2008-05-28 / Family

Fun and physical

By Sande Snead

Lisa Billings/Chesterfield Observer Hector Rivera Sr. and his son, Hector Rivera Jr., play on a pulley device at Clover Hill Elementary School that teaches students science Standards of Learning concepts while also encouraging physical activity.
It's no wonder that Clover Hill Elementary physical education teacher Cindy Jones won 2008 Teacher of the Year for her school. She figured out a way to make learning fun and physical all at the same time. For her efforts, she also won one of the county's MCD Awards for Initiative and Innovation - nearly $3,500 - to use toward her programs.

Her award-winning "Academic Exercises" program is an original teaching method that incorporates physical activities with learning state Standards of Learning (SOL) science concepts such as electronic circuits and simple machines.

"Both awards were well deserved," said Clover Hill Principal Amy Bosher. "It is outstanding the way that Cindy has dedicated herself to make science SOLs come alive for the children in another context."

Jones decided to turn the school gymnasium into a hands-on physical learning experience with simple machines after taking a class on using engineering in the classroom. She personally designed most of the machines that are set up in various stations around the room. Elementary students race across the gym to see who can close electrical circuits faster. They use a rope and pulley to hoist themselves up a wall. Or they can sit in a scooter and use a pulley to roll across the floor. On the wall is a 30-foot by 20-foot map where children practice their aim and throw balls at various countries around the world. There are 13 such stations.

"The machinery and equipment are in the gym permanently," Jones said. "I bought the lumber, and a friend of mine built the things."

About 500 Clover Hill third- through fifthgraders had the chance to learn about physics and other scientific properties through the program this year. Parents also received a chance to see what their children were learning during a spring open house.

"The parents loved it," Bosher said. "Many of them were actively involved in some aspects of the project through painting or other hands-on assistance. It was a true community effort."

While it will not be known whether the project helps to improve the students' SOL scores until the end of the year, Bosher said the true value of the program is indisputable.

"The most important thing is that the children's learning experience was enriched, and they have a deeper understanding of science and physics and how simple machines work," she said.

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