MS All Star 2010

Laura Dickson

Teaching Philosophy, Program and Activities

Physical Education Journey

Physical Education was never a career that I dreamed of pursuing. Who wanted to be a P.E. teacher?  Dodgeball, basketball, and sports just didn’t interest me. I wasn’t a “jock.” However,I was aware of the benefits of health and fitness and became a member of the YMCA in my ninth grade year of high school.  I loved the fact that I could work out on my own time and control what I wanted to do for my own fitness level.  I never dreamed this would lead to a career in physical education.

I graduated from UNC Charlotte with a degree in Health Fitness and the hopes of becoming a physical therapist.  Life took me in many different directions and eventually away from my initial dream of physical therapy.  I spent a couple of years working as a personal trainer at Gold’s Gym and enjoyed sharing my love of health and fitness with many who were searching for a better quality of life.  However, working in the gym business wasn’t very fulfilling and I felt inspired to do more.

I was led into the field of education and became a substitute teacher in a high school and just happened to be walking by the gym and saw half of the students sitting on the bleachers.  I was floored, but I had found my new path in life.  I received my teaching certificate in Physical Education and landed my first job at O.P. Earle Elementary.

My first year at O.P. Earle was full of trials and tribulations.  I was following in the footsteps of a thirty year veteran within a small community and I was bringing new ideas and a different perspective to physical education.  I wanted my physical education classes to be different than “old school” classes.  Developing a love for fitness, fun, and developmental appropriate practices were my top priorities for my students and I struggled every step of the way to find my niche and flow within my first year at O.P. Earle Elementary School.  As I developed strong relationships with fellow teachers, administrators, parents, and most importantly students, I began to feel successful and confident with my curriculum. 

Project Fit America has been the “icing on the cake” for my curriculum.  I have learned many new strategies and ideas for getting kids fit while having fun and learning skills necessary for lifetime health and wellness.  Project Fit America and the Mary Black Foundation gave me the tools and training to become one of the first schools in South Carolina to have an innovative, developmentally appropriate, and broad based fitness based physical education curriculum.  My students and I have learned so much from Project Fit America and are having a blast with our  outdoor and indoor equipment and PFA’s philosophy of physical education for the 21st century.

DoubleTrack Cup Attack

top of page

Laura Dickson's Teaching Philosophy

Children today lead much more sedentary lifestyles than their predecessors, and with the ever increasing demands of academics, society is placing less value on movement and physical activity within our schools.  As a physical educator of the 21st Century, I have the responsibility to give young children a positive, challenging, and rewarding P.E. experience that not only develops motor skills, cognitive, and social skills, but also improves fitness levels and gives children the knowledge to combat obesity and promote lifelong health and wellness.  Rae Pica (2006) states, “As early childhood professionals we have a duty to educate the whole (thinking, feeling, and moving) child.”  I believe when you reach a child in all areas of development, it will have a long lasting impact.  Project Fit America has reinforced that belief and my students are finding success and building their skills and confidence in all areas of development.  This is key when establishing a passion and acquiring skills for lifelong fitness.
Teaching children social behaviors is a crucial element within the physical education curriculum.  The National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) states that a “physically educated person demonstrates responsible personal and social behavior in physical activity settings” (NASPE, 1995).  Large classes and limited amounts of time make it necessary to teach with rigor and high expectations. PFA’s teamwork, cooperation, and communication (TCC) have made an impact in the classroom and is such a vital aspect within my physical education program.  Students are learning to help one another, share their talents, and respect one another’s others strengths and weaknesses.  These are invaluable lessons that can be continued through adulthood.  PFA’s philosophy of “chart and challenge”also provides great ways to motivate children, hold them personally responsible for their efforts, and provide positive reinforcement.  I’ve noticed that children are more motivated and willing to give their personal best since implementing “chart and challenge.”

Jacob's Take on Free Fridays at
O. P. Earle Elementary School

My students and I are having a blast with PFA’s philosophy and curriculum.  I have grown as a physical educator and a reflective practitioner.  Project Fit America has been such a pivotal point in my career because I finally have the support from another organization that shares the same passion and dedication for providing a high quality physical education.  Dr. Kenneth Cooper states, “Physical fitness is not a quick fix.  It is a lifelong commitment.”  Keeping children physically active by providing fun, developmentally appropriate, and standards based opportunities to engage in physical activity is evident in my PE curriculum and will foster a love of fitness for a lifetime. 

top of page

Physical Education at O.P. Earle

The P.E. program at O.P. Earle is a dynamic, innovative, fun, and  fitness based program. It is very different because of the way my classes are scheduled.  I see my students every day on a two week rotation, so this allows for me to integrate Project Fit America on a daily basis and have weekly sessions at the PFA outdoor stations, implement PFA indoor lessons or do chart and challenge activities.The students at OPE have lots of opportunities to learn and practice sport skills such as:  basketball, volleyball, badminton, tennis, softball, and throwing and catching activities.  The students also participate in educational gymnastics, dance, and jump roping.  My schedule also allows me to have a free choice day on Fridays.  Many students choose PFA activities like double track cup attack and basketball blitz.  On other days, students just want the freedom to play and I believe that’s so important within a physical education classroom.   Dr. Joe Frost, an educational theorist stated, “Spontaneous play is the delicate dance of childhood that strengthens the mind and body, and nourishes the soul.”

Outside of physical education, I have a running club that has 85 members.  In running club we set goals at the beginning of the year and participate in “fun runs” where students register for the run and even have their very own race bibs.  I’ve also incorporated PFA activities such as the “poker chip run.”   We also use the PFA outdoor equipment during running club meetings.  Each running club student receives toe tokens for every 5 miles and a certificate for every fun run. All students also receive a t-shirt at the end of the year.

O.P. Earle also participates in Jump Rope for Heart and this year our 5th graders are going to have the opportunity to receive CPR training. I also work with two artists in residence each year: Carlos Agudelo, artistic director at Ballet Spartanburg and Steve Langley, circus arts extraordinaire.  The artists in residence add so much to the PE curriculum and expose the children to art forms they may not see otherwise.This collaborative effort with the community enhances my instruction and provides many learning opportunities for the children.

I have integrated PFA’s philosophies and ideas into a lot of my unit plans units.  The incorporation of PFA’s philosophies, teaching strategies, and indoor/outdoor activities has been such an asset to my physical education curriculum.  PFA has allowed me to step back and reflect on my practices and step out of the box!  I never dreamed there were so many ways to enhance student learning through such innovative games, teaching strategies, and ideas. 

top of page

Basketball Blitz Circus Act
Artist in Residence Program "Devilsticks"
Basketball Blitz
Circus Arts Plate Spinning

O.P. Earle

O.P. Earle

O.P. Earle

Artist in Resident Program
Peacock Feather Balancing
Double Track Cup Attack
Scooch and Crawl with scooters
O.P. Earle O.P. Earle O.P. Earle
Dr. Kenneth Cooper at PFA Kickoff
O. P. Earle Cardinal Mascot
Pacer Challenge Winners Board
O.P. Earle O.P. Earle O.P. Earle
PFA Star Station Winners
Double Track Cup Attack
Scooch and Crawl with scooters

top of page

PFA Activities OPE Students Can’t Live Without

3rd, 4th, and 5th graders love the PACER CHALLENGE:  The pacer challenge is a great way for students to learn how to control their pace, breathing, compete against themselves.  We have a pacer challenge every other month and students can win Bronze, Silver, or Gold levels. Students keep track of their pacer scores on a “fit card” a 3x5 index card that is filed in a simple recipe box.  Students also earn their spot on a PACER CHALLENGE board outside of the gym.  It’s so great to see students who dread fitness test but love to challenge themselves.  Many are shocked that they can reach their goals. 

2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders go crazy for BASKETBALL BLITZ:  Ken Chambless introduced this game and the students absolutely love it.  I have large classes so I usually use more than one ball per team.  This way, students are moving more frequently.  Those students who aren’t shooting are definitely not sitting still.  They are jumping up and down and cheering on their teammates.  Basketball Blitz also a great way to integrate math into my physical education program.  Each polyspot has numbers on them that are placed faced down on the court randomly and the students think they have hit the jack pot when they find a dot with a high  number.  So funny!   The winning team adds their name to a Basketball Blitz poster in the gym.  Classroom teachers have also taken this idea and used it on the outdoor basketball court during their math lessons. 

PFA BUNKO is another great “high cardio” and “TCC” lesson that Ken introduced to OPE.  The kids love it and work so hard on teamwork, communication, and cooperation.  It’s a great way to have the kids work on their cardiovascular endurance and muscular strength at the PFA stations.  They don’t even realize they are working so hard until class is over. 

Kindergarten through 5th grade love to build with cups.  They love the freedom of DOUBLETRACK CUP ATTACK (see video above) and TRIPLE TRACK CUP ATTACK.  My gym is very large so I have enough space to allow for up to three different locomotor moves.  The kids move the entire time and build amazing structures.  K-5 and 1st graders also enjoy SCOOCH AND CRAWL.  This really improves their upper body strength and they have to really work hard on following directions.  Teachers are very thankful when their students play this game because they are out of energy and ready to focus on classwork.

3rd,4th and 5th grade also love the vigorous, fast paced, TCC activity of $10 and a BONE.  This game is so great because I’m able to integrate many skill builders from sport units and mix in great fitness activities.  I like to focus on a muscle of the month and have students utilize dumbbells.  I teach proper form and the difference between quality and quantity of weight training.  I also love that this activity integrates knowledge and awareness of the human body.  The kids love to build the human skeleton.

Adaptations to PFA Activities

$10 and a Bone:  Kindergarten through 2nd grades earn3 cups for completing tasks at a fitness or skill center.

Scooch and Crawl:  Students will use scooters and use legs to push them in one lane and only use arms in another lane.  Stress safety while on scooters.

Cup building:  Students work as a team to earn PFA cups (any game you play earning cups) and begin building a “team tower”.  Towers must be 10 cups high and each team member must be able to fit inside the “cup tower.” Great problem solving and TCC activity.
top of page

An OPE favorite

Dancing Through the Decades is an awesome dance unit plan that my students look forward to each year.  Dance can be a scary thing to teach but if you follow these simple steps, you will have fun, get fit, and visit various decades from the 60’s to the 90’s.  If you are wondering about 2010’s, the students usually have to help me out on this one and they end up teaching me the latest and greatest.  Also this is a great unit to integrate history and popular culture.  You many even want to have the kids dress like their decade and really have fun with dance.  If you would like to view the lesson plan just click below;

Dancing through the Decades Lesson Plan (PDF)

Outside Support

I would like to thank all of those who share the same passion in working with children to support physical education and activity:  Mary Black Foundation; Project Fit America; Steve Cox; Ken Chambless; Mrs. Nita High; my supportive team at OPE;  Carlos Agudelo, artistic director at Ballet Spartanburg; Steve Langley, Circus Arts program; America Heart Association (Jump Rope for Heart); and Spartanburg District One.



top of page
Back to All Star Teacher Gallery | Back to Laura Dickson