This is a follow up to my (Feb. 6, 2017) “50 Million Strong by 2029 –It Starts with Us!” essay. In that essay, I explained that I had connected a class of Pre-K Head Start students with twelve high school ‘PE Buddies’ in a special 50 Million Strong project – ‘Play, Learn, Grow’. At that time, we were only a few weeks into our adventure together but had already received many positive comments.
The project ran on Tuesday mornings and into lunch time. These were green shirt days and moments of huge anticipation where young Pre-K students met and spent time with older PE Buddies. As a result, over the course of this school year, we have become ‘Stronger Together.’
The ‘Play, Learn, Grow’ program was designed so each high school volunteer had one to two Pre K children with whom they were paired (Buddies). High school students helped to facilitate instructional PE lessons involving fundamental skills, integrated curriculum, inclusion, adherence to the school PBIS goals and just plain having fun during physical activity. Special bonds developed between all and these turned routine skill acquisition into magical experiences.
Besides participating in class activities, the group celebrated with a healthy lunch together. Everyone participated including a school district food service member who helped the group to create a My Plate luncheon of their choosing. During semester 2, high school volunteers were released from their classes to accompany the Pre-K’s on a field trip to the local YMCA Gymnastic Center. Oh, what fun!
We have now completed our 50 Million Strong project for this year, spending some time on our playground in physical activity, but before we ended several underclass high school students requested, “Can we do this again next year?”
All participants received certificates of participation, green T shirts (sponsored by the local hospital), books from the county Health & Human Services during the luncheon on trying new foods, and letters of recommendation were put in high school guidance files. The Pre- K’s made a special piece of artwork that they gave to their ‘Buddies” on our last day.
As the program facilitator, I asked the high schoolers to complete a short program survey/evaluation. I received the following three narratives to the question –
‘Write a short paragraph about your participation: likes/dislikes, what you learned / if anything; any comments you want to make. Thank you.’
Student #1 (underclass person who has expressed some interest in teaching):
“My participation was okay with this project. At first I did not talk as much as I would hope that I would do but the project was super fun. Some things I liked were how the little kids would say ‘hi’ to the janitor when seeing him and how super friendly the kids were to all of us older kids who they did not know at first. A thing I didn’t like was that it was only on Tuesdays. I wish we could have come more often. I learned from the project how I was able to handle little kids, and more about how to work with them, but I need more work with communicating with kids. The project was super fun and I would participate again if asked.
Student #2 (underclass person who also wants to teach as a career & currently has a job at our YMCA):
“The 50 Million Strong project was a great experience for me. I really enjoyed getting to know my two Buddies and being able to help them during class. I learned how kids respond to instructions and different ways to explain things. I will remember making references to animals as it helped the kids move better. If this program were offered next year, I would definitely do it again. The experience was fantastic and I would like to learn even more!”
Student #3 (senior):
“Coming to the ELC is my favorite part of my Tuesday schedule. It was really nice to work with children this age and see them improve on basic athletic fundamentals. I loved meeting with the same ‘little Buddies’ because it was easy to connect. I saw my one little boy open up to me a little more every week. This program is awesome for both high schooler and preschooler.”
With help from colleagues, community partners, and volunteers such as these high school students, we as Physical Educators are ‘Stronger Together’ and can have a positive impact upon improving PE/H literacy and the development of healthy lifestyles for 50 million schoolchildren by 2019. As your school year winds down I challenge you to ask yourself “What project can I create this summer or in the new school year to support the vision of 50 Million Strong by 2029, and get all of my students more physically active and healthy?”