How one phys ed teacher puts the “fun” back into fundamentals

Not every kid likes every sport. But hey, we’re all a little bit picky. (I love pizza with pineapple and anchovies but, apparently, some people don’t?!) So if kids are expected to participate in every activity in phys ed class and don’t want to, what’s a teacher to do?

After 28 years as a physical education teacher, Campbell Bryson has recognized that kids, like adults, have different interests when it comes to many areas of their lives, including physical activity. Luckily for his students, Bryson seems to have an infinite number of creative ideas when it comes to making his classes, as well as extramurals, unique and, most importantly, fun.

Aiming to have his students “want” to participate, this super phys ed teacher looks to level the playing field when it comes to “traditional sports.” Recognizing that some students participate in organized sports outside of school while others do not, Bryson puts unique twists on these sports to make them challenging and fun for all.

His students, for example, were recently introduced to a game traditionally played in Southeast Asia called sepak takraw. Combining elements of soccer, volleyball, and badminton, students must get a rattan ball over a net using only their feet, bodies, and heads – no hands allowed.

Bryson, who teaches at Rolph Road Elementary School in Toronto, has also modified floor hockey by having four teams playing at once, all aiming to score with objects such as rubber chickens and fish, large foam dice, footballs, deflated balls, etc. into four nets. With net sports, he has found that sloping or changing the height of the nets allows for more equity between players. And if “traditional” volleyball isn’t always appealing, Bryson pulls out scooter boards eliminating players’ height differences and jumping abilities.

Through discussion with curriculum leaders at his school board, conversation with local teachers, and participation in national coaching courses, Bryson has had a chance to exchange and build upon ideas for keeping kids engaged. Keeping in mind the need to build on previous skills taught so as not to frustrate students, he carefully plans his curriculums around his students’ experience and aptitudes. Focusing more on fun and less on competition, he has found the kids to be extremely receptive to the various activities he has introduced.

More fun activities Bryson has run? A perennial and magical favourite is his version of Quidditch. Using scooter boards instead of broomsticks for propulsion, hula hoops hanging from basketball nets instead of rings, quaffles, bludgers, beaters, and Dementors, Harry Potter’s world is brought to life right in the school gymnasium.

During the Olympics, Bryson organized a Winter Fun Olympics Day for the whole school with kids divided into 10 country teams. The day-long celebration involved opening ceremonies and events including luge and biathlon, with tennis balls being thrown at targets, and the throwers being pulled on sleds by their teammates.

Teachers have such a massive role in our kids’ lives. Having teachers that offer creative, thoughtful, sound, and engaging activities in physical education is key to kids wanting to participate, and in developing physical literacy.

It’s teachers like Campbell Bryson that should be recognized and celebrated for putting the “fun” in fundamentals and for providing his students with unique activities to keep phys ed a course kids won’t be picky about.

Do you want to recognize an innovative phys ed teacher? Give them props in the comment section below or on our Facebook page.

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