Originally posted Jan. 8, 2017 by The Holland Sentinel.
In popular culture, physical education is typically depicted as a brutal, survival of the fittest environment overseen by a harsh drill sergeant in a tacky sweatsuit.
That’s a stereotype Steve Sikma challenges at Hamilton Middle School.
“Phys ed gets a little bit of a bad rep, and it can be deserved,” he said. “It’s easy to just roll the balls out. But there’s so much evidence that shows that quality phys ed helps brain development, how you feel about yourself and so much more. I invest my energy into it every day.”
Sikma has been teaching physical education for 28 years. He earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in phys ed, from Calvin College and Western Michigan University, respectively.
“You’re always going to have the high-paced kids who love sports, and those don’t,” Sikma said. “A big goal is to try to capture the hearts of the kids who don’t. As phys ed teacher, we have to sell it to them.”
To keep students engaged, Sikma has his students do a lot of different activities. For example, there’s a “shark attack” game, where students have to run across the gym and avoid the kids who are sharks. If they’re tagged by a shark, they have to drop to the gym floor in a plank pose until the game is over. There’s also a “Simon Says” game that involves stretches and a race among students to be the first to grab a cone on the floor.
Sikma doesn’t dwell too long on one activity, changing things up every 5-10 minutes and letting students discover what they’re good at.
“I try to keep it fun, but it is physically challenging,” he said. “One of the things I always talk to them about is pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone.”
Sikma said it helps that Hamilton Middle School has a healthy school culture mindset, with all teachers and staff members promoting healthy bodies and healthy minds with their students.
“What I want to accomplish is building healthy habits with these students,” Sikma said. “I want them to stay active throughout their lives, whatever choices they make.”