MOUNT VERNON — Schools in the area are taking an extra step to promote physical activities through intramural sport programs. Organizers say the program provides students from the local elementary schools, predominately fourth- and fifth-graders in the same school, a fun, friendly and educational environment in which to play.
At Pleasant Street Elementary School, soccer and basketball are offered during the fall and winter season, and is available to fourth- and fifth-graders.
“The key is we try to make it available to students,” said Brock Evans, physical education teacher at Pleasant Street. “We have a regular season that usually consists of each classroom. We post the schedule; it’s a round-robin schedule, everybody plays everybody twice. Then we take the best records and have them play each other in a champion match, and determine who is the overall champion.”
Evans referees and coaches alongside Dirk Parker, a student and family advocate.
“We try to make it equal by not allowing kids that are more developed to play more than kids who may not be as developed,” said Parker. “But our theory, especially here at Pleasant Street, is if we can keep the kids happy at recess, or at least a big block of them, our recesses tend to go a lot better and so does the rest of the school day.”
A real importance, he said, is placed on recess for its physical activity as well as its influence on academic behavior.
“Kids love recess. I don’t think people know how important recess is in a school day,” said Parker. “Children who have trouble writing, ask about what they did at recess. Ask them to write about who they played with, what the game was, what are the rules of the game, and all of a sudden they are wanting to write. This also builds confidence in students, and they have a fun time.”
Proponents say the program encourages friendly sportsmanship, and teaches teamwork, social skills and healthy competition among players.
Intramural games take place during recess, and physical education class lessons often coincide with the program so each student has the opportunity to learn the sport.
“We offer it during school because oftentimes one of the biggest hindrances is getting the child there. The opportunity is there, but it may be mom or dad have difficulty getting kids there,” said Evans.
Recess offers the best environment and even gets students who are not playing to participate.
“On game days there are those that chant, cheer and watch from the sidelines, so it ends up taking 100 to 125 kids off the playgrounds. And this helps with playground management,” said Parker.
The intramural program at East Elementary is an after-school program that takes place during March until the end of May, also for fourth- and fifth-graders.
“It’s optional and students can sign up for it. Every two weeks we switch activities we’re doing. This year we did dodge ball — because that’s their favorite — ultimate Frisbee, flag football, basketball, and in the past we’ve done soccer and rope climbing,” said Hillary Hess, physical education teacher at East and Wiggin Street elementary schools.
The same sports are available to students at Wiggin Street during the lunch period.
“At Wiggin Street, the program is 45 minutes. The students that sign up, I intermix the teams, it’s coed, and we just play. All these activities I’ve already taught in class so I don’t have to teach anything. This is just an opportunity for the kids to get more exercise and build community within our school,” said Hess. “The program has been really successful.”
On average, about 60 students participate; about 80 students are invited to participate.
“Intramurals are very popular and there are programs out there like this for students, especially on the college level. And I really want the kids to know about the programs because they can have so much fun doing it,” said Hess.
The program is now in its third year.
“They just love it. My first year doing it I didn’t really know how it would go. I just thought to give it a shot, but it has ended up being a huge hit and has stayed that way,” said Hess. “I know the parents appreciate it. I’ve gotten a lot of parent feedback, they just think it’s great. The kids have something to do, they don’t have to pay for it. And it gives the kids a opportunity to have fun and get extra physical activity.”
Next year she hopes to have badminton available.