In the early childhood and younger primary levels, P.E./movement is integrated with music as young children naturally benefit from experiencing them together. At The Little School, this program is known as creative movement and music, and this holistic integration compounds the learning of shared elements such as rhythm, tempo, duration, pitch, dynamics, accents and pauses. This approach allows students to participate in these experiences with their bodies, voices and imaginations in a way that also connects and responds to their interests and classroom activities.
Moving into upper primary and intermediate levels our program transitions to the outdoors where individual physical challenges and team building continue as children become comfortable moving, playing and developing physical skills such as coordination, large motor, balance, sensory motor integration and proprioception alongside healthy social/emotional skills and nature literacy. This program, P.E./outdoor education, aligns with an ever-increasing body of modern research proving that structured and unstructured physical activity in nature has a positive effect on children’s executive functioning, motor skills, sensory integration, health and academic success. The social and emotional aspects of the program are included in the practice and discussion of sportsmanship, stewardship, communication, inclusion and fairness.
Through creative movement, children at this age gain experience moving their bodies, interacting with the environment and increasing awareness of safety, body, space and direction. Children practice fundamental locomotor skills such as rolling, crawling, running, jumping and galloping, as well as gross motor manipulative skills such as reaching, kicking, grasping, throwing and catching. They gain balance, engage in physical activities with increasing endurance and intensity, and develop capacity to respond, express and create through dance. Class often begins with a brain dance, a series of breathing and developmental movement patterns which serves as a full body and brain warm up. It is accompanied by rhymes, chants, songs and counting which allow for practice of rhythm, musical concepts, numeracy and language. Fun props such as scarves, ribbon dancers and instruments also enhance movement exploration.
In the younger primarly level classes, children continue to participate in creative movement and music. In addition to the development of fundamental locomotor, gross motor manipulative skills and dance exploration, they further develop strength and coordination through activities like obstacles courses, scooters, bean bag targets, Frisbees, mat work and parachute play. Students continue to practice self-regulation, working together and controlled movement through collaborative group games.
It is in the older primary level classes that our program transitions from creative movement and music to P.E./outdoor education. Children are introduced to sportsmanship principles through a developmentally appropriate lens via competitive games and cooperative games in teams. A culture of empathy and respect for each other and the environment is created around the concepts of team cooperation and sportsmanship. Beginning in the upper primary classes, physical education becomes integrated into our outdoor program with physically active, expeditionary games, tasks and routines that aim to inspire children to develop a meaningful connection with the outdoors though physical activity. Students are introduced to circle games, hiding games and traditional sports equipment as well as stewardship concepts to care for and protect the spaces we use in our woods.
Intermediate grades build on a continuation of previous objectives such as sportsmanship with higher expectations for self-regulation, independence in problem solving and team strategizing. Traditional soccer and basketball drills, ultimate Frisbee and other team sports are introduced with emphasis on fairness, acceptance, empathy and friendly/empowering forms of competition. Many games focus on deeper naturalist knowledge and build on the environmental science program to develop meaningful integration with nature literacy, physical activity and social/emotional skills. Stewardship becomes a physical practice through invasive plant removal, replanting native plants, and creating a sense of ownership and responsibility for the school’s unique 6-acre forest ecosystem.