“We’re going to play Welcome to the Jungle today!” said Physical Education teacher and Coach Nick DePaola, facing a group of eager Class 2 students. “We played this in the beginning of the year, do you remember?” He opened his arms to direct the students view to the seven stations set up across the gym.
He started with a brief reminder of each station as a talented volunteer demonstrated. Each station incorporated a physical activity that is meant to resemble a type of animal. At the first station, for example, an enthusiastic student bounced through a game of hopscotch, acting as a frog hopping across lily pads. Once each station was explained, the students sprinted to a designated spot, clearly ready to begin the fun lesson. Co-teacher and coach Callie Jensen flipped on the music and “Eye of the Tiger” began flooding out of the speakers.
The gym instantly burst with activity as the students ran and played. Next to the bouncing frogs was the balancing station, where the “flamingos” must balance on one leg, bend down and scoop up “shrimp” with one hand then lift it high over their heads. The following station included a cluster of hurdles. Galloping “horses” leapt over them, laughing as they tried to jump over many at a time.
Suddenly the music stopped and all activities came to a halt. “Okay, now you must balance on one foot and hop to your next station!” Ms. Jensen called out. The giggling girls did as they were told, bouncing through the gym. Smash Mouth’s “All Star” began playing, signaling stations to commence again.
In the center of the gym, students were on all fours, choosing to either crab walk or bear crawl from one side of their rectangle to the other. Continuing past them, the kangaroo station was in full swing. Students jumped feet first through a hula-hoop and swung it up over their heads, attempting to do the motion continuously.
“Put your right hand over your chest. Are you breathing fast or slow?” asked Mr. DePaola as the music stopped briefly for the next station switch. He was met with a loud cry of “Fast!!” Clearly the students were exerting plenty of energy through these entertaining games. “Okay, feet shoulder width apart, now jump to your next station!” he said, before the first verse of “Who Let the Dogs Out” started up.
The final two stations allowed students to act as fish and cheetahs. Students at the fish station grabbed a colorful scooter and lay on their stomachs to “swim” through their section of the gym. Against the back wall, they acted as speedy cheetahs. Lining up at the cones, they slowly counted down before taking off, sprinting as fast as they could to the cones on the opposite side.
What the students may not have realized was that through this enjoyable jungle game, they were working on skills such as speed, strength and balance. “It’s a great way to encompass many aspects of fitness and have fun,” shared Mr. DePaola. Through tired breaths, the students gathered in a circle in the middle of the gym. “If you’re hot and tired that means you were working hard!” Ms. Jensen said.
After a quick water break, the students geared up to begin their next activity. Set up in each corner of the gym were “igloos” and “snowmen,” made up of hula-hoops, pins and volleyballs. “These are your Olafs, you have to protect them,” said Mr. DePaola who was met with excited gasps and cheers.
Thus commenced a thrilling “snowball fight,” as the melody of “Do You Wanna Build A Snowman?” from Disney’s Frozen sounded throughout the room. Each team worked tirelessly to knock down their opponents’ winter themed objects while simultaneously guarding their own.
Soon the clock signaled that was time to wrap up the game, as all good things come to an end. Some of the students dropped to the floor, heaving exaggerated breaths while others let out sighs, wishing they had more time to play. This high-energy class certainly helped demonstrate just how fun fitness can be!