Physical education at The School in Rose Valley is considered an essential element of the curriculum. It encompasses the promotion of children’s physical development and health, and their participation in and enjoyment of physical activity and play. Sports class is just one element of the physical education program.
All SRV teachers work on children’s physical development, from building fine motor skills in mathematics and art, to practicing listening skills in reading and music. All of the teachers also promote the development of healthy attitudes and habits, and relate their curriculum, when appropriate, to health concepts such as nutrition and the importance of rest. So physical education occurs in every classroom in the school.
Key to our approach to encouraging children’s participation in and enjoyment of physical activity is the provision of plenty of time and space for play. Children at SRV have multiple opportunities to play every day. Unstructured indoor choice times in the classrooms and in some of the special subject classes allow the children to pursue personal interests, practice skills and engage in activities that do not necessarily have an end in sight – they may just be fun. During outdoor recess times, that usually are held at least twice a day, children play freely. And at SRV, bad weather does not prevent children from playing outside. They stomp in puddles and make mud pies in the rain, and sled and have snowball fights in winter. The primary “classroom” of the physical education program, then, is the campus.
The preschool playground is a spacious, partially enclosed area outside of the preschool classroom doors. There is a large sandbox stocked with plenty of shovels, buckets and vehicles for digging, building and social play. A playhouse invites imaginative play, from “house” to ice cream store.
There are several climbing structures, swings and slides to provide plenty of challenges for strengthening muscles and coordination. A looping paved path makes it possible to ride tricycles and scooters and to pull wagons for invigorating play and exercise.
Older children have more freedom to play around the larger playgrounds. Here, too, are climbing structures, swings, slides and sand boxes for all kinds of active and building play. There are also play houses and structures for the older children. The largest, a ship called the “Apple Core,” was designed and built primarily by students. Don’t be surprised if you see a fairy house or two on campus; they often magically appear at the edges of gardens and the bases of trees.
An SRV childhood treasure is the campus woods. The SRV woods are the site of on-going chasing and fantasy play. Children also build “forts” in the woods, usually in fluid social groups, interacting in complex ways as they construct, share resources, negotiate relationships and work out conflicts. Children all always supervised by adults when outdoors. However, playing in the woods, sometimes around the corner or just out of sight of the adults, gives children the privilege of a small degree of freedom in which to play and behave with others appropriately – or not. Much of the hard work of developing social skills, independence and responsibility occurs in this arena as children problem solve, make mistakes, and try again.
Free play during recesses and organized games during Sports classes may be held on the school blacktop. Here children play basketball, four-square, and other ball games requiring a hard surface. The blacktop is also the central location for jumping rope, swirling hula hoops and sidewalk chalk play.
The campus has a playing field that is large enough for forty or fifty children to play capture the flag during Sports or recess. Other favorite SRV field games include a variation of team handball called “touchball,” soccer, and chase and tag games such as “sharks and minnows.” The school also has a small baseball diamond and backstop. Each spring the children haul out the baseball equipment and play endless child-run games of baseball and wiffle ball. Another favorite SRV diamond game all year round is “run the bases.”
Finally, Sports classes are sometimes held indoors in the gym. The space is large enough for a shortened full-court basketball game, and for children to play volleyball. There are mats for tumbling. The gym also has a climbing wall at one end on which children of all ages may practice traversing using hand- and footholds of varying difficulties. The gym is also the site of great free play and popular ball and tag games.