No Gym? No Sweat: Physical Education Ideas Fit for Any Space

by SPARK


Kids stretching in empty room on yoga mats

The word gymnasium suggests basketball hoops, climbing ropes, and other tools that help keep active bodies and active minds fit and busy. It’s a classroom like any other; where vital skills like teamwork, commitment, and leadership are learned. In a way, the gym is the fitness center for the mind: “Movement activates all the brain cells kids are using to learn,” John Ratey, an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, says. “It wakes up the brain.”

But in many schools, the gym is a multi-purpose facility; the setting for assemblies, science fairs, concerts and drama productions, and other activities that, while central to the daily life of the school, can leave physical education teachers scrambling. (This sort of thing never happens in chemistry class.)

So, what do you do when your gym class suddenly has no gym? It’s often not as simple as opening the door and turning the kids loose outside. Not every school has a playing field, and even those that do are always at the mercy of Mother Nature. Sometimes, the cafeteria, an empty classroom, or even the hallway will have to do. Use these SPARK lesson plans to turn just about any space into an ad hoc gym with just a little bit of equipment and a whole lot of imagination.

Squirrels in the Trees

What you need: Nothing at all!

Set ‘em up: Establish a mid-sized playing area of about 20 paces by 20 paces. Break the students up into groups of three, with one group member designated as the “squirrel” and the other two as “trees.”

How to play:

  1. Facing each other, the trees join hands. The squirrel stands outside the trees.
  2. On the teacher’s signal, the trees lift their arms and the squirrel moves under them to the other side. Then, the trees squat down and hold their arms low to the ground while the squirrel moves over them. Next, the trees stand up again and the squirrel moves around them on the outside. Finally, the trees crouch while holding one arm up and one down while the squirrel moves through the space between them. The full sequence should take about 30 seconds.
  3. The teacher signals again, one tree switches roles with the squirrel, and the cycle repeats.
  4. After one more signal, the last tree gets a turn at being the squirrel.

Musical Hoops

What you need: One standard hula-hoop per every two students; a device to play music.

Set ‘em up: Scatter students and hoops around the space. Use as much of the room as you can to encourage movement.

How to play:

  1. When the music starts, move about the room. Watch out for other students and try to look for open space.
  2. When it stops, get inside the nearest hoop as quickly as you can. (If you can’t find your own hoop, share with someone else; you just have to have one foot inside the hoop.)
  3. Once the music starts again, step out of your hoop and keep moving. This is where it gets interesting: The teacher will remove one hoop from the playing area!
  4. At the end of each round, there will be fewer and fewer hoops to squeeze into. Will everyone fit inside?

Grab the Apple

What you need: One beanbag (or similarly graspable item) per every two students; a device to play music.

Set ‘em up: Set the students up in pairs sitting cross-legged on the floor and facing each other. Place a beanbag between each pair.

How to play:

  1. The students sit facing each other with their hands on their knees while the music plays. When the music stops, the first one to snatch up the beanbag wins the round.
  2. In each new round, the students move into a different position and perform an exercise of the teacher’s choice while the music plays. One round could be situps to the beat of the music, followed by pushups, then leg pumps from a pushup position. Get creative and see what your kids can do!

Need ideas to keep your students fit, happy, and eager to learn? SPARK can help. We work hard to create best research-based physical education programs for kids from pre-K through grade 12. Discover the curriculum, training, and equipment that best fits your class.

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