PE clubs return to Channing HallMar 28, 2022 10:10PM ● By Julie Slama
Channing Hall students traverse across the rock wall in their gym during their PE climbing club before school. (Julie Slama/City Journals)
By Julie Slama | [email protected]
Seventy or more Channing Hall elementary students come to school a good 20 minutes before the school day begins. They toss their backpacks aside and grab a rope and begin to climb.
These first through fifth graders are part of the climbing club, one of three PE clubs that started the year before COVID-19 hit and returned this spring after a two-year hiatus.
Students may traverse across the rock wall in their gym, go up and down in one section, or climb a rope and even swing on it, said PE specialist Janine Tanner, who developed the club time twice per week.
“The kids were wanting to do more, so they were always sad when we finished a unit,” she said. “I thought this was a way we can let those who enjoy those things do more.”
This spring, Tanner is offering three PE clubs, each one month long. March was climbing, April is jump rope and in May, cup stacking.
Weather permitting, Tanner hopes the jump rope club will be held on the playground so it can accommodate 100 club members. She also invites parents to teach double dutch and other tricks.
“We focus on skills, it could be jumping with a partner or we may work on solo jumping so they can work on those tricks, such as crisscross,” she said. “We jump to the beat and create a program, so they really have fun.”
The final club, cup stacking, is open to kindergartners as well as students to learn the method to build and take down cup towers.
“It is just amazingly fun, and we have hundreds of cups going at once in our gym,” Tanner said.
Before COVID-19, Channing Hall held its own school cup stacking tournament where students competed for trophies.
“We actually had a cup stacking champion come help organize it,” she said. “The kids were so excited. It’s a chance where all kids can be successful and have a wonderful time.”
Tanner teaches students a variety of sports from traditional basketball and track to newer activities in quidditch, and 9 Square. Cricket, folk dancing, ultimate Frisbee, tinikling, hula hooping, Drums Alive, tag and others fill their curriculum.
“I introduced quidditch when I saw a bunch of kids reading Harry Potter,” she said. “There’s a good connection between chasing and accuracy, making a goal on offense and playing defense—I can teach a lot of things from there, and I love seeing them have fun and play.”
9 Square, a game where a ball is hit over a three-by-three structure occupied by nine students, is one where they can easily grab the equipment and begin playing on their own at recess. As a player gets out, another can come in.
“They love it. The kids love competing against the teachers or their friends,” she said.
Another continuous game Tanner has introduced is Pirates of the Caribbean, where students have to sink each other’s “ship.”
“I love continuous games where we can be active the whole time,” she said.
Another PE favorite is their mock-NASCAR races with wiggle cars; they first determine class winners before an overall champion.
“The kids scream for the person from their class, and it’s all very fun,” she said.
Tanner also has taught other skills such as juggling and playing jacks.
“I love to see their confidence grow. I tell them to try their very best and find things they enjoy. I like giving kids a variety so they can experience different things,” she said. “I teach them sportsmanship and how important it is to tell everybody they did a good job.”
Her classes are more than being physically active, she adds.
“I always tell kids what’s good for the body is good for the brain,” Tanner said. “They understand playing improves their judgment, their work ethic, making better choices. I teach mindfulness; I have them lay on the playground and it’s quiet all around. We look at the clouds and listen. I teach them they can take breaks to relieve their different stresses and anxiety.”
Tanner, a former college athlete, began teaching as a PE volunteer at her kids’ school when there wasn’t one. After being a reading specialist at Channing Hall for 10 years, she became the PE specialist five years ago, a position she calls her dream job.
“I love teaching the kids and they inherently love playing,” she said. “We don’t have the time in PE to satisfy all of them, so through these clubs, we can do more whether it’s just so they can get more confident and work on specific skills or just to do more activities that they love.”