Photo by Heather Middleton
By Curt Yeomans
"One Fish. Two Fish. Red Fish. Blue Fish."
"Hop on Pop."
"The Cat in the Hat."
Those are all books by children's author Theodor "Dr. Seuss" Geisel. Those are also names of Dr. Seuss-themed physical fitness activities students at Morrow Elementary School are doing this week, and next week, as part of their physical education classes.
"OK guys, we're doing our fitness stations today, but we're going to tie it back to Dr. Seuss," Teresa Wheeler, the school's physical education teacher told a class of third-graders, upon their arrival in the school gymnasium.
While Clayton County Public Schools is considering cutting back on the number of elementary school physical education teachers it has through budget cuts, Wheeler said the tying in of "Dr. Seuss" books to fitness activities shows how academics comes into the physical education classroom.
She said she uses spelling and memory games as rewards for her students when they do well in her class. She used the scientific properties involving magnets and metal in one of her "Dr. Seuss"-themed fitness stations.
She also said students, in any physical education class, have to learn problem-solving and team work skills, through the physical fitness activities they do.
"It's so much far beyond dodgeball, and throwing out the ball now," Wheeler said. "Now, it's momentum and force, math and geography. They are learning about cooperation, and how they need to work as a team to solve problems."
In the particular case of the "Dr. Seuss" fitness stations, Wheeler said she is highlighting literature through physical fitness, which she said is a concept other physical education teachers in the county also use "Dr. Seuss" books for. There are other subjects, as well, but the heavy focus is on literacy.
"So, every [fitness] station is a 'Dr. Seuss' book, and we're doing this because March is Read Across America month [which is focused around the birthday of 'Dr. Seuss']," Wheeler said, before pointing out one female student who decided to pick, and begin reading a copy of "The Cat in the Hat" at a basketball station.
"See, she's decided she wants to read the book at that station," Wheeler added. "If she decides she likes that book because of my class, then that's a bonus for somebody else's class."
Other academic subjects, such as math and science, are introduced through activities, such as the aforementioned activity involving magnets, where students go fishing (tying it to "One Fish. Two Fish. Red Fish. Blue Fish.). The pupils have magnets on the ends of their fishing rods. They have to pick up paper fish with paper clips on them. The fish has the name of physical fitness activities that the students then have to do.
Another activity had students making geometric shapes out of jump ropes (the "Dr. Seuss" book "The Shape of Me and Other Stuff"), figuring out how to properly throw weighted rings so they land around an object ("If I Ran the Circus"), and how to keep their balance ("The King's Stilts").
"They're really fun, especially 'The Cat In The Hat Comes Back' [where students have to throw a basketball over their back, and through a basket]," said second-grader Cayla Smith, 8. "I see the books in the activities. The first time you play them [the fitness stations], it's fun and exciting, but the next time you play it, it feels like you're reading the book."
Wheeler said another reason why she incorporates the other academic subjects in her class is to help students see learning and becoming physically fit as something that is fun to do. "They don't realize they are exercising, learning and having fun all at the same time," she said.
With the fitness, in particular, she said it will become important next year, when the state begins mandating students take and pass a physical fitness test.