Students in HHP's Physical Education Teacher Education program are afforded several opportunities to work with students in the community before they reach their student teaching semester at the end of their time at Texas State. A few of these teaching experiences include: the Fine Motor Program at Bonham Pre-K, the Fun and Fit 4 Life Program, and several partnerships through the Spring Lake Outdoor Education Program.
Fine Motor Program at Bonham Pre-K
2019 was the inaugural year for the eight-week Fine Motor Program at Bonham Pre-K run by Clinical Assistant Professor Dr. Jennifer Ahrens. Ahrens had previously written the curriculum for a gross motor skills program at Bonham in partnership with the Caminitos Collaborative and through the relationships she made from that experience and the help of a City of San Marcos grant, she was able to implement a fine motor skills program this year.
This spring, Ahrens and seven undergraduate students (one undergraduate intern and six volunteers) worked with three classes at Bonham, consisting of 68 total students. Ahrens and her students engaged the children in a variety of activities in a Mastery-Motivational Climate designed to hone their motor skills. According to Ahrens, the pre-k students love activities with an end product that they can bring home, so for Mother's Day, the group made flowers with pom-poms. Other activities included bead lacing, mazes, and working with Play Doh.
While some college students have hands-on field experiences restricted to the end of their college careers, Ahrens feels that her Texas State students benefit from earlier engagement with schoolchildren. She notes that the experience allows students to break down assumptions they may have about children's motor skills and to see the effects of instruction on the rate at which children can achieve skill mastery.
The program will continue next year in an expanded 12-week format. It has become so popular already that Ahrens had to conduct an interview process for the next group of volunteers.
Fun & Fit 4 Life
HHP's Teacher Education discipline focuses on preparing teachers to meet the needs of all youth. The Fun & Fit 4 Life program began in 2009 as a means of meeting the needs of children from low-income households in the San Marcos community. Children living in low-income families are at higher risk for obesity, diabetes and academic failure as compared to children living in middle and high-income families. Fun & Fit 4 Life aims to combat these disparities by promoting children's participation in early-in-life physical activity in order to increase the likelihood that they will continue being physically active for a lifetime.
During the school year, Fun & Fit 4 Life is integrated into the Principles and Practices of Teaching Physical Education (ESS 4624) course, co-taught by Lecturer Rose Berglund and Assistant Professor Dr. Kent Griffin. This course is designed to provide physical education pre-service teachers knowledge encompassing designing, implementing and assessing high-quality physical education programs. In Berglund's section of the course, HHP students serve as Fun & Fit 4 Life counselors to children from the Boys and Girls Club, providing them with fun-filled activities to spark their interest in physical fitness.
In the summer, Fun & Fit 4 Life also provides camps at no expense to youth in the San Marcos area. Texas State students preparing to be teachers and coaches provide fun-filled physical activity experiences for the campers, while ounselors working at the Center for P-16 Initiatives (run by HHP's Dr. Michelle Hamilton) engage the campers in exciting college-readiness activities.
Spring Lake Outdoor Education (SLOEP) Program
The SLOEP Program offers quality outdoor educational experiences to at-risk adolescents and young adults living in the greater San Marcos area. These experiences are increasingly necessary as schools decrease activity time and outdoor recreational opportunities become more limited. Currently, SLOEP provides outdoor/adventure experiential education and programs through five different entities: Goodnight Middle School, Texas Rivers Expedition, Discipline Alternative Education Program (Rebound), the Boys and Girls Club, and San Marcos High School Mountain Bike Program.
The SLOEP programming umbrella covers another service-learning opportunity Texas State for students enrolled in ESS 4624. During the course, students design and implement summer and after-school programs for children from the Boys and Girls Club and the community housing authority. This preparation includes learning a new skill or skills (e.g. archery, kayaking, mountain biking, etc.), designing lesson plans and then teaching the activities to students in fifth through ninth grades.
As part of their teaching experience, Texas State students also follow an interdisciplinary approach that uses science and math in conjunction with the outdoor lessons. For example, when teaching disc golf, Bobcats may teach the science concepts of how air flow impacts the flight of the disc. This style of teaching allows the children who are participating to learn a lifelong skills while also reinforcing their knowledge of math and science.
Overall, the SLOEP programs serves three main goals: 1) to provide quality outdoor educational experiences to at-risk adolescents in Hays County Texas; 2) to provide experience-based outdoor recreation and education learning experiences for Texas State students; and 3) to introduce students to the vast array of resources offered in the outdoors.