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The Grand Old Games

Howard J. Lamade Stadium Oh the sounds of summer…The crack of the bat (or ping if you’re talking about Little League). The pop of a ball being caught in the pocket of a leathery glove. The swishing sound of feet gliding across orange clay. These are sounds I grew up with for 15 years. My true formative years. Memories that to this day I can remember very vividly.

How many of you remember going out and “playing catch” with your dad? Or kicking around that soccer ball with your brother or sister in the backyard? Better yet, how many of you played whiffle ball or cup ball with your friends at a park, on the street or even in your swimming pool?

I for one can say yes to all of the above. I so cherished the time I was able to spend time with dad to play catch in the side yard. He would get all gussied up in the catchers gear that we had as part of my Little League team. As I got older, the more equipment he seemed to put on. By the time I was in the Senior Division (14-15 year old) in Little League he was in full catching equipment and double batting gloves under the catcher’s mitt. I’ve even had the true cool experience to play softball as a 19 year old with my dad and grandfather on the same team for two seasons. Nothing cooler than having 3 generations of Turners on the same field at the same time. We get to do that occasionally for golf, but the frequency is alot less now that my Grandfather’s Parkinson’s is really prohibitive these days.

The point is, I’ve been blessed with the fortunes of living a very active youth (we won’t mention how its gone downhill from graduation now will we?) The question is, where did this love of playing come from? Where was the spark? Sure, my parents encouraged me to play Little League. Heck, my dad was my coach from my 6 y/o Tee Ball first team, all the way to my 15 y/o Senior Division Team.

No matter what activity it is, the ability to succeed at these activities requires 2 things. Repetition and Practice. The two go together. How often do you see a big league ball player hitting in the batting cages? Pretty often I’m sure. I know when I was playing ball, I practice everyday. The routine is still etched in my head. We did infield/outfield fungo drills, followed by baserunning drills, then hitting practice (cage or game type situations or live bp) finished up with cardio/strength training exercises.

Again, I had the luxury of being able to practice extra to hone my skills. But where were the primary skills taught? Where are these primary skills taught today? What individuals are in charge of teaching our young children these life skills of being active and learning through sport and play? Those physical educators that you see coming and going with the nice sun tan, floppy hat and the sun glasses hanging either from their neck or sitting on their cap. I have a very soft spot in my heart for PE teachers. Little known secret, my initial teaching certificate is in physical education from the University of Central Florida. I’ve had to deal with for years being told that I took the ‘easy’ route to becoming an educator. “PFFFT”, I tell them. I won’t get into the ins and outs of what a physical education major program looks like at the college level. You can do your own research on that.

Back to the kids though and their PE curriculum…

I’ve shared at length my desire to see more gaming in the educational setting. The same can be said for the physical education curriculum for an elementary age child. We lived by a motto/creed at UCF. “Monkey See Monkey Do, Children Learn the Best as they are Doing.” The goal of any PE curriculum is to have the children actively engaged at ALL times. Movement, movement, movement. Active, active, active. Two things occur when this sort of engagement is not occurring: there is no retention of the activity that is being learned and there is a HIGH probability that the children will begin to misbehave.

Does this result sound vaguely familiar? All to often I’ve walked into classrooms where students are proverbially ‘bouncing off the wall’. It is not in my place to tell these teachers how to do their job. However, it is well within my role as a technology integration specialist to offer suggestions for engaging students. Why then do we not see as many brick and mortar classrooms being run similarly to those out on the PE fields?

My mind is swirling now that it is 2 am in the morning. I’ve been churning this topic in my head since I returned back from New York last week. I think it’s high time for me to hit the sack and return to this on Saturday when I return home.

Seeking the Wisdom of the Ages…

Tom.

photo courtesy of: jimmywayne22, “Howard J. Lamade Stadium.” Flickr. 27 July 2008. 1 Aug 2008 <http://www.flickr.com/photos/61278305@N00/2706681401/>.

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3 Responses to “The Grand Old Games”

  1.   By Jose Rodriguez on Aug 1, 2008 | Reply

    Your thoughts remind me of growing up with baseball as part of my life. I to did get a chance to play ball with my cousins and dad. Now… to the P.E. question. After 12 years as an elementary school teacher I have done little to none in formal Physical Education until this summer. Our theme this year was the Beijing Olympics. We trained for our own Olympics. Also once a week we did indoor physical movement games. Now I think I have a better idea about how to incorporate physical movement into my curriculum. and even though it’s only 11:30pm out here on the west coast, I better hit the sack too. It’s our last day of summer school. I’ll even do some indoor P.E. games tomorrow. :-)

  2.   By tnturner on Aug 1, 2008 | Reply

    Jose. Thank you for your comments. I plan on completing my thoughts regarding this topic in a post later this weekend. I just felt that if I didn’t cut it off when I did I would merely have been babbling like a baboon at 2am.

    Awesome on incorporating physical movement into your classrooms, unfortunately, the move has gone away from more formal PE classes and having classroom teachers as a primary source of physical activity, which is such a shame (holy huge run on sentence batman!)

  3.   By Debby on Aug 2, 2008 | Reply

    Humm, what comes to my mind is….are PE classes really physically engaged? I work in a high school and in most decent weather, I go out during my lunch time and try to get in a mile of walking.

    What I see as I walk to the track is: a class playing softball. Some are playing, but many are sitting on the bench. A class is playing tennis. Some are playing, many are waiting their turn at a court. I get to the track. At least there most of the class is out running or walking the track, though some are so lackadaisical they are in danger of being lapped by this old lady.

    With a 42 minute period, with 10 minutes at the front and back of each period to change and time to get out to the fields, PE classes seem to have little time for students to actually get physically active.

    Per your analogy, I actually find technology to have the potential to get every student engaged and to have them engaged at their level, more than a PE class. But like any tool…it is just a tool. Without a good teacher wielding the tool, technology will fall on its face.

    The teacher is the key. You just have to sell the faculty on the value of these tools and have them engaged enough to actually put in the time to learn to use that technology properly. Having a class go to a website and have them fill in the blanks on a worksheet, where the answers fall into their laps, is not really teaching students how to utilize technology, even though the teacher can now check it off on his/her lesson plan.

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