An Innovative Collaboration in Class 6 P.E.

An Innovative Collaboration in Class 6 P.E.

One recent morning, as a section of Class 6 geared up to begin P.E., two clues hinted that this was not a typical lesson: one, the students wore their uniforms instead of gym clothes; and two, they weren’t in one of the gyms but around tables in the Hayot Center for Innovation (HCI).

“What are we doing here today?” asked HCI Director Jonathan Olivera as Physical Education Teacher Gregory Pinto stood next to him. After a quick pause, he said, “We’re building miniature-golf obstacle courses!” (The other Class 6 P.E. sections participated at different times.)

The exciting announcement brought smiles of anticipation to the girls’ faces. Mr. Pinto explained that they had just two periods to conceptualize and construct their courses, setting the class into energetic motion. “Be creative and have fun,” he added.

This design challenge represented the kind of inspiring interdisciplinary collaboration the HCI beautifully cultivates. After Dr. Olivera introduced the space’s boundless potential during a series of faculty workshops, “we thought it would be great to use the HCI for P.E.,” Mr. Pinto said.

The students were tasked with creating whatever type of mini-golf obstacle course they wanted, drawing on their prior STEAM knowledge – and, likely, their familiarity with this popular recreational activity – to ensure a functional and eye-catching finished product.

At their disposal was everything the HCI has to offer: a multitude of materials, tools and equipment stored on shelves and in the cubbies that line the perimeter of the large room. “You can also saw with the handsaws, and if you want to print on the 3-D printer, I’ll show you how,” said Dr. Olivera.

After breaking into small groups, the students began to strategize. They sketched in pencil and searched for decorative visuals on their laptops. Their enthusiasm and imagination were on vivid display with many voices contributing to the planning session.

“I have an idea!” one student breathlessly declared to her teammates. “We should do a bridge with water and a crocodile!” Others shared equally inventive suggestions.

Next, armed with their basic blueprints, the students divided and conquered. Some dragged flattened oversize boxes to their work areas while other students collected items like pipe cleaners, LED lights and rolls of colorful tape. One team even produced an inflated balloon.

Soon, all sorts of productive noises filled the HCI as the obstacle courses began to take shape. Above animated chatter and the occasional shriek of delight, small knives audibly carved the cardboard into various shapes and sizes (Dr. Olivera noted that the Middle Schoolers used serrated “Canary cutters” to safely accomplish jobs like this).

Elsewhere, students were busy folding smaller pieces of cardboard into triangles, tracing circles on thin sheets of wood to be cut out with one of the HCI’s laser cutters, and carefully securing their structures with hot glue.

As this fast-moving class continued, the students worked together to fashion cardboard foundations and to enhance the interiors with features like tunnels, ramps and, of course, an assortment of holes. Dr. Olivera checked in with each team to answer questions and help them problem-solve. Mr. Pinto circulated as well and even handed out golf balls so the students could test-drive their courses.

With just a few minutes left in this captivating class, the students finished up and stored their works-in-progress for the final build day. Then, on sunny April 17, all of Class 6 had the opportunity to demonstrate their elaborate and unique creations at a special showcase on Chapin’s rooftop turf. Based on the success of this experimental endeavor, perhaps the miniature-golf obstacle course project will become a thrilling new component of the P.E. curriculum.