example, when the kindergartners were studying Native Americans, Watts included Native American dances in the PE classes. When they studied the rainforest, the students acted out the movements of the rainforest animals, slithering like snakes or running fast like jaguars. She also uses books that the children have read in the classroom that have animals or movement in them as a basis for activities. Tightening the connection between the gym and the classroom, students have graphed their fitness scores in math.

Another focus for the physical education program is the development of social skills. By working with partners and teams, the students learn cooperation, teamwork and problem-solving. Watts has even used behavior graphs with students to chart how positive encouragement and negative messages over time affect self-esteem.

The middle school PE curriculum was described by LaPalme. It includes traditional games such as basketball, volleyball and badminton, but also has some innovations like the Project Adventure unit and the climbing wall. The first activity in the fall is the adventure unit which sets the tone for the rest of the year, LaPalme said. It encourages cooperation, teamwork and trust, through a series of adventure games and challenges.

School nurse Kathy Horan talked about the sixth-grade health curriculum which she teaches. It includes the study of body systems, illness prevention, stress management and nutrition. Issues such as making good decisions, resisting peer pressure and self-esteem are also discussed. Horan noted that the state frameworks for the health curriculum have just been issued. The Carlisle health curriculum covers most of the topics already, Horan said.

The health curriculum continues in grades seven and eight, covering topics such as conflict resolution, relationships, substance use and abuse, nutrition, and building self-confidence. Heigl commented that the physical education teachers are in the unique position of having a relationship with the students throughout their school years. They see the students grow and mature, she said. The PE teachers, who also teach health, see their role in middle school as bridging the gap between academic areas and areas such as social competency, life skills, fitness and cooperation.

1999 The Carlisle Mosquito