Physical education and outreach

I try to leave my cubicle as often as possible. I work in the student union. I work out at the gym every(ish) day. Not because I’m so motivated, but because it’s a great place to do outreach with folks we usually don’t partner with in the library: physical and sport science faculty, athletes, coaches and students more comfortable shooting hoops than searching databases. (I mean, really, once someone has seen you naked in the locker room or doing squat thrusts while singing Katy Perry out loud, how can they not ask you for research assistance?)

This week I ran into a sport science professor at the gym and asked what her classes were up to. She mentioned she hoped to get her class of future PE teachers excited about health by having them find a book, any book and report back on it relating to health. We chatted about her frustration with getting her students to the library and using sources to supplement their enthusiasm for team sports. I asked what her final project for them was and she mentioned a lesson plan to teach on an aspect of health.

Collaboration, team work, partnerships, group work: this is what most jobs involve now. I suggested to her that perhaps she let them read YA novels dealing with health issues or books on health for the age group they might work with. The idea being that they would either write a lesson plan in which they pitch another teacher (science, English, history, home ec) cross-collaboration or find a book their students would actually want to read to include in their lesson plan. Why not see if the English teacher is willing to have them read a book dealing with mental health that can be used in both classes? Chris Crutcher writes tons of books a phys ed teacher and psychology teacher could collaborate around, for example.

Books and research resources are often not found in phys ed classes. At best, students write 2-3 page papers on things like “volleyball” or “badminton.” The teacher is stuck reading half-baked papers on the history and benefits of said activity. Why not dig deeper, be more innovative, and tap into more relevant aspects of health?

I find the approach os asking, so what are your students doing in class is helpful. It’s more telling than me asking them what I can help with. Often the answer is, “oh nothing” or “oh, come in and show them the databases.” But a conversation about goals and outcomes (w/out using those words) gives me more to work with. And it gets them “in the mood” for suggestions! By tapping into the professor’s frustrations, I had a place to work from. Luckily, she is willing to experiment in this case. But lesson learned: get out there, ask the right questions and have some ideas ready. (Easy schmeasy, right?)



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