Healthy Bodies and Minds
Kelly Newman, '06, physical education teacher at South Grove Intermediate School, is making an impact. Learn more about Kelly and Project 18.
Gym for a new century: Let's have fun
Middle school take a creative approach to fitness in a new generation of gym class
By KAREN ANN CULLOTTA, Special to Tribune Newspapers
For teacher Tammy Brant, witnessing legions of middle school students bored by a steady diet of basketball, floor hockey and volleyball was a clarion call for shaking up her Selma, Ind., physical education classes in a big way.
"It used to be that during PE games the really athletic kids would always have the ball, and the rest of the kids would just stand there and not get any exercise," Brant said. "As PE teachers, we have such an important job, as the kids who are not athletic are the population that is really affected by inactivity and the obesity epidemic."
As the sole physical education teacher at Selma Middle School, Brant is a finalist in the National Association for Sport and Physical Education's middle school PE teacher-of-the-year competition — a distinction earned in part by her determination to transform her classes to meet the needs of adolescent students who are increasingly inactive and overweight.
For example, Brant often kicks off her PE class with a pep talk on healthy eating habits, followed by a twist on the classics, such as three-on-three volleyball games played on mini-courts. This approach ensures that every student has a chance to hit the ball and get involved in the game.
Indeed, step inside today's middle school physical education class and you're likely to observe a raucous game of dodge ball, and perhaps a game of ultra-soft softball, where kids armed with foam bats take a whack at oversize, lightweight rubber balls. Also surfacing in gym class: geocaching, where students carrying mini-GPS units embark upon a treasure hunt, searching for clues as they improve their fitness quotient by walking, biking or in-line skating.
"Middle school is a prime time to expose students to a wide variety of activities that they actually enjoy doing, and can do for life," said Cheryl Richardson, senior program director at the Reston, Va.-based NASPE. "With these new fitness activities, kids who have other talents … have a chance to succeed. It's not all about power and speed, but other personal attributes."
Nonetheless, Richardson warns that funding cuts hitting already beleaguered physical education budgets make it difficult for teachers to develop new programs that often require purchasing equipment. Thus, a teacher's creativity often is the difference between a lackluster PE class, where many students are left standing on the sidelines, and a vibrant program that features activities that raise students' target heart rates and elevate their self-esteem regarding physical activity.
Lucas Buchanan, 11, a student in Brant's 6th-grade class, said he is not involved in team sports outside of school but looks forward to his PE class, in particular the game Ultimate, a mix of football, basketball and soccer that is played with a Frisbee instead of a ball.
"Mrs. Brant makes sure everyone has a chance to play," Buchanan said, "so it's not just the same two people playing for everybody else."
Ms. Tammy Brant
Full Chicago Tribune article
Selma gym teacher has been named best in the Midwest by the National Association
for Sport and Physical Education
By MICHELLE KINSEY
SELMA -- The 17 eighth-graders in the Selma Middle School gym were getting a workout.
Lunges. Biceps curls. Crab walks. Scooter sprints.
In the middle of it all was Tammy Brant -- encouraging them, keeping them moving, even
showing them how it's done.
"It's how I get my workout in for the day," a very fit Brant said during a break between classes.