Climbing to Enrich the Curriculum by Betty Ann Fish

Climbing to Enrich the Curriculum by Betty Ann Fish

As a physical education teacher, I always try to find a way to partner with classroom teachers. How can I enrich the curriculum they are teaching when students are in the gym? How can what I am teaching in physical education be supported by the classroom teachers? The horizontal rock wall at my school was the perfect place.

At Springside Chestnut Hill Academy students in Pre-K through 8th grade are in single-sex classes. The kindergarten girls study “Brave Smart Girls,” in their classroom. Working alongside the teachers we designed a unit incorporating the horizontal rock wall. As the students studied brave smart girls in the classroom, they would journey to the rock wall and be brave smart girls on the rock wall. 

After learning the basic climbing and safety rules for the rock wall on day one, each student was able to climb on the wall and determine their initial comfort level. Some students just wanted to step up and come right down and others ventured a bit more and moved horizontally. At the end of the class students were asked, “Who was nervous to go on the rock wall?” and “Who thought they could not do it?” Many hands were raised. Each student then paused and reflected, some students realized that at first, they did not want a turn but through the encouragement of their classmates, they stepped up to the wall. Once on the wall, even if they were nervous, they could move horizontally to the side. They were indeed “brave smart girls.” This lesson taught them how to take a risk, overcome a fear, support a classmate, and be resilient.

Back in the classroom, the teachers had an activity for them to complete. On a piece of paper, there was a photo of each student climbing the wall and then the student wrote how or what made them a brave smart girl. This was a wonderful example of how PE and classroom teachers can work together to enrich what their students are learning in both settings.

About the Author

Betty Ann Fish is the Chair of the Physical Education Department at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy in Philadelphia and has been involved in education for 38 years. Her passion for physical activity is what motivates her to connect what is happening in the classroom with physical education. Betty Ann was the elementary PE teacher of the year for Pennsylvania in 2013, the Eastern District Elementary Physical Education Teacher of the Year for 2015 and SHAPE America National Elementary Physical Education Teacher of the Year for 2015. Betty Ann is an OPEN National Trainer. She is a Google Certified Innovator, Seesaw Certified Educator, Apple Teacher and lifelong learner. Betty Ann has presented at the state, district, regional, national and international level on physical education, technology and academic integration.

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