Lower School P.E. focuses on movement, fun

USJ’s youngest students love to hop, skip, and jump. They also like dancing and walking like an animal. Too young for organized team sports, the children find imaginative, creative play waiting for them in their physical education class.

“They come in excited every day,” said Jenny Pritchett, who teaches P.E. for Jr. Cubs through first grade.

Her class combines age-appropriate fine and gross motor skills, games, and sports with social skills. Her curriculum meets state education standards, but, at USJ, she has the freedom to implement different tools to keep children as young as 2 years old interested in moving around.

She can organize her lesson plans based on what’s most beneficial to the students in her classes, not the pre-planned units of study most curriculums offer. “Since we are a private school, we have a special opportunity to go beyond and be more creative,” she said.

Pritchett incorporates lessons focused on the motor capabilities of her students. Jr. Cubs, Cubs, and Jr. Kindergarten students practice rhythm exercises, such as dancing, or they learn to skip and jump with two feet. The key is keeping them attentive.

“It’s very, very simplified,” Pritchett said. “A lot of what we do ends up being a byproduct of play.”

She also develops a cross-curriculum plan for students that reinforces what they’re learning in the classroom. For example, when Cubs are working on numbers, Pritchett’s lesson will have them count the number of times they can jump a rope. For older students, she’ll have them count by fives or tens. She’ll also create a game where students have to recognize colors to be successful.

“The kids may not even realize that they’re reinforcing classroom concepts because it is disguised as a fun game,” Pritchett said.

At top of page, Jr. Cubs are all ears when Miss Jenny talks. Above, Jenny Pritchett helps Kyryn Hall develop balancing skills.
Students typically get a few minutes to run around and act silly to burn off some excitement at the beginning of the class so they can focus on the lesson, Pritchett said. But they also get a short explanation of the exercise and how it relates to fitness.

Kindergartners and first graders are introduced to more advanced team activities, and Pritchett follows USJ’s sports calendar so her students can learn the basics of the games they watch older students play. “It’s amazing what the kids pick up on by watching the sporting events and connecting the fundamental aspects in gym.”

But not everything is sports-related. Pritchett’s goal is to promote health and wellness and lay the foundation for her students to develop an interest in physical education.

Pritchett, who is in her fifth year at USJ, said she enjoys finding new ways to keep her students engaged while preparing them for a lifetime of physical activity. “To me, it’s the best career in the world — to get to physically see kids accomplish milestones in movement forms and learn to be socially responsible and safe while having fun. I’m always excited. That is one reason I love doing what I do.”