Physical Education in Lower School
Helios offers a quality physical education program to students as part of our PE curriculum. Spark (Sports, Play, and Active Recreation for Kids) is an “Exemplary Program” of the U.S. Department of Education.
We use the SPARK Physical Education program in all grade bands. SPARK is a unique program designed to help teachers lead activities that are inclusive and highly active, integrate academic and wellness concepts, and are fun for all students. Additionally, instructional units are designed to develop students’ motor, cognitive, and social skills.
With SPARK Physical Education/Physical Activity students will:
- Enjoy and seek out physical activity.
- Develop and maintain acceptable levels of physical fitness.
- Develop a variety of basic movement and manipulative skills so they will experience success and feel comfortable during present and future physical activity pursuits.
- Develop the ability to get along with others in movement environments (e.g., share space and equipment, employ the “golden rule” of competition: be a good sport and demonstrate cooperative behavior).
The goal of camping at Helios is to foster environmental conservation through nature immersion. This directly ties into Helios School’s mission; allowing children to spend time in a natural setting is an opportunity for self-directed exploration and discovery, which is an emotional need of gifted students.
There are also a set of skills that students develop while they camp, including cooperative skills, community and culture building, independence, responsibility, etc. Last but not least, it is an opportunity for bonding between teachers and students. It helps teachers better understand their students, allowing them to serve them in the classroom better.
Our carefully constructed camping curriculum begins in kindergarten with a one-night campout on our campus, and progresses to longer trips further afield. We begin by teaching basic skills such as tent setup, outdoor cooking and cleaning, then build to map reading, plant and animal identification, and basic first aid. We create a safe atmosphere so students can expand their comfort zones and feel empowered to try new things.
The trips often tie into our multidisciplinary Expeditions. One year, at the end of a semester-long study of the Age of Exploration, our first and second graders camped on the beach and imagined they were shipwrecked. That context and imaginative flourish gave them a strong desire to learn wilderness survival skills and to deepen their understanding of the historical era. When students have the opportunity to make connections like this in their areas of study the learning is deep and meaningful.
We relish the time spent learning with our students in the wild. Over the years we’ve seen multiple, complementary benefits:
- Children overcome anxieties as they spend more time outdoors and become comfortable in nature.
- Children develop a greater sense of confidence and self-reliance.
- Students gain a better understanding of and appreciation for the environment.
- Teachers learn even more about their students’ personalities and behaviors.
- Students and teachers grow closer as a class and community due to their shared experiences and reliance upon one another.
Our kids return from their camping experiences more mature and with a sense of accomplishment not gained in a classroom environment.