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SPARKing a Connection with Parents through Physical Education

Are you interested in connecting your Physical Education classes with your community? SPARK it up by inviting family members to their child’s class and have them witness firsthand what it is all about inside your gym. Physical Education looks a lot different than it did when the parents of our students went to school, and it is time for them to PARTICIPATE in the difference!

When we think of family involvement in schools, we think Math/Science/Language Arts events where family members engage in academic activities. I wanted family members to get involved in their child’s health and wellness. Not sure on how to do that, I stumbled across an idea on the internet of bringing parents to PE day. Well, as you are all well aware, we have more than “parents” raising our students. Therefore, I decided upon “Bring your Family to PE Week”.

We actually had this event twice last year, once in October and again in March. To get the word out, I sent a note home detailing the event and an RSVP slip for them to sign up, that way I had an idea of how many participants to expect. In my note, I stressed that this was not an “observe the teacher” event, I expected them to participate with their child. Out of the 120 adults that attended in the Fall, only 1 stood by the wall. Everyone participated in the Spring with similar numbers.

Your sign-in procedures for visitors to your school will dictate how easy the process will go. We use Raptor, therefore all visitors had to have their ID scanned prior to entering. If they already had it scanned they could simply sign-in through our cafeteria, which is in close proximity to the gym. I also had a regular sign-in sheet in the gym to get a count of participants.

When it came to planning the event, I focused on activities that had already been taught to the students. I thought it would be easier than trying to teach a brand new concept while the students were distracted by visitors.  

For the younger students, we included nutrition into the lesson, Nutrition Monopoly inspired by Mike Ginicola (@PhysEdDepot) and created by Jimmy Grasanno (@ILESPhysEd). I wanted the parents to see the importance of talking about healthy food choices with their kids, while at the same time participating in an engaging activity. We also did Hungry Hippos where they had to push each other on scooter boards to retrieve dice from the center of the gym. Students then had to roll their dice and write the numbers down to get them sum of the 2 numbers.

For my older students we focused on team building and fitness activities. Hula Huts by J.D. Hughes (@PE2themax) were a great way for the students to teach the adults something. The students had to describe, without touching the hoops, how to build the huts to their family members. It was quite amusing! After figuring out how to build them, they were led through a series of challenges involving the hula huts. It was neat watching the students lead their family members. For the fitness portion we did 2 activities; Alphabet Fitness, spelling FAMILY through exercise, with each letter representing an exercise; and we did some Rock, Paper, Scissors activities.

I ran the class as if the adults were not there. It was easier for me to just see them as additional students, rather than talking about what we were doing. When they arrived in the gym, I had them sit on the floor with their kids while I gave instructions, this made them feel included in the class. At the end of class I had handouts for family members to take that covered nutrition topics such as making a weekly meal plan, creating a recipe, etc. I wanted them to have something to take away from the event.  

It may seem like a daunting task at first, but it is so worth it. Pre-teaching the students the activities was beneficial in the Fall, however in the Spring I got brave and taught the Nutrition Monopoly which was new, even to me! I am looking forward to 2 more events this year.  

Inviting visitors to the school during the school day is a big ask. We always do our best to protect instructional time, and we were fairly successful in doing so. My administration was very supportive of the events and the staff in the office were top notch in getting our special guests signed in each day.

I encourage you to pursue this idea. Getting our families involved in what we teach will benefit us and the children we teach. They need to see firsthand all the wonderful things that happen in gyms all over the country and to be a part of their child’s learning. It doesn’t have to be in September, as suggested by Active Schools, it just has to happen. And you are the ONE that can make it happen!

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