Break Down The Gym Walls

It’s Time to Break Down The Gym Walls!

Lets start with a little background on Merton Schools and the physical education department there!  Three years ago we were struggling with some double classes of 7th and 8th graders and there was no other option for scheduling their classes.  Our head “coach” or principal Jay Posick (you can read his blog here) gave us a thought on using different spaces we have inside and outside our school for our physical education classes.  The idea was how can we use these different spaces to engage more kids and keep kids fit and still have double classes.  We are lucky enough to be able to have two teachers with a group of 50 + students!

My coworker and I sat down after our meeting and thought up of a plan to give our two classes choices during each unit (2-3 week time period).  We challenged ourselves to come up with new and different choices for the kids to participate in, along with the traditional physical education or sport choices.  We knew that some students loved having the traditional physical education units, but also knew that there were many other students that were looking for new challenges and choices for their physical education class.

We came up with quite a few ideas!  Here was our game plan.  We tried to pair up traditional team sports with fitness activities or more individual games.  We also looked at setting up competitive activities with more cooperative activities, because we needed to have ideas that all students would enjoy!  We also were focused on making two even groups of kids!  We didn’t want lopsided units, because we knew that wouldn’t work!

Here was our first shot at unit choices!  This is from last year!

Merton 2010-2011 Unit Choices

Our unit choices were a blessing to our school! The students were so excited that they could choose their own adventure.  Every child got to choose between two units!  We had a wonderful year! Well after last year we had to look at what we did, because we didn’t want to offer the same choices.  Plus new and exciting fitness opportunities seem to happen every year, why would you want to do the same thing!  We want to stay now and hip and exciting, because that’s what kids want!

Here were our unit choices then for this year 2011-2012

Merton Physical Education Unit Choices 2011-2012

Wow! Did we ever get some excitement from our students!  They loved the options for 2011-2012.  I was ready to start the new year!!

Our Findings!

So many of our students and our parents have been so excited and supportive of our major changes that we implemented!  We have never had a negative comment and are always thanked by our parents and students!  Just by giving a choice and having an option, your students feel strong and open to trying something new and working hard!  Behavior issues are at a minimum, because everyone wants to be in the unit they chose!

More kids are getting fit!  With fitness options there is much more time to focus on elevating heart rate and spending time in different fitness zones!  The students that are involved in team sports are now more active, because everyone who is playing really wants to be there and play hard!  This means we can teach more specific skills and play more games at a higher level!  This program benefits every student!

Kids want to try something different!  Almost every non traditional activity has had more interest with our students! Wow!  I would have never guessed that!  There is so much interest (usually 60%-75%) in the non traditional activities.  I am so glad we can offer those to our students!  I have also found out that those kids that don’t excel in the traditional sports can really challenge themselves in the individual fitness activities! It’s been amazing to watch!

Here is the best part!  I am so passionate and enthusiastic about what we are doing it has elevated my teaching!  Everyday is new to me! Everyday is exciting and I am always looking for new challenges for myself and my students!  We are learning together everyday!  What an exciting adventure!

My Words to You

Please find a way to break down your “GYM” walls!   Try a new fitness activity or try not holding a physical education class in your gym! Find a new location to teach your students and find a new way to teach to them!  Throw out your old lesson plans!  It’s exciting for you and for them! You will be amazed at how your relationships change with your students!  I know mine will last forever!  Make an impact!!!!

Little Theatre

Here is our Little Theatre.  It’s great for many activities like yoga, fitness, pilates, dance, and circuits! Find a alternate location where you can do different things


Our cafeteria was great for wrestling, speed quickness and agility, circuits, and more!

Outdoor Courts

Great space for winter games and activities.  We have done broom ball and will be doing some snowshoeing activities here!

New Activities for me

Here is a list of some of the new activities I have taught!  It has been the most exciting two years of teaching! Look it over and please find a way to incorporate something new and exciting for you and your students!





Boot Camp




Strength Training




Speed, Quickness & Agility

Track and Field

Aerobic Dance

Cooperative Games


Fitness Stations


What will you do that’s new? Let me know in the comments!

13 thoughts on “Break Down The Gym Walls

    • Thank you so much for reading! Yes we are very fortunate to be able to do what we do! It takes a lot of work and we do have first hour prep everyday and that helps so much because some units have a very large setup! Plus I have one of the best PLN’s so they are always there if I need help. Best of luck with your program too!

    • Thanks Nick! I am happy to help in any way possible! It’s all for the good of the kids! You sure have lots of great stuff going for your school too! Our PLN is where it’s at!!

  1. I think your blog is amazing. Way to go. Our students are lucky to have these choices and to have you looking to be creative and innovative with PE. I think that is what will create lifelong learners of fitness. Isn’t that what we want our students to do? Value fitness for their whole life instead of just during PE class?

  2. Very impressive Matt! How can the Primary School get outside the walls of the gym too? What can I do to support your efforts to “move” Phy ed to higher levels for kids participation? All the best Matt! Mike

    • Thank you very much Mike! I would love to break down the walls at the primary school too, and I am beginning the process of doing that everyday! The best support ever would be to increase physical education time! 30 Min is not enough! I would love to see our kids for 40 min and I would do anything to make that happen! Thanks again for the support!

  3. Just read your post and comments. Really intrigued by the ‘choice’ idea and tumbling in my head how it might work at our school – really like what you said (especially as a parent of elementary aged kids) about increased moving time in elementary – keep up the good work.

    • The choice idea was huge for our kids and our school! It has worked out perfectly! I hope you can find a way to make it work! Let me know if you need any help implementing something like choices. Are you the only physical education teacher at your school? It could make it harder if you are, but with QR Codes, technology, and blogs you could get lots of teaching done on the front end of your class (when kids are at home). That could help get it done! Best of luck and thanks again for readying!

  4. Great way to break down the idea of ‘what physical education is’ and reclaim it for the students rather than leaving it to wallow in traditional subject expectations. Gyms are only gyms because, unlike you, some people can’t imagine them as anything else. It is great to hear that a whole student school has bought into it so well. I wonder how students would enjoy a unit of ‘games-making’? One of the big challenges I set was designing a game that could be played in different conditions (in my case the gym and the swimming pool) – that challenged the kids to think outside of the box. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Pingback: The Teacher-as-Researcher by Dr. Ashley Casey « educationisphysical

  6. Pingback: How To Revolutionize and Energize your Physical Education Field Day | Pomeroy's Physical Education Page

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