Originally published Jan. 10, 2020 in the Scarborough Leader.
By Catherine Bart
Wentworth School’s upcoming Warrior Challenge will be incorporating sciences, art and physical education into an obstacle course project for fifth graders.
Patrick Reagan, a fifth-grade teacher at the Scarborough school, and Keith Kitchin, the school’s physical education teacher, applied for a grant through the Scarborough Education Foundation, a nonprofit organization that awarded the school over $2,000 for the obstacle course challenge that students will be completing in the spring.
Since 2012, the SEF has provided at least 70 grants to Scarborough schools through community donations, said board member Amanda Morin.
Reagan said students will be using art, gym and science classes to work on the course, utilizing multiple disciplines to complete the project.
Besides the school community, Foley’s Fitness, a recently opened gym in Scarborough, is also getting involved, said Reagan. Mike Foley, the owner, will be sending a trainer once a month to help coach the students.
“Patrick and I met about the grant several months ago while I was building the gym,” said Foley in an email. “And we just discussed how important it is to introduce fitness at a young age. It doesn’t always have to be competitive; it can also be truly just fun. There is nothing wrong with being competitive but it’s more that it becomes part of their life.”
He said that the longer students go without fitness being a part of their daily lives, the more likely they are to develop fears of exercise.
“I truly believe as a society we have to do a better job of introducing (fitness) and making it a lifestyle,” he said.
Reagan said that the course isn’t meant to be a competitive race. He wants students to have fun and meet their own fitness needs.
While students at Wentworth take physical education and participate in sports, Reagan said he hopes to show students that fitness goes beyond their school years.
“I worry about the technology, having three kids myself,” he said. “It’s kind of easy to get lost in technology, having phones and iPads. We’re trying to fight back a little bit, just expose the kids to other things. I know they have sports, too, but they need to learn to be lifelong fit and not ultra-competitive.”
While the course hasn’t been designed yet, Reagan said that inflatable objects, which will be fun for students to maneuver through, are ideal.
Students will be designing logos for the challenge in their art classes and working on the design for the course with the school’s STEM teacher, he said.
“The PTA has a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) night somewhere in March, but that’s when Keith sets up different obstacles and things,” said Reagan. “We’re hoping to try out these new obstacle things. We have some hurdles that are adjustable, the fitness balls and we’re going to incorporate that. There’s a tunnel, the kids can crawl through. We have a couple of those where the kids can go through and test those out.”
When the Wentworth Warrior Challenge begins in June, Reagan said he hopes community members outside of the school may be able to try out the course, and that community engagement is one of the reasons why Morin said that the SEF awarded the grant.
“First of all, the grant application was so thorough, and it provided a tremendous amount of info and gave the reasons why it was powerful for students,” she said. “It’s not just looking at physical education. It’s looking at art, STEM and community involvement. One of the things that interested us is that it includes so many other people and shows how the whole community can work together in a system.”
In 2019, SEF awarded nine grants to Scarborough schools and the organization is excited to see what teachers will think of next.
“What SEF has the opportunity to do is see what teachers want to do,” said Morin. “We want to encourage more grant applications so the teachers know they’re supported and have options if they want to fund projects.”