Originally published Dec. 9, 2018 in the LaCrosse Tribune.

A unique UW-La Crosse class that brings home-schooled, K-12 students to campus is helping to shape future physical education teachers.

Deb Sazama, who directs UW-L’s physical education teaching program, says her class of 16 physical education teaching majors is creating lesson plans and learning opportunities that align with the Society for Health and Physical Educators’ K-12 National Physical Education Standards and Grade Level Outcomes.

They have the opportunity to teach those lessons to the children to enhance their movement skills and knowledge.

UW-La Crosse physical education teacher education majors are creating lesson plans and learning opportunities for area home-schooled, K-12 students. While the college students learn to plan and implement lessons, the children are learning skills to live healthy, active lifestyles.

“Not only are the physical education majors learning to plan and implement lessons, but they are learning to assess if the homeschooled children are learning the skills and gaining the knowledge that will help them live healthy, active lifestyles,” Sazama says.

The physical education teacher education majors were placed into teams of two at the beginning of the fall semester. For 13 weeks, the students created and carried out lesson plans, Sazama says. Each student in the teaching team taught a 25-minute lesson to their age-similar “class” in Mitchell Hall. The teams taught four units during the semester. Their content focused on net, wall and target activities.

“The students and parents have been very positive about the class,” Sazama says. Some parents have asked for even more classes during the week.

Sazama says the age spread has definitely challenged the UW-L students, but it will help them prepare for what to expect when they teach their own classes.

“We have the children split into different age groups to ensure that the lessons the UW-L students are creating are developmentally and age-appropriate,” she says.

Sazama says the weekly, one-hour class is a win-win for both the K-12 home-schooled students, as well as the college students. “This program is providing opportunities that I simply cannot provide for the students in the classroom, such as how to motivate students to engage in activities and how to manage a classroom,” she notes. “It’s a great way to connect with the community as well.”

That aspect of the semester-long program also aligns with the university’s strategic plan, “Sustaining Excellence,” which advocates increasing community engagement.

Sazama says while the class-community arrangement may not be new to physical education teaching programs across the country, it may be one of the most popular.

“I’ve met and talked with other faculty from around the country and this is one of the largest programs — and we are only in the first semester,” she says. “I am hopeful that we can collaborate with others on our campus to continue to enhance student learning and the preparation of our future teachers.”

The unique arrangement highlights the Exercise and Sport Science Department’s more than century-old national reputation of being cutting edge. In addition to excellent practical experiences, the department ranks in the top 300 institutions worldwide for sport sciences research.

“The ranking is almost solely based on research and publications,” notes Mark Gibson, assistant professor of exercise and sport science and director of athletic training. “UW-L is the only non-R1 (non-research based) institution in the U.S. that is ranked.”

Gibson says it’s noteworthy that a program like UW-L’s that focuses on teaching does equally well in research.

“For a department that takes pride in our teaching effectiveness, it is good to see that we can still compete with the R-1 universities in the area of sport science scholarship,” he says.

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