More than a dozen young children zipped around at the center of Turner Gymnasium one recent morning, each one trying to snatch colored bean bags from the floor without getting caught by the “Angry Chef.”
Their laughter, smiles, and energy were infectious.
After a few minutes, the University of Lynchburg students leading the exercise corralled the kids into a line and introduced two new activities. One group went on to practice throwing and catching beach balls. Another learned how to throw a ball — pretending it was an apple — at a target on the wall.
That’s what most Thursday mornings have been like in Professor Enza Steele’s Physical Education Methods class this semester. Her students have led many students from local Head Start programs through games designed to get the kids moving: running beneath parachutes, jumping over obstacles, and dashing away from other kids or LC students pretending to be “alligators.”
Professor Steele’s service learning classes have worked with local Head Start students for about seven years now. The goal is to give Lynchburg students experience with teaching children while helping young children develop important motor skills. “They need to be efficient movers,” Steele said. “Their skills can be transferred to any activity, any sport.”
Throughout the semester, Steele’s students learn about different ways of leading kids through physical activities using games and exercise. They visit PE classrooms in the Lynchburg region, but they also prepare their own lesson plans for kids who come to campus.
“I love working with kids,” said Kennedy Jakubek, a soccer player and health and physical education major. “I’d rather be in a classroom or a gym playing with kids all day than sitting at a desk doing computer work.”
Physical education helps children develop lifelong habits that improve their health, Kennedy said. “If you’re active in childhood, you become more active as an adult,” she said. Meanwhile, engaging in physical activity as part of a fun game in a class takes some of the stress out of the situation. “You don’t have to worry about scoring a goal.”
Alex Wilson, a student who recently transferred to Lynchburg from Central Virginia Community College, enjoyed seeing the children enjoy the activities while getting first-hand teaching experience. “The kids have fun and get to be active,” he said. “And we get to learn what we’re expected to do when we graduate and move on in our careers.”
Throughout the semester, Alex learned how to speak up more so he could help the children learn and improve. “I’ve learned that it might be difficult, but it’s worth it,” he said.